Key principles and basic steps of market analysis


Key principles and basic steps of market analysis
market analysis, customers, competition, trends, barriers, partners, support
Understanding basic principles, steps and benefits of market analysis. Being able to execute own market analysis, or identify and approach available support services on European Single Market.

While microbusinesses usually know their local market and customers quite well, sometimes even personally, expanding the scope of the business to foreign markets is a completely different story. Decision on whether and how to enter any foreign market should be based on understanding the industry and target market, competitors and regulations. You can obtain such information through market analysis. Of course, the scope and complexity of market analysis in microbusinesses will differ from larger companies, but even arts & crafts microbusinesses

should utilize the main principles of market analysis when planning to enter a foreign market. Even though current e-commerce trends enable easy entering and experimenting foreign markets through online marketplaces, any such attempt should be backed by as many information as possible (and, of course, feasible). Thus, this training fiche will provide an introduction into the basics of market analysis and its benefits, simplified to-do list for performing own market analysis, as well as instructions where to find help and support for foreign market analysis on European single market.


What is market analysis?

• Market analysis, in simple words, studies the attractiveness and the dynamics of a special market within a special industry. Understanding how the potential foreign market works and what customers want is very important. Findings from the market analysis should help you identify where to focus your efforts and how to maintain a competitive edge. Your market analysis should include an overview of your industry, a look at your target market, an analysis of your competition, and any regulations you’ll need to comply with. Market research will help you understand your customers, familiarise yourself with the competition and get to know what people are prepared to pay for your product or service.

• Analysing potential foreign market can be generally divided into points to five key steps:

1. deciding the questions you need answers to,

2. deciding what information you need to collect in order to answer those questions,

3. deciding how you're going to collect the information,

4. how you're going to analyse it, and

5. what you're going to do with the results.

• Market analysis should provide understanding about the following issues:

A) Industry description and outlook – What is the current state of the arts & crafts sector in the target country overall and where it’s headed? What is the market size? What are the current trends? In which life cycle stage the market is, and what is the projected growth?

B) Target market - While the scope of the previous section of your market analysis was rather general, the next step has to be specific. You need to establish a clear idea of your target market before you decide whether to enter or not. Lot of businesses think that everyone is their potential market, but, in fact, they are definitely not. By narrowing in on your real customers, you will be able to direct your market entry efforts and limited resources and capacity more efficiently. The target market section of your market analysis should include the following:

o Customer persona and characteristics: You will want to include demographics such as age, income, and location here. Moreover, you will also need to think of your customers’ psychographics as well. This means understanding their interests and buying habits, as well as being able to explain why you are able to meet their needs.

o Market size: Try to estimate how much your customers on your target foreign market spend annually on your product category. This will tell you the size of the potential market for your products. Make sure you want to get real here. To do so, you also need to find out who and where your competitors are.

C) Competitive analysis – Deep understanding of your competitors is important for a couple of reasons. Obviously, you would like to know who are you going to compete with, but it also helps you to unveil competition’s weaknesses. Are there customers on your target market that are underserved? What can you offer that similar arts & crafts makers are not offering? The competitive analysis part of your market analysis should contain the following components:

o Market: Who are your main competitors? Are there also any secondary competitors who could impact your business?

o Competitor strengths and weaknesses: What is your competition good at? Where are their weaknesses? Try to look for opportunities to outperform competitors in areas where they are falling short.

o Barriers to entry: What are the potential pitfalls of entering your target foreign market? What are the cost of entry? Can anyone enter the market?

o Window of opportunity: Is the entry into your target market time-sensitive? Are there particularly favourable times in the year to enter? Is there an opportunity to get in early to take advantage of an emerging market?

D) Regulations - Are there any specific regulations or restrictions on your target foreign market? If so, what are they and how you are going to comply with them? What is the cost of compliance?

What are the benefits/information provided by market analysis?

• Market analysis is an important step when considering to enter a new market, especially if this is a market in a foreign country. By conducting a market analysis, you will be able to gather valuable data that will help you get to know your customers, determine appropriate pricing, and figure out your competitors’ vulnerabilities. Determining the characteristics your potential target market and analysing this information will help you make decisions whether and how to enter.

• Please be aware that nothing is black or white. Always assess the value of information that could be potentially obtained through market analysis for your business, and act accordingly. If extensive own market analysis is too time- and cost-consuming compared with your sales prospects or ambition, you may look for other solutions.

• Market analysis will help you to find the answers to the following most frequent questions asked by arts & crafts makers when considering entering foreign markets:

• Where can I find information on the target foreign market?

• How am I different from competitors on that market? What are my advantages and disadvantages? What are my unique features?

• Is there anyone offering the similar product?

• Can I succeed against my competitors?

What is an entry strategy? What are the main strategies?

