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Export Markets: Step by Step Guide

The information in this resource guide will help businesses research export markets and find overseas customers for new trading opportunities. We explain how to check what barriers exist for trading and investing abroad and the current duties and customs procedures when exporting goods from the United Kingdom.

Identifying and Researching Export Markets

The Department for International Trade (e.g. great.gov.uk website) will help you get exporting. Exporters will find information about:

  • General guidance for researching export markets.
  • Signing up for seminars and online webinars to help you start exporting to new markets.
  • Contacting the nearest international trade team for bespoke research (they charge a fee for this service).

The section below highlights the barriers for trading and investing abroad. Check what may hinder (or completely stop) companies from exporting goods overseas or providing services in some countries.

The Department for International Trade (DIT) publishes an extensive list of exporting country guides specifically for businesses interested in selling their products overseas. The topics cover:

  • Economic and industry information
  • Language and cultural issues
  • Legal requirements for certain regions
  • Protecting intellectual property (IP)

Several government departments produce extra guidance about ‘Overseas Business Risk‘ and how to identify and mitigate some of the most encountered political and security risks when carrying out trade overseas.

As a result, you can research expert information about geopolitical and economic analysis of overseas markets, including matters that involve:

  • Crime
  • Corruption
  • Human rights issues
  • Intellectual property risks
  • Political instability
  • Terrorism

Note: The European Commission website has more information about the free movement in harmonised and non-harmonised sectors of EU markets and how to find the product contact point for any given country.

Barriers to Investing and Trading Abroad

It is important to be aware of the potential barriers before you start exporting out of the United Kingdom. Hence, UK-based businesses can use this service to research more about:

  • Exporting goods and merchandise abroad.
  • Investing large sums of money in a country outside the United Kingdom.
  • Offering services in EU and non-EU countries.

Typical examples of trade barriers include:

  • Local governments that give preferential treatment for their own domestic market or non-UK suppliers when they buy government services.
  • Over-complicating their customs procedures.
  • Potential risks to the safety of intellectual properties (IP).
  • Putting businesses operating from the UK at a disadvantage through detrimental practices, tariffs, taxes, subsidies, or incentives (e.g. when compared to domestic suppliers or those operating in other countries).
  • Stipulating excessive requirements for product labelling and packaging.

The service allows you to check international trade barriers including any previously reported trade barriers that have already been removed from the list.

Important: You can report a trade barrier online if it is slowing down, limiting, or preventing your UK business from exporting to (or investing in) an overseas market.

Checking Duties and Customs Procedures

Information is available to check duties and customs procedures for exporting goods from the United Kingdom to other destination countries around the world.

So, if your company is moving goods out of the UK – and you know what the product is made of – you can check (all):

  • Current tax and duty rates
  • Documentation for exporting
  • Rules and restrictions

Important: United Kingdom companies overseas would need to contact the Department for International Trade (DIT) instead.

How to Find Overseas Customers

The Department for International Trade website explains how to start finding customers from overseas markets and new opportunities for exporting abroad.

You will find information about:

  • Getting prepared and ready to start exporting and doing business abroad.
  • How to show products ‘directly’ to overseas buyers (e.g. via the ‘find a buyer’ service).
  • Finding overseas opportunities for specific products and services.

Finding Overseas Customers Online

You can get help to sell online overseas through a range of online marketplaces around the world. Now that the UK Government has negotiated special deals, joining the e-exporting programme [[email protected]] means you can get:

  • Access to special rates for some of the most popular online selling platforms worldwide.
  • Expert advice from e-commerce and international trade experts about the different ways of developing a strategy.
  • Regular updates about innovative e-commerce trends.
  • Opportunities to hear from industry experts and start networking with other international online traders.

Using the DIT Network of Trade Specialists

The Department for International Trade (DIT) can help you get access to expert resources from a trade specialist in your field. Finding overseas customers is more effective when you can:

  • Arrange introductions to potential overseas agents, buyers, and distributors (the DIT charges for this service).
  • Prepare in advance using the DIT events planner (e.g. for trade shows and visits to overseas markets).

Overseas Market Introduction Service Account

You can contact a trade adviser in your area if you already have an Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS) account [by emailing: [email protected]].

Defence and Security Organisation (DSO)

Contact the Defence and Security Organisation if you need help with defence, security, and cyber security. They can provide after sales training to customers and specialise in:

  • Booking military personnel to appear on stands at exhibitions or trade shows.
  • Helping businesses make presentations, product demonstrations, and host delegations (the Cyber Exchange can help you arrange a bespoke hanger for exhibitions).
  • UK Defence and Security Exports Organisation (UKDSE) to support UK SMEs at special networking events and tradeshows.

DSO Export Support Team
Email: [email protected]
Telephone: +44 (0)1980 845 361
Check UK telephone charges

Related Help Guides for UK Exporters

Note: This short video takes a look at some of the top exports in the United Kingdom, including product groups categorized by the highest value in UK global shipments from previous years.

Researching Export Markets in the United Kingdom