5 great research resources for SME exporters

Know where to go to grow global

Humans love to trade. We’ve been doing it for the last 5000 years, maybe more. The ancient Egyptians, Sumerians and Phoenicians all had each other’s stuff. Exporting and trade bought people together, shared knowledge, expertise and increased prosperity.

Fast forward to today and we see an inter-connected world where trade is doing the same thing, making connections, sharing goods and services and increasing knowledge and prosperity. Despite the uncertainties of the last decade, the overall picture is one of growth. Opportunities remain for the taking, for businesses large or small.

market research resources
Variety of spices on kitchen table.

What are the opportunities and where are they?

Looking for information is easy, finding it is hard.

If you’re an SME, regardless of size, knowing where to focus your exports is what will add (or detract) from your bottom line. To make those key commercial decisions you don’t just need data, you need accurate and relevant data that’s timely, easy to interpret and also an indicator of where the opportunities lie.

If you knew where there was gold somewhere underground, it would help knowing where and having a map to find it!

That’s what good research will do.

To help with that job, there are commercial researchers and publishers who produce high value reports and analysis to help make those decisions. They will crunch and present government statistics in a readable fashion. They’ll do local ‘in the field’ analysis of what’s really happening in particular markets and with particular consumers in countries all over the world. They’ll tell you likely trends for the next few years and collate some of the best trade publications all over the world, easily searchable.

The British Library and has access to this information for walk in users with a reader pass (details here), without charge.

As someone who has worked with these resources and helped countless ‘prospectors’ mine for their gold nuggets of information, I have some favourite sources that no exporter should be without.

My ‘favourite five’ resources for export insight

Here’s my favourite five at the British Library’s Business & IP Centre, starting from the broadest information covered on the country or market to the most specific –

Economist Country Data.

Knowing what’s happening in the country of export will help to understand the local trading environment, risks associated and how open it is to trade. The Economist’s Country Data provides insights on the political and social environment as well as tables of principal imports and their country of origin. A nice addition is overlaying information such as imports with domestic demand in the target country.

ISI Emerging Markets (EMIS)

What’s here is expansive; whether you’re looking for company details, or over 10,500 news clippings on market trends or reports on some very niche markets, this is a source worth consulting for all the major and emerging economies. It’s a dragnet of data with plenty of jewels. I did a search on market reports for Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores around the world and found this gem, ‘Global Air Hockey Table Market 2016-20’. That’s definitely a result if air hockey is your thing! This just scratches the surface. Hopefully you’ll find something for your particular niche whatever the industry.


When trading in any country you should research the local competition. A company database like Onesource allows you to obtain a list of companies by size, industry and location. You’ll be able to rank the list by size of turnover, profitability or employees (to name a few). It also has some news and reports to digest as well. Starting off with a database like Onesource will allow you to get the ‘lay of the land’ and help to assess whether a regional or global company might be dominating a market or how many smaller companies operate in your target area.

Frost & Sullivan

This is a market research database for healthcare, chemicals, IT, telecoms, electronics, industry, transportation, technology, energy, aerospace and defence. These areas are where the UK is particularly strong and if your product or service is technology or R&D based, this resource is a must consult. Coverage is global and reports are bang up to date with plenty of comment on emerging trends and forecasts.

Passport (Euromonitor International)

Focused primarily on consumer products, with some service industries like tourism, this is a database full of country reports, news and statistical data sourced from national statistics and regional researchers. I did a search for men’s grooming in France and found a whole range of data and statistics from company share, brand share, distribution by outlet and pricing information for this product category; data that is very valuable especially for how your export product might be positioned in a local context. Information of this quality and depth is available for at least 20 consumer product categories and a handful of consumer services for around the world.

Making the most of your research

This is a handful of favourites but the Business & IP Centre has a special industry guide dedicated to listing these and a lot more resources (some available online) here

You can also partake in our free webinars too

Doing market research and using it are different skills though. Here’s some further tips for making the most of your research.

Topics: Export Planning, Getting Started, Insights & Statistics, Localisation, Market Research, and Official Agencies
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