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Tips to help your international market research

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Tips for international market research

How to find the right market information quickly and easily to develop your international sales. Carry out effective online searches and find the best online resources to help your research, including statistical and country research and aggregator market research sites.

Global Market Intelligence

With the twin challenges of COVID-19 and Brexit, understanding and predicting customer behaviour has never been more important. Every business has vital questions to answer:

  • How well do you really know your market, customers and competitors?
  • Where is your industry headed, and where might new opportunities appear?
  • How can you find new markets, domestically or internationally, and monitor key sector trends? 

We've put together this selection of online resources to help you find the latest information on changing consumer preferences and behaviours.

Doing some secondary or ’desk’ research can be a useful starting point for helping you find what you need, or filling in some knowledge gaps quickly and easily.

Internet search tips

Online searches are a crucial part of research, but if not set up properly, they can be unhelpful. Searches that use extremely common terms will return masses of results that might not be relevant to your questions. The best ways to avoid pages and pages of irrelevant results are:

  • Ask the right questions and fully understand all relevant concepts and terms. Consider why you need the information, what the answer might look like, and where it might be found, for example a market report, directory, country information database or journal article.
  • Identify keywords that could be part of the answer rather than the actual question.
  • Identify synonyms and related terms for your key words. Include variations in spelling such as American spelling.
  • Note narrower and broader search terms for your subject or keywords so that you are ready to expand your search (if you get too few results) or narrow it (if you get too many).
  • If you get too many results, use the ‘Advanced Search’ facility, if available, to narrow your search to what you really need. For example, you can limit your search by specifying a date of publication or some keywords.
  • Use Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) to expand or narrow your search. For example, oysters OR salmon will give all documents with either term, oysters AND salmon will give documents with both terms, and oysters NOT salmon will give all documents with oysters but exclude those which mention salmon.
  • Search for a phrase by putting search terms in inverted commas, for example “financial technology”, instead of searching for two of the words separately, which will generate far more results.

For a general internet search it’s important to target your search by using ‘Advanced Search’ options and checking for any search tips available. This useful 'cheat sheet' provides advice for searching on Google:

Read Google's guide to making searching even easier

Online resources

There are a number of online sources that can help your research:

Aggregator market research sites

These websites can be a useful starting point as they search across a number of market research databases at one time. However, they are not exhaustive and there may be other information published on the subject. You may also have to pay for access to certain reports. A couple of handy places to start include:

National Library of Scotland - Business Information Service

If you are resident in Scotland, you can also register with the National Library of Scotland to access useful information resources, subject to the publishers' licensing terms and conditions (for example COBRA, D&B Hoovers and Frost & Sullivan).

Register for library access

Country research

Finding accurate and reliable information is important when identifying and assessing international business opportunities. The sources below can provide an accurate and up-to-date picture of the economic, political and cultural aspects of your target markets.

BBC Monitoring Country Profiles Guides to history, politics and economic background of countries and territories, and background on key institutions.
CIA World Factbook Detailed information about every country in the world, with digital references, maps and appendices on international organisations.
EY Attractiveness Surveys Information on the attractiveness of a region or country as an investment destination.
EU Business European information categorised by country, industry and economic topics.
Euromonitor global market research blog Podcasts and analyst commentaries from Euromonitor International that cover consumer industries and services internationally.
globalEDGE Country and industry profiles, and international statistical sources.
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Information on OECD member countries. OECD promotes policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.
International Monetary Fund Reports, press releases and statistics on economic development and monetary co-operation from 186 member countries. Reports can be downloaded in PDF format or ordered for purchase.
NationMaster Compilation of data from the CIA World Factbook, United Nations, World Health Organisation, World Bank, World Resources Institute, UNESCO, UNICEF and OECD.
European Union Overviews of each EU member country, as well as information on the EU.
DIT Exporting Country Guides DIT guides for British businesses who are interested in developing their overseas trade and doing business overseas.
World Bank Largest source of development assistance, providing press releases and economic reports on various countries, including details on population, literacy, GNP and GDP.
IBISWorld's Industry Insider Trending expert insights and latest articles by industry and a selection of countries
Mintel blog Trending articles and latest consumer stories by industry and global region

Statistical research

Statistical research is important to help inform business decisions based on regular repetitive series of data at a national, regional or local level. The following sites offer more focused and quality assured information than you'd find through general internet searches.

Eurostat European statistics
UN Comtrade Database International trade statistics
Market Access Database European Commission’s statistical database for trade flows between EU and non-EU countries.
Trade Statistics (HMRC) HMRC's trade data from the UK to overseas countries.
Scottish Government Collection of Scottish statistics organised by subject
Office for National Statistics UK statistics
United Nations Facts and figures on the UN, press releases, free access to statistics and reference items.

Ask us for help

In addition to your own research, our dedicated team of specialists can provide competitor and market intelligence tailored to your individual needs. This includes research and knowledge to predict market trends, identify new customers, and effectively target your marketing campaigns. 

Please fill in our enquiry form to let us know what sort of support you are looking for. We'll ask you to provide:

  • Details of the information you need
  • Why you need the information

Submit an enquiry

Conduct primary research/field work

You can supplement your secondary research with primary (field work) research, which involves the collection of new data that doesn’t already exist. This can be done in various ways including questionnaires, interviews and focus groups.

If you want to collate standardised information on well-defined issues, a quantitative approach can be most suitable.

Quantitative research - gathers information to measure the scale of something. For example, if you want to know how many of your customers support a proposed change in your products or service and how strongly (on a scale) they support it.

Qualitative research - captures more detailed, complex information. It can help explain data identified at the quantitative research stage, for example reasons why customers do or don’t support a change in your product or service.

A more open, thoughtful and interactive approach, like focus groups and face-to-face interviews, is better for qualitative research. This allows participants to discuss concerns and issues to help identify perceptions, feelings, and the reasons underlying them.

Contact us

Got any questions about conducting market research? Our team are here to help.