International market research is a key to successful export planning. Start by viewing Research the Global Market Place, the first of five videos in the Plan Your Market Entry Strategy set. Afterwards, you’ll have greater insight into the basic steps of the market research process. As noted in the video, begin by analyzing trade data to get an overview of tariff rates and growth patterns for your product in foreign markets. Also, take a closer look at where your current foreign sales are originating, and the sales potential among the 20 U.S. free trade agreement countries. The Country Commercial Guides, which provide latest market intelligence for more than 140 countries, are an excellent research tool. After evaluating your research, you should have a better idea of the possible market opportunities for your product or service. Soon, you will narrow the selection to the best foreign export markets and develop a market entry strategy.
Last Published: 6/19/2018

Find Foreign Export Markets 

[Download Video 19MB]
Quick Links: Next Video Market Entry Strategy Video Set | How to Export Video Series | Subscribe to our Email Updates and Tips.



     Questions Answered by Market Research: 

  • What countries/markets are currently buying products like yours?
  • How large are your potential markets?
  • Who are your competitors, and how large are they?
  • What are the required standards, testing, and certifications?
  • Do your products (or their labeling or packaging) need to be modified  for one or more markets?
  • Is your price point appealing within the market? If not, what can you do to make it more appealing?
  • What distribution channels are available?
  • What will be your duties, taxes, and other costs?


U.S. Export Market Research 

Market research is critical to selecting your initial export markets. It helps you identify marketing opportunities and constraints abroad, as well as prospective buyers and customers. Market research encompasses all methods that may determine which foreign markets have the best potential. You may research a market by using either primary or secondary data resources. Results of this research tell you:
  • The largest markets and fastest-growing markets for your product.
  • Market trends and outlook.
  • Market conditions and practices.
  • Competing companies and products.   


Primary Market Research 

  • Conducting primary market research involves collecting data directly from the foreign marketplace through interviews, surveys, and other direct contact with representatives and potential buyers.
  • Primary market research has the advantage of being tailored to your company’s needs and provides answers to specific questions. However, the collection of such data on your own is time consuming and  expensive and may not be comprehensive.​
  • The U.S. Commercial Service can collect primary data for you and help you analyze it. This service costs, on average, several hundred dollars for each market analyzed and does not require you to travel there. The U.S. Commercial Service can also help you find intermediaries with specific market expertise.


Secondary Market Research 

  • When conducting secondary market research, your company collects data from various sources, such as trade statistics for a country or a product. Secondary sources are less expensive and helps your company focus its marketing efforts. Secondary data sources are critical to market research, but has limitations. The most recent statistics for some countries may be more than a few years old, or the data may be too broad to be of much value to your company..
  • Once you’ve decided that your company is able to export and is committed to it, populate your export plan with data and insights gleaned from available sources. A customized export plan is a valuable strategic and operational tool for growing the export side of your business.
  • This last advantage is especially important. Building an international business takes time. It often takes months, sometimes even years, before an exporting company begins to see a return on its investment. By committing to the specifics of a written plan you can help ensure that your company will finish what it begins, and that the hopes that prompted your export efforts will be fulfilled.


Methods of Market Research: Secondary Information

Because of the expense of primary market research, most companies rely on secondary data sources. The below recommendations will help you obtain useful secondary information:


1. Keep abreast of world events that influence the global marketplace. 

Watch for announcements of specific projects, or simply visit potential markets. For example, a thawing of political hostilities often leads to the opening of economic channels between countries. A steep depreciation in the value of the dollar can make your product considerably more competitive. The opposite can happen when the dollar appreciates, making some markets less attractive.

2. Analyze trade and economic statistics.      

Trade statistics are generally compiled by product category and by country, and provide information concerning shipments over specified periods of time. Demographic and general economic statistics, such as population size and makeup, per capita income, and production levels by industry, can be important indicators of market potential for your company’s products.

3. Obtain advice from experts:

  • Contact experts at the U.S. Department of Commerce and other government agencies by visiting, the U.S. government’s export portal.
  • Attend seminars, workshops, and international trade shows in your industry.
  • Hire an international trade and marketing consultant.
  • Contact trade and industry associations.
  • Talk with successful exporters of similar products, including members of District Export Councils in your local area.

Get Help, the U.S. federal government’s export assistance portal, links to many resources, including the following:

  • Country Commercial Guides provide the latest market intelligence on more than 140 countries from U.S. embassies worldwide. 
  • Gather meaningful intelligence on overseas markets through our webinars.


More Information

Market Research Planning Research and Development