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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.

How well do you know your markets, customers and competitors?

Finding the right market information is an essential part of developing your approach to selling internationally. To be competitive and succeed in overseas markets you'll need to be able to exploit opportunities while mitigating potential threats.

To do this, you need to:

  • Understand your market and sector
  • Really know your customers’ needs and what they want before they do
  • Be able to predict your competitors’ next move

This guide will help you find what you need to know quickly and easily.

Start with secondary/'desk' research

Existing resources will help you:

  • Identify overseas market opportunities
  • Build sector specific knowledge
  • Grow competitor intelligence
  • Keep up to date with industry issues

Internet search tips

  1. 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, journal article.
  2. Identify keywords that could be part of the answer rather than the actual question.
  3. Identify synonyms and related terms for your key words. Include variations in spelling such as American spelling.
  4. Note narrower and broader search terms for your subject/keywords so that you are ready to expand your search if you get too few results or narrow it if you get too many.
  5. 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 by date of publication or keywords.
  6. 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; oysters NOT salmon will give all documents with oysters but exclude those which mention salmon.
  7. 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

Here are a number of online sources to help support your research:

Aggregator market research sites

Aggregator market research sites can be a useful starting point, as they search across a number of market research databases at one time. However, they don't include a comprehensive list of all market report databases and you may have to pay for reports. Try:

Country research

Finding trustworthy published information is important to help you identify and assess international business opportunities. The sources below can provide an accurate and up-to-date picture of the economy and society 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.
Ernst & Young Country 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.

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.
Regional Trade Statistics (HMRC) HMRC's export and import data from the UK to overseas countries.
Scottish Government Scotland statistics
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. 

Note we only provide desk research support, not primary research.

Companies based in Scotland get free access to reports on:

  • Competitor insight
  • Global market intelligence
  • Credit rating checks
  • Industry trends and forecasts
  • Consumer demographics
  • Supplier databases

Fill in our enquiry form to access this support. Be ready 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.