When expanding a business to new international markets, getting an accurate profile of the market’s consumer base will begin your journey towards understanding your new market(s).
Without extensive market research, companies are more likely to fail when looking to expand overseas. Market research helps narrow down the target markets you might move into and shortlist the most appropriate. It also informs which audience groups are the most engaged and whether they will convert.
In this article, we’ll cover the stages of market research from developing market research goals and questions to preparing your export plans, distribution channels, all the way to setting up a new website and making your first sale in a new territory.
Develop your goals and set market research questions
Before you get started in trying to identify your target audience in a new market, you’ll need to be clear on what your research is helping you to achieve. What outcomes do you want to be guaranteed by the time your research phase is complete? Do you want to narrow down the potential regions and countries you will consider for expansion? Are you hoping to understand which segments are the most lucrative in a certain country? Or are you looking to understand the competitive landscape in a market that you have identified?
Either way, whatever your goal is, now that you have clarified it, you can move on to formulating the questions which will help you learn whether your expansion is feasible and how to best go about it.
Some fundamental questions include:
- Who are my audiences at home, and are there lookalike audiences overseas?
- Are there new audiences overseas that we can tap into, and what characteristics and behaviours do they have?
- Is the route to market the same in my target countries?
- What does the competitive landscape look like?
- What are our opportunities and threats when moving into the new market?
Conducting research – what you need to know
When conducting market research overseas, there’s a lot to learn about the potential marketplace and country you are looking to enter. What’s the culture like? What about demographics? What are the relationships between businesses and its customers like?
You’ll also need to identify whether you can effectively do business in your native source language. You need to answer questions including: can we build relationships with suppliers and partners in our native tongue and can we market our products and or services without additional support?
Often, entrants to new markets will need the support of a marketing agency, partners and/or a translation agency to ensure they effectively communicate key messages and help market their products engagingly and appropriately.
If the market you are researching uses a different language to your primary market, you’ll perhaps need the assistance of a market research partner. They will assist your company to conduct your research project by arranging focus groups, conducting individual interviews, gathering data and presenting all their findings concisely to facilitate simple decision making on whether you should go to market.
Analyse free data sources
Data doesn’t always need to be painstakingly collected through an intensive market research programme. It’s possible to research free public data sources to understand more about the country or region you are considering for expansion – especially in the early stages of market research.
You will be able to find quantitative data for a range of data points. You can check out the size and makeup of market sectors. For instance, in the UK, the Office for National Statistics would hold this kind of information for public use, but you’ll need to go one step further and identify the equivalent body in your target market.
You might also be able to tap into market research carried out by other companies. Some forms of quantitative data include surveys, polls and questionnaires. Polls and surveys on consumer purchasing habits, for instance, are usually easily obtainable, and if you can’t find the information you’re looking for in a freely available format, then you’ve just learnt a key question to ask in your market research.
The official UK government website, Gov.uk, has some useful information on exporting to overseas markets. Their country guides give an overview of:
- Industry and economic information
- Regulatory environment
- Registering and protecting your IP
- Languages and culture
Exporting your company’s good and services
With all the market due diligence and research you’ll perform, you’ll also need to think about beginning the process of your routes to market. Gov.uk has a guide on barriers to trading, to help you identify whether there’s anything that will prevent your plans or slow them down.
Factoring in the costs of exporting to an overseas market is crucial; knowing this will help you devise a plan of action and create a workable budget.
If export opportunities are hard to come by, Gov.uk’s guide, Find Overseas Customers and Export Opportunities could help.
Need help translating your market research questions?
Some of the most discerning brands in the world put their faith in us to translate their research questions or marketing materials. We’ve worked alongside some of the most respected marketing and market research agencies in the field, including WPP and Millward Brown.
We have the experience and expertise to translate vital research documents that will help you discover the mindset of your potential new international customer base. By understanding the way your audience thinks, we can then effectively communicate your key messages, features and benefits so that they resonate – whatever the language.