Selecting an export market

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What it involves


Knowing where to start is sometimes the hardest part of exporting. It is often indicated by your knowledge of your product or service, of world trends in your industry or existing market, or your intuition about likely new markets. The next stage is to test and confirm this, either informally or formally. Many companies use a combination of formal and informal processes.

Formal process: Some companies use a formal market selection process, which considers a wide range of political, geographic, economic and other factors. For instance, they may use a matrix in which various factors essential to success are evaluated and ranked, having first obtained this information from Internet searches or market research by consultants

Informal process: Others use a less formal process, such as talking with business people.

Market selection requires you to:

  • collect information;
  • make comparisons; and
  • make decisions.

Some things you need to consider will require outside help and some questions will never be answered until you get to the market. The process always involves checking and updating information and learning from experiences.

The process of selecting markets can involve:

  • recognising a new market or type of market on the basis of economics and geography;
  • assessing the critical market factors (such as market size, demographics, demand for your product or service, trends, interest in new or innovative products, levels of technology adoption, shipping from Kenya and ease of communications);
  • assessing the regulatory or legal requirements and how they relate to international practice or Kenyan practice;
  • comparing cultural and business factors (e.g. ways of doing business, trade practices, language, and access to people you will be dealing with); and
  • adding in personal or other considerations, such as your own preferences or knowledge of the market.
  • Start with ‘easy’ markets (consider the East African Community seriously). Take into consideration: Proximity; Language; Business environment; Freighting services.
  • Keep it simple – don’t over-extend.
  • Select a market where you can achieve modest results quickly.
  • Undertake preliminary market research for each possible market (it might be easiest to start with a regional focus rather than countries).
  • The questions you ask will depend on the product or service you intend to export.
  • You will probably need to weigh the relative importance of some factors over others.
  • From the results of your preliminary research narrow your focus down to three-to-five countries and apply more specific criteria.
  • Balance relative profitability with risk, costs and time.
  • Talk to colleagues, exporters, BrandKE, Kenya National Chamber of Commerce, and other advisors to assist in the decision-making process.

We recommend you approach market selection as a two-step process.

Step 1: Gather information on a broad range of markets

Apply some very pertinent questions to a broad range of markets – the questions you ask will depend on the product/service you are exporting. At this stage you want to find out:

  • the demand for your product/service;
  • the size of the potential market;
  • whether your target market afford your product;
  • what regulatory issues impact on exports of your product;
  • ease of access to this market – proximity/freight, tariff, etc;
  • are there appropriate distribution channels for your product/service;
  • the environment for doing business – language, culture, politics, etc; and
  • whether it is financially viable to export to this market.

You can gather much of the first step information yourself from a variety of sources at little or no cost. Sources of information include talking to colleagues and other exporters, BrandKE and the Internet.

Step 2: Research a selection of markets in-depth

From the results of the first stage, narrow your selection down to three to five markets and undertake some in-depth research relating specifically to your product. You will probably need to commission at least part of this research to consultants. From the results of this research, make your final decision.

Some of the questions you may want to ask at this stage are:

  • What similar products are in the marketplace (including products that may not be similar but are used to meet the same need)?
  • What is your point of difference? What makes your product unique? What are the key selling points for your product?
  • How do people obtain/use these products?
  • Who provides them?
  • Are they imported? If so from which countries?
  • Is there a local manufacturer or provider?
  • Who would your major competitors be? What are the key brands or trade names?
  • What is the market’s structure and shape?
  • What is the market’s size?
  • Are there any niche markets, and if so how big are they?
  • Who are the major importers/stockists/distributors/agencies or suppliers?
  • What are the other ways to obtain sales/representation?
  • What are the prices or fees in different parts of the market?
  • What are the mark-ups at different distribution levels?
  • What are the import regulations, duties or taxes, including compliance and professional registrations if these apply?
  • How will you promote your product or service if there is a lot of competition?
  • Are there any significant trade fairs, professional gathers or other events where you can promote your product or service?
  • Packaging – do you need to change metric measures to imperial, do you need to list ingredients?
  • Will you need to translate promotional material and labelling?
  • Is your branding – colours, imagery, etc., culturally acceptable?

You could start by utilizing the following resources:

Trademap: An online database of global trade flows and market access barriers for international business development and trade promotion with export and import profiles and trends - www.trademap.org

Product Map: A web portal presenting business information and intelligence in a product context with information on existing market studies, price indicators on cluster basis and links to other product information and data - www.p-maps.org

Market Access Map: A comprehensive source of tariffs and market access measures applied at the bilateral level by 178 importing countries to the products exported by 239 countries and territories - www.macmap.org

The market analysis tools were developed by the International Trade Centre and can be accessed directly through the listed websites or through the BrandKE’s Centre for Business Information in Kenya at Anniversary Towers 1st Floor on University Way, Tel: 020 2228534-8, Fax: 020 2218013, Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Website: www.BrandKEkenya.org.

Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries (CBI): Registered members of CBI's virtual community can benefit from access to the market information database, download publications, access previews and updates of the fashion forecasts, obtain information about export development programmes and training programmes, access marketing guidelines, hundreds of links to other resources on the internet, and conduct a self-assessment of export readiness. Registration is free at www.cbi.nl.

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The Kenya Export Promotion and Branding Agency (BRANDKE) is a new State Corporation established under the State Corporations Act Cap 446 through Legal Notice No.110 of August 9th, 2019
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