How to do export market research – a useful guide with example

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  • Post last modified:September 29, 2020
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Going a new export market is easy. All you need to do, you need to some research, figure out if there is a demand for your products. Do market research and customer analysis. Find your product/market fit and decide your route to market.

So, in this article, we are going to talk about how to do export market research and decide where to export next based on numbers, statistics, and online research. This is going to be a useful guide with an example.

Check Statistics and Figures of the UK Export Data

I am going to do my export market research in food and drink business, as I am Jack of all food trades. To demonstrate a good example, we should decide on a product category first. Which food and drink products the UK exports most? Let’s check out the UK Exports Top 20 Products in order to share as general insights.

HMRC Overseas Trade Statistics

The most valuable export commodity of the UK is nuclear reactors, parts and machinery, brilliant. So what is the most important food and drink product commodity in export? Definitely; whiskey, spirits, and beverages on 12th place. It makes sense, the UK is famous for its Scottish whisky. So what about the rest of the food and drink export volume?

FDF Export Snapshot 2020 Q1

Please note, those are the first-quarter export volume data of the UK. In Q1 2020, food and drink exports fell by over £700m (-12.7%) compared to the same period in 2019. Sales to EU countries were the hardest hit, with the total value falling by 17.4%.

One of our customers, a whisky producer asked us to search for the potential export markets. So, I put myself in a whisky exporter’s shoe, and look deep into the export data to decide where to export.

I have used the tariff – commodity code – headings starting with 22.08.30. If you would like to learn how to check commodity tariff code, read here.

HMRC Overseas Trade Statistics

This data shows you to the total export volume of whisky in 2019. I am surprised to see UAE in Top 10, and Singapore in the second place.

Our customer is already exporting most of those countries, so in accordance with their development plan, we are going to evaluate Singapore market potential whilst concerning current economic developments.

Evaluate export market potential

We accept the fact that it is more mindful and responsible not to travel in the time of coronavirus. Therefore, it is better and even more effective to do your country research online. The topics we cover to evaluate the size and the potential of a market are:

The size and age of the population
Imports of the same products
The amount and value of similar products
Google search for your product
The country’s GDP and average disposable income.

Go to and search for Singapore market report. You will find all the general information you need.

It is ranked by the World Bank as the second easiest place in the world to start, run and do business (World Bank, 2019). You can set up a new business in a matter of hours. Singapore has a stable government, strong rule of law and effective regulatory system.

The UK and Singapore share a common language and have strong historical ties. Both economies have similar business and legal practices and share similar technical standards.

After getting all the information you need about the country, then go to Google and make quick research, e.g., the list of supermarkets in Singapore and let Google do the hard work. Thirty years ago, exporters would pay a huge amount of commission to brokers for this information. And now, thanks to Google it is free.

Google SERP

Secondly, we come across with the Singapore government website, list of groceries information including, postcode and full address details!

Google SERP

You should make a list of all retailers and supermarket chains and check each website thoroughly to evaluate the market potential and the size. In order to discover all routes to your market, should make online research in terms of potential eCommerce, distributors, wholesalers, restaurants and Horeca channels. We are going to use this data to analyse customers and buyer’s journey.

Go to and search for whisky and you will see the bestselling products in the market. On the fairprices’ website, there are 58 different SKUs, available for the retail! Note price range, sort prices from low to high, make your competitor brands analysis. look at this, you are able to filter the country of origin of searched products.

Repeat this research for every potential customer, create an excel spreadsheet, note all prices, and relevant information.

Go to and search for bestselling whiskey items.

Use every piece of information on the internet, in order to answer the below questions.

What’s the competition doing? What do they do well? What do they do poorly? What’s unique about them? Can you offer something different that’ll encourage customers to patronize you instead of more established businesses?

Is the market saturated? Does Singapore really need another whiskey brand? How much money is spent in your industry each year? Is there room in the market for one more brand?

Analyse customers and discover trends

Why would a company or investor decide to take part in a new business activity or venture internationally, let alone specifically in Singapore? It comes down to a simple statement: Singapore has built a foundation of strong trade and investment platforms, making it one of the most competitive Asian markets and an ideal location to establish a global presence. Not only has Singapore established such firm trade and investment platforms, but it has also created an easy system for establishing and maintaining a business.

Businesses that set up an international presence in Singapore can benefit from Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements, numerous free trade agreements, and strictly regulated intellectual property laws. When business leaders are looking to invest in Asia that enhance competitive advantages in an ever-evolving global market, they often chose Singapore.

Even though Malay is recognised as the national language of Singapore, English is the primary working language and is also used within educational institutions. In addition to a diverse ethnic population, religious diversity has helped to create an even richer culture in Singapore, with Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism, Hinduism and other religions building the spiritual foundation of the growing country. So good news is, exporters do not have to invest new labels, English labels can be used easily.

Singapore has an enormous choice when it comes to eating and drinking, whether you want to sample local cuisine or prefer to enjoy Western food, there’s something for every palate and every budget. On the side, Singapore is famous for its Michelin starred and upper-class restaurants since the city have a good amount of population of bankers, traders and posh society. Therefore we can understand the origin for £301 Mio of whiskey exports.

Trends in sales of similar products over a number of years,
Trends in consumer spending over a number of years.

Combination of both trends helps you understand consumer behaviour and, define your customer persona.

Photo by Larry Teo on Unsplash

Look for comparable products and the competition

Once we collect all similar products and brands data, we are going to evaluate a report in order to see the gross revenue if we export a 40ft container whiskey to Singapore. and this will give you an estimated budget to do the business.

Let’s assume you decided to start exporting to the target market online via Amazon or through other similar marketplaces. Then go to the competitor websites and social media accounts. This is a good starting point to understand your competitor’s positioning in the market. Are they promoting a low price? Quality experience? It could also help you understand the shipping experience which your competitors give customers, which you may need to match.

What is your unique selling point? Products that have strong Unique Selling Points enjoy a competitive advantage and better reception in foreign markets.

Here is a step by step guide how to calculate landed cost.

You should carefully calculate your margin coming back from the retail or shelf sales price of your similar products, including all duties, VAT’s, logistics cost, ocean freights, marketplace admin costs, etc.

Finally, you will be able to see the gross margin when you export 20 pallets of whiskey to Singapore the first time if you reckon all costs on a correct formula. Thereafter, decide to export Singapore or any other market, any product.

Find the best routes to market

A Written Export Plan will provide a clear understanding of your long-term product exporting objectives and ensures that all the management are committed to achieving these goals and objectives.

Careful preparation of an Export Plan is critical when entering a new export market and can significantly reduce risks and costs that are often associated with exporting for the first time!

It is hard to create a buyer’s persona for your products and it is harder to create the buyer’s persona who lives in Singapore.

Buyer personas help you understand your customers better. This makes it easier for you to tailor your content, messaging, product development, and services to meet the specific needs, behaviours, and concerns of the members of your target audience.

The main ways to enter an export market are:

use an agent or distributor
create a joint venture agreement
set up a business abroad

For example, in the beginning you may decide to export via eCommerce to test the market. If that goes well, the best way to increase sales may be to identify a good agent or distributor who can assist in building customer relationships.

Department for International Trade organises structured trade missions to specific markets which allow businesses to meet with buyers and attend relevant events.

Use foodnomy’s overseas network

Contact us, send us an email, follow us on LinkedIn and we will help you build your next business overseas business development.

Bespoke market research, sector advice and market entry strategies
Support during overseas visits
Identification of possible business partners
Help preparing for exhibitions, events and trade fairs

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