You can enter foreign market in different ways that are generally called entry strategies. The most suitable entry strategies for arts & crafts microbusinesses to enter the foreign market are:

• Direct export means selling your products on foreign markets without intermediaries. You either sell directly to your customers (consumers or retailers), or you find a local distributor who will purchase your products and resell them to local wholesalers or retailers.

• Indirect export means selling your products through domestically based export intermediaries. You can approach an intermediary who collects products and takes further care on their export. In some countries, organizations that pool traditional folk arts & crafts makers may work in this way.

• Using online channels is a way of export where country boarders or physical distance play very little role. You can either use your e-shop or social media profile to communicate with customers in any country you are able to ship to, or you may use online marketplaces and platforms (universal or specifically focused on arts & crafts products). Marketplaces and platforms work internationally (or even globally) as well as locally. In the second case, make sure platforms accept sellers from foreign countries.

How to perform market analysis?

• There is no single best way how to perform the market analysis. Everything depends on many factors, such as available resources, skills and experience, aspirations on the foreign market, nature of the foreign market, and actual value of the required information for your business. After you consider these factors, you have three basic options:

1) Performing own market analysis

2) Relying on partners or trade intermediaries

3) Using available support services in European Single Market

A) Performing own market analysis

Basic steps of market analysis

1) Trends and lifecycle of your industry

• Try to identify the main trends related to your potential market for arts & crafts products in the foreign country. Here are some questions you may want to answer: Is the online sales increasing, or do customers stick to traditional channels, such as local shops or traditional makers fairs? Which products are selling well? Are customers open to buying foreign products, or do they prefer local producers? Are the products offered on the market based more on traditional folk arts & crafts, or more fancy and universal? What fashion trends are now rising?

2) Estimate market size

• Estimating market numbers is probably not the most enjoyable part of the market analysis. However, it truly helps to you to get a basic understanding of how big the potential foreign market is, and whether it is big enough to start a profitable business there. Usually, it is more art than science, but there are two basic rules to follow: 1) always look for numbers from reliable sources (e.g. statistics from government or private sources, objective figures from online marketplaces etc.); and 2) stay conservative.

• Try to estimate the following numbers:

o Total market: How many customers want/need the product or product category you plan to offer? How large is the market in terms of sold units or sales? Of course, getting to a reliable number you can be tricky. The general common sense approach is to find a basic number (e.g. total number of customers who do shop online, if we speak about online marketplaces) and then step-by-step break the basic number down using your customer groups attributes.

o Serviceable market: How many customers can I reach with the sales channels I am considering to use (e.g. online marketplaces, partners etc.)? This number is for you, in fact, an actual number of customers in the respective market.

o Target market: How many customers do I actually want to sell my products to within the first year on the foreign market? This is a proportion of the market you want and can reach with your products.

• Also, try to estimate what is the growth rate of your total and serviceable markets. Put simple, is the number of customers growing? Is spending on arts & crafts products in general, or specifically on your product category increasing?

3) Understand your customers

• To understand your customers, you need to clearly identify what type of customer you are targeting, and what are their trends. Be sure to include figures and predictions for future.

• There are two primary aspects to any customer analysis, a demographic profile and a behavioural analysis. Demographic profiles break down customers into age, income, geographic and other easily identifiable categories. A behavioural analysis in its simplest form identifies the reasons customers choose to buy a product instead of the other alternatives, their interests and buying habits.

• Generally, there are three main ways to understand your customers better. One is to put yourself in their shoes and try and look at your business from their point of view. The second way is to collect and analyse secondary data to define your customers and their buying behaviour. The third way, suitable for already established businesses, is simply to ask your customers what they think.

• After you understand basic demographic and behavioural attributes of your customers, you can better target your marketing plans and be sure that your products meet the needs of your intended audience.

4) Look at your competitors

• The aim of this part of your market analysis is to understand who you are competing against. Here, you want to explain your competitors' positioning and analyse their strengths and weaknesses.

• Be careful about statement like “there is no competition”. It is really uncommon to be in a market without competitors. If you really believe there are no competitors, ask someone to search for you. If you still don't find any competitors, there might be logical explanation - maybe you are targeting a market that is not feasible for such products.

• Don't be afraid of competition. Even if there are a many competitors and you the market is fragmented, it can be a good news for you: you are probably offering a product that is really wanted by your potential customers. Here, you need to consider whether you can find your competitive advantage in such market or if it is too crowded or too late to enter.

• Be aware that in addition to direct competitors you also need to consider your indirect competition. E.g. if you are producing handmade artistic glass cups, you may also look at plastic designer glasses of ceramic cups as your competition.

• To systematically analyse your competitors, follow these basic steps: 1) find at least 5 competitive products/arts & crafts makers and explore their websites/offerings, 2) write down important aspects of their offers, 3) if you come across any indicator of their customer base or number, write it down as well.

