19 January 2024 749 words, 3 min. read

3 market research techniques to prepare for export

By Pierre-Nicolas Schwab PhD in marketing, director of IntoTheMinds
Seizing export opportunities can be quite simple. To maximize your chances, conducting market research beforehand is a promising idea to identify the best opportunities.

Companies miss many opportunities by failing to take an interest in foreign markets. Opening to export is much simpler than you might think, and sometimes, all it takes is a simple translation of your website, and the requests start pouring in. To give you the best chance of success, I’d like to look at a few market research tools you can use to get you off to a safe start.

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  • Companies need to pay more attention to their ability to sell their goods and services abroad. As a result, they need to take advantage of an opportunity to grow their sales.
  • Simple market research tools can be used to identify these opportunities and focus on the most promising segments.
  • The survey technique is the easiest to apply, even in B2B. What’s more, results are quicker to obtain than with a qualitative approach.

3 market research techniques for identifying opportunities

As head of a Market Research Agency, I supervise many projects to assess export potential. 3 techniques are used regularly, depending on the specifics of the project:

  • Demand analysis: 100% of projects
  • Competitive analysis: 80% of projects
  • PESTEL analysis: 10% of projects

Demand analysis

Demand analysis is essential to confirm the existence of a market. It aims to assess prospects’ interest in your product or service. It may hold a few surprises:

  • Lack of interest: the research shows that your target customers have limited interest in your product or service.
  • Interest higher than expected: conversely, we’ve already encountered cases where export demand was higher than in the country of origin.
  • Identification of an unexpected customer segment: when stratified sampling is chosen, a quantitative market research technique is used to compare the reactions of different segments. We regularly discover “customer reservoirs” among segments the customer hadn’t considered.

With this in mind, the question arises regarding which technique(s) to use to analyze demand.


Surveys are the primary method for analyzing demand in foreign markets. It provides a degree of statistical certainty through a large sample. Many think this method only applies to B2C, but this is not true. For example, 90% of the surveys we conduct are B2B.

Individual qualitative interviews

The use of semi-structured interviews to analyze demand is especially applicable in B2B. This approach is used only when there are too few respondents, and it is impossible to gather a substantial number. This is often the case for artisans, for example, when you need to analyze demand in a niche sector.

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Competitor analysis

Understanding the competition is particularly important before entering a foreign market. This is especially true if you need to learn more about the target country.

There are several analysis frameworks to help you structure your analysis. Porter’s 5 Forces is a classic.

Whatever approach you take to competitive analysis, you must gather information about your competitors. Here are the methods we use:

  • Documentary research: this is the most accessible method. All you must do is look for information online. In B2B, however, this method rarely produces satisfactory results. To find out more, read our article on desk research.
  • Surveys: you can use demand analysis (see previous paragraph) to ask questions about your competitors, particularly their notoriety and reputation.
  • Mystery shopping: this method is also applicable in B2B and is how the most confidential information is acquired.
  • Trade shows: One of our favorite methods, accessible to all. Some leading trade shows (e.g., SIAL for the food industry) attract a considerable proportion of the companies active in each sector. SIAL, for example, attracts over 6,000 exhibitors from more than 100 countries every two years. Therefore, Competitive research can be conducted directly at the show, providing a unique opportunity to obtain new, sometimes confidential information and practice your mystery shopper skills.

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PESTEL analysis

PESTEL analysis examines all the factors that will impact your market but are beyond your control. These may include regulatory, political, or fiscal factors, etc.

It is rarely applied in the projects we conduct. The reason is quite simple: 99% of export research projects are conducted within the European Union, where rules are harmonized.

Therefore, this type of analysis is preferable if you intend to export to an economic zone whose rules differ significantly from those in which you usually operate. To learn more about PESTEL analysis, please consult our online guide to market research and our online course.

Posted in Entrepreneurship.

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