Before the export sale can occur, your company may need to adapt its product. Foreign government regulations may vary by country conditions, or customer preferences in every market you plan to enter. Successful exporting requires both product knowledge and awareness of the unique characteristics of each target market. Learn more by viewing Preparing Your Product for Export, the first of five videos in the Make the Export Sale set. Then read on for more in-depth background on this important topic.
Last Published: 3/13/2018

How to Export to Overseas Markets

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Market research and contact with foreign customers and sales partners should give your company an idea of what products can be sold and where. In many cases, your company may need to modify its product, and to what extent your company is willing to do so is a key issue for management consideration:

  • Deals with international customers having the same demographic characteristics or specifications for manufactured goods. 
  • Supplies parts for U.S. goods that are exported to other countries without modifications.
  • Produces a unique product that is sold on the basis of its status or international appeal.
  • Produces a product that has few or no distinguishing features and that is sold almost exclusively on a commodity or price basis.

Questions to Consider:
  • What foreign market needs does your product satisfy?
  • Should your company modify its domestic-market product for sale abroad or develop a new product for the foreign market?  What specific features such as design, color, size, packaging, brand, labels, and warranty, should be modified?
  • How important is language or cultural differences? 
  • What adjustments or specific services are necessary to execute your sales strategy in the market’s business environment?
  • What adjustments or specific services are necessary to execute your sales strategy in the market’s business environment?​

Prepare Your Product for Export: Product Adaptation 

Products may need to be modified to conform to the market for any number of reasons: geographic and climatic conditions, buyer preferences, standards of living, government regulations, or religious practices. Modifications may also facilitate shipment or compensate for possible differences in engineering and design standards. Sensory impression made by a product, such as taste or visual effect, may be a critical factor. For example, Japanese consumers tend to prefer certain kinds of packaging, leading many U.S. companies to redesign cartons and packages destined for that country. 

The decision to adapt a product is based largely on the degree of commitment to the specific foreign market, a determination of the market potential, costs incurred in adapting the product, and assessment of the increased revenues expected. A firm with short-term goals will probably have a different perspective than one with long-term goals.

Foreign government product regulations are common in international trade. Regulations can take the form of high tariffs, or non-tariff barriers, such as industrial regulations or product specifications. Governments impose these regulations in order to:
  • Protect domestic industries from foreign competition.
  • Protect the health and safety of their citizens.
  • Force importers to comply with environmental controls.
  • Ensure that importers meet local requirements for electrical or measurement systems.
  • Restrict the flow of goods originating in, or having components from, certain countries.
  • Protect their citizens from cultural influences of which they deem inappropriate.

Get Help, the U.S. federal government’s export assistance portal, links to many resources, including the following: 
  • Whether you are looking to adapt your product or service to a foreign market, or suspect that trade barriers or foreign regulations may be hindering sales of your product, contact your local U.S. Commercial Service office for assistance 
  • A Basic Guide to Exporting offers additional insight on product adaptation and branding. See Chapter 8: Preparing Your Product for Export.

Prepared by the International Trade Administration. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the International Trade Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting

Foreign Trade Regulations Packaging