5) Consider barriers to entry

• In this step you would like to learn whether there are any barriers that may prevent you from entering the market. Typical barriers to entry foreign markets usually include:

a) Physical (i.e. geographical) distance - Do I have capacity to serve the market from my home country? Am I able to ship to the selected market?

b) Psychological distance - culture, language- Is my product culturally acceptable? Isn’t it specific for my home country only? Can I speak the local language? Do enough of my potential customers speak any international language that I can use?

c) Economic barriers - Do I have access to distribution channels? Can I offer competitive price (including shipping costs)?

d) Legal issues - European Single Market should put no limitations to free movement of goods. However, some local legal requirements or rules (e.g. terms of service of online marketplace) that you need to comply with may occur.

• Consider the above mentioned barriers. Are they relevant for your potential foreign market? If so, how would you try to overcome them?

6) Look at regulations

• In this step you need to make sure you understand the main regulations related to trading on the foreign market. If you plan to use an online marketplace, make sure you are familiar with its terms of service, as these are important regulations for you as well.

• More information on regulations will come in the training fiches dedicated to basic legal and regulatory implications to tap into the EU Single Market.

7) Useful tips and tools for conducting a market analysis

• Does the market analysis seem too complicated? Don’t worry and remember that good access to information and common sense to analyse them is usually all you need. Here you can find two tips for your market analysis:

o Try to look for experience and references among your peers (arts & crafts makers) on your home market - check discussion forums on relevant websites or platforms (e.g. makers sometimes share their experience with exporting their products, or look for advices that you might be interested in).

o Use free but powerful online tools and techniques to get useful information on market size, trends, customers or competitors (More information and instructions will come in the training fiche dedicated to using online tools for market analysis).

B) Relying on partners or intermediaries

• One of the best methods to enter a foreign market is to partner with someone in that country. Such partners usually know the country, culture and attributes of a local market, and can facilitate transactions while keeping you current on local market conditions.

• There are some characteristics of a good partner that you should look for. A good partner helps you to achieve your goals on the foreign market, such as market access or cost sharing. A good partner is also unlikely to try to exploit the partnership for his own benefit.

• Selecting a good partner is not easy, but there are some basic steps that should help you. Start with collecting as much information as possible on the industry and potential partners on the foreign market. You can use official sources of information, other arts & crafts makers doing business in that country, or even customers of the potential partner (e.g. through references). After identifying potential partners, approach them and discuss the idea and details of partnership several times before any commitment is made.

• Besides partnering with a foreign partner, you might also establish partnership with domestic export intermediary, who will take care of exporting your product and related market analysis.

• More information and instructions will come in the training fiche dedicated to looking for partners on foreign markets.

C) Using available support services

• Regardless of the craftsmen’s language skills there are freely accessible basic information on the European Single Market and the possibilities of establishing themselves in their native language. These are usually provided either by the European Commission directly or its representations in the respective countries. The European Commission has developed a number of easy to use on-line tools to help European citizens find the required information and the responsible institutions that may provide further assistance.

• One of such tools is called the “YourEurope“ portal http://europa.eu/youreurope/. This portal amongst information about life and travel in the European Union has also a detailed section dedicated to doing business in the EU. It is mostly suited to gain a basic picture on the targeted countries, the legal steps required to establish oneself on a given market and last but not least a list of contact details to several support networks of the European Commission. The portal is structured so that it provides all the basic information on starting a business or its expansion on other EU markets and is divided to several topics, including selling abroad, VAT & customs etc.

• Other such on-line tool is the portal of Points of Single Contact http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/eu-go/, accessible also in all languages, which helps you to explore new business opportunities or to expand your business in another EU country. Or if you are planning to set-up a new business at home.

• You may also find support for your market analysis in Enterprise Europe Network (EEN). Its experts provide advice on market opportunities to help small businesses (craftsmen included) expand internationally. The network thanks to its local insight and various associated partners can cut through the complexities of international expansion by providing practical advice, targeted market intelligence and personalised support. These information are provided either through educational events and workshops or on an individual basis based on an assessment of the clients needs via individual consultations. Advisory services include:

o Practical advice on doing business in another country

o Targeted market intelligence

o Information on EU laws and standards

o Advice on intellectual property

• If you are interested to make use of the advisory services provided by EEN you can do so in your native language by contacting your local Network office. List of all EEN members can be found under: http://een.ec.europa.eu/.

• And what is the best, all EEN services are provided free of charge.

At the end of this course you will understand the importance of market analysis, know its basic steps and how to make your own market analysis, understand 



Hisrich, R. D. (2013). International Entrepreneurship. Starting, Developing and Managing a Global Venture. 2nd edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.