Conducting thorough market research is a must for any would-be exporter but often the hardest part of doing it is knowing where to start. There’s so much information out there that it can be difficult to see the wood through the trees.
Here we focus on globalEDGE – a free resource created by the International Business Center at Michigan State University. I interviewed Sarah Singer from the globalEDGE team to find out how UK SMEs can use the resource to gather relevant market information to inform their export decisions.
What is globalEDGE?
globalEDGE is a completely free international business resources website. It was created and is maintained by the International Business Center at Michigan State University (MSU-CIBER) to connect international business professionals, students, and researchers to a wealth of information, insights, and resources related to every facet of international business and trade. Today, globalEDGE has 1.5 million users and is the #1 ranked site for “international business resources.”
How does it work?
MSU-CIBER received funding from the U.S. Department of Education to support globalEDGE. This support allows us to maintain globalEDGE as a freely available resource. Anyone, anywhere, can search for globalEDGE and begin using the website in a matter of minutes to find information on countries, U.S. states, 20 different industry sectors, trade blocs, and any number of international business-related topics.
Why is it useful for exporters?
globalEDGE is a powerful tool that allows exporters to develop a full understanding of a particular market, as well as the resources that are available to support them. For example, an exporter who is considering entering a new market could use our Emerging Markets risk comparator tool (http://globaledge.msu.edu/econ-class/emerging-markets/risk) to evaluate the relative risk of two emerging markets, such as Brazil and Chile.
What insights does it include for each country/region?
For each country, we include a significant amount of background information – geographic location, population, the languages spoken and currency used – as well as much more detailed information on the government and economy, as well as a significant number of statistics and trade statistics. For example, for each country, a user can find everything from the life expectancy at birth and the current age distribution of the population to the country’s largest export and import partners, as well as the goods that are most imported and exported.
We also provide several extensive resources on the country’s culture, which cover everything from managing workplace conflict to appropriate hostess gifts; a detailed risk analysis; the sales, profits, assets, and market value of any Forbes 2000 company headquartered in the country; indices that examine everything from ease of doing business and paying taxes to corruption perception, global competitiveness, and even the cost of a Big Mac. And then, after all of that, there’s a listing of resources specific to the country – regulatory agencies, trade shows, chambers of commerce based in the country, and such government entities as the export promotion and investment promotion agencies.
For those who don’t quite have the time to dig into a country’s resource pages in such depth, we also offer a one-page “memo” with what we consider the most critical and relevant information for a business person new to the country to know.
Where does all the information come from?
We are an information aggregator. Our sources include the CIA World Factbook, UN Comtrade, the World Bank, the IMF, Coface, BBC country profile pages, and frequently less well-known sources as well, such as the U.S. Energy Information Administration. We look for data that would be useful in the international business context and work to present it in a way that makes sense to students, researchers, and business people.
How would you recommend exporters use it?
Exporters will be especially interested in our country profiles, which, when utilized to their full potential, provide an incredible breadth and depth of information about the country, its government, people, economic condition, and regulatory environment. Another good source for exporters is the Market Potential Index (MPI) that ranks 98 countries comparing them on different dimensions such as market size, commercial infrastructure, and country risk. The MPI can be used as a starting point to identify potential markets, which then can be subject to a more detailed market research.
What tips would you give in general for exporters conducting research into potential markets?
Determine which markets are already buying or using similar products. Identify your most important factors for success in foreign markets (customer profile, market size, risk, regulations, growth potential, etc). Make a spreadsheet with these on the axis and fill in the data. You’ll have a great discussion tool to get you started!
Utilize the free and low-cost resources that can provide great insights! Examples of such resources in the U.S. include international trade specialists at U.S. Export Assistance Centers as well as at Small Business Development Centers. These individuals can provide valuable and free insights based on their prior research and years of working with companies. Many other local resources, like universities and trade groups, frequently can be of help as well. Within the UK, a couple of government resources that serve as an excellent starting point are https://www.exportingisgreat.gov.uk/ and https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/uk-export-finance.
You can access globalEDGE at http://globaledge.msu.edu/