Researching export markets

Researching customers and markets abroad


When researching overseas markets, you will need to identify your potential customers and their needs, by considering the following factors:

  • Who will buy from you? Each marketplace is different. For example, you may find that your overseas customers are in the public sector, while those in your home market are small businesses.
  • What influences customers' purchasing decisions? This could include culture, age, gender and many other factors.
  • Why do customers buy from you? Consider what you need to know about your customers' needs.
  • What price can the product profitably sell for? This will influence your pricing and marketing decisions.

Read more about how to create customer personas.

You need to establish:

  • Size of your potential market - this could be limited by population, cultural or economic factors.
  • Politics and economics - an unstable political climate or unfavourable trading conditions can make exporting risky.
  • Culture - this may affect your selling proposition. Investigate any barriers to your product's success. Will your product be valued the same as at home? Will your customers have the same reasons to buy it?
  • Language and etiquette - can you market your product effectively in the local language? Will you have access to professional translators and marketing agencies? It is important to communicate effectively and understand cultural differences. Find out more about doing business in another language.
  • Safety and security - the risks presented by local terrorist activities as well as the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks. Also, the level of crime in the target market. Read more about overseas business risk.
  • You can also find travel and security information in your target market.

Support for researching other countries

When researching potential countries to sell to, you can find information from the following:

Invest NI Graduate to Export programme

The Graduate to Export programme from Invest NI aims to help Northern Ireland companies with their growth plans by providing them with support to employ a graduate for up to eighteen months to take forward a market research project that targets a specific overseas market. Read more about the Graduate to Export programme and its eligibility criteria.

Trading in Europe

Legislation varies widely in overseas markets and will affect how you sell into them. You must make sure you adhere to local laws. You will also need to consider how you will find and select partners in overseas countries, as well as how you will investigate the freight and communications options available. Read more about how to research product and packaging changes for export.

The European Economic Area (EEA) as all EEA countries have similar trade laws. The EEA includes Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein and all the European Union (EU) countries.

You can get advice on laws in any EU country using the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN). This is a group of business advice organisations across the EU.

Read more about the support available for exporting.