Easy Export and Import Trade Data Visualisation

Want more insights on exports and imports across the globe, but don’t want to read endless tables filled with teeny-tiny print? The Atlas of Economic Complexity is for you. The Atlas is a data visualisation tool developed by Harvard University’s Growth Lab. With data from 250 countries and territories, on 20 categories of goods, five types of service and over 6,000 products, you can dive deep into global trade data. A significant benefit of the Atlas is that the information is immediate and visual, although a little dated (2017) due to the data needing to be ‘harmonised’. Perfect for topline data though and it looks pretty!

How To Find and Compare the Price of Products and Services in Foreign Cities

Do you have a product or service that you want to sell overseas? Do you need to compare how much things cost over there? It’s essential for the price to be in line with your target audience’s income and expectations, but also provide the level of profit you want. Establishing the average cost of a product in the market can help with this pricing metric. Here’s a tool by Deutsche Bank, that has the price of a cappuccino to the cost of a pair of Levi’s in 50 cities.

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How to Find Import and Export Data


Locating import and export data is fundamental to understanding the size of a market and who the competitors are. This data is probably being used to scrutinise the effect of the current tariff war between the USA and China. Both want to be the number one industrial powerhouse, and wield power with the prestige and economic might that this brings.

Most countries structure their trade data using HS (Harmonised Tariff System) codes. These codes can be up to 10 digits, with the increase in numbers providing more specific product description. The best source for international trade flows is the United Nation’s Comtrade platform, which has 99% of global merchandise trade. The downside is that the data is for whole years only, so won’t reflect any recent change in business which can happen due to a change in tariffs for example. It also only has information to a six-digit level. Regional trade data information can be found by using the Eurostat International Trade Database or USITC which has American trade information. New Zealand trade data can be accessed from Stats NZ.

Just beware that one HS code can cover a myriad of different products, so the numbers can be a little opaque and give a wrong impression of a market. That’s when some ‘sense-making’ needs to happen, and this can be down by corroborating trade numbers with other data or conducting primary research.

Market Research for Sales and Business Development

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If you’re in sales or business development, and isn’t just about everyone in some form, then having market research which tracks change is crucial to compete. Industry statistics are part of that. If I’m researching a topic, say florists for example, I also search the industry name with words like… association, group, institute, industry, society, organisation, board, council and so on. These bodies often have free industry research on trends, or you can usually buy the information at a reasonable cost. The staff of these organisations are also helpful when you need to find out who the shakers and movers are, and then you can contact them for their insight on particular trends you have observed. Don’t forget that when you do this always ask them if there’s anyone else who they think would be good to talk to.

Tips for Buying Market Research Reports

There are a plethora of published market research reports out there, but some of these reports aren’t from credible publishers. Here are some red flags for me.

  • I look at the pagination of the table of contents and noticed that there isn’t much content devoted to a topic or competitor. Basic I know, but if these aspects are the reason for buying the report, then maybe rethink things. For me, this lack of space often corresponds with just contact details supplied or very generic information. In this case, ask for a sample from the publisher to check the content. You can then appraise the sample to reassure yourself about the standard of English used as well. One sample I requested had such a low level of business English that it was intelligible.

  • With markets like medical devices, for instance, there are many different configurations of what is counted or researched in terms of functionality or size. Another trap I have come across is when studying the markets of mechanical devices and how they are powered eg. electric, battery, petrol, or diesel. Researchers often don’t state exactly what they are counting and for what market segment it is meaningful to.

  • Cookie cutter reports follow the same prescriptive outline - I can spot one of those a mile off. They are heavy on historical detail, the numbers are dated, and there’s nothing future-oriented. There’s little value in these often expensive market research reports IMHO. Foresight is always going to be better than hindsight to get insight and to protect market share. The ROI of you (or me!) spending time doing a recent news search and see what’s going on now is a much better option.

Data Democracy: Fighting the Good Fight

Check out Figure.NZ, a website devoted to data democracy. The aim is to make public, private and academic data about New Zealand free for all to use so that evidence-based decisions can improve lives. The website uses graphs to make the data come alive and illustrate trends that anyone can quickly understand. Sadly, the chart below demonstrates that things aren't so rosy at the moment in terms of the establishment of new businesses.

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How To Find Out Who My Competitors Are

Sometimes I don’t know whom the main competitors are when researching an unfamiliar market. First stop to find out is to use Google.

Imagine that my client is Starbucks. I could then search on Google using ‘vs’ or ‘versus’ in keywords. See how a list of competitors appears. This search is also likely to elicit lots of information that has a competitive intelligence slant.

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With competitive research it’s not just the direct competitors that you need to worry about, it’s the disruptors who enter your marketplace with new technology or services that solve your customer’s problems better. That’s when a comprehensive search of the market using free and paywall resources comes into play. The crucial thing here is to understand what market is in terms of the problem that your buyer wants to be solved, not just the product or service that you are selling.

Market Size and Market Value Tips

Market size info for small markets like New Zealand or niche products can be tricky to find. Sometimes, a best-efforts estimation is the only option. Here are some tips to help you if you need some market size or value data.

  1. Define your market first, i.e. by geography, technology, demography, use or sector and stick to it.

  2. Formulate how you will do your calculations. It should be a combination of desk research for any published information and primary analysis to back up any initial conclusions and for sense-making.

  3. Only use reputable data from secondary research. Look carefully at how they have come to their conclusions and double check it. Does it make sense? Is the data they have measured fit with your market parameters?

  4. When doing the desk research, pick up on any trend data that is coming up that will affect future market share, e.g. disruptors entering via new technology, changes in packaging needs, or trends in dietary preferences by customers. This information is valuable as an early-warning indicator of change in the market, allowing you to prepare.

  5. Once you’ve got some market size/ value numbers, make sure that you carefully cite the source data. If you need to do this exercise again, it’s a big help to have the framework of past calculations to start from, and then you can tweak if necessary.

  6. If statistical analysis isn’t your thing, then gather the data and get someone who knows how to forecast and model numbers.

  7. Be transparent - tell people it’s a ‘best efforts’ result, but show how you got to the conclusion you have and what the parameters were. Market size/value is often an educated guess as people, and the choices they make are often very fluid and can change overnight.

The Growth of the Food Kit Market: Using Google Trends

I have covered Google Trends before, but it’s an interesting tool to track what is being searched for on Google. It’s easy to track competitors or substitutes and see the number of searches being made by company name over time and by geography. Here’s an interesting graph on the two main food delivery kits in New Zealand and Uber Eats. Note the rise in searches of Hello Fresh in November - that coincides with an article in the national press comparing market leader My Food Bag with new entrant Hello Fresh. Interestingly, overseas research is pointing to the delivery of food kits and eat-at-home meals being key to growth for supermarket chains and restaurants. More consumers are staying home to eat because of the Netflix binge effect or they work from home, and don't want to fight the traffic and crowds to eat nice food.

Trends for 2019

At this time of the year, we’re all wondering how 2019 is going to play out. Futurity is a newsletter of research news from leading universities from all over the globe. The latest research in science, health, culture and the environment is delivered to your inbox daily. The site also has slideshows, videos and audio interviews given by the researchers involved, so you get a lot more context about the research, plus great visuals to aid insight. 

What's the Most Healthiest Vegetable to Eat?

Keeping up with what’s going on in the world is a must for market researchers so that you understand the context of the world that your clients are operating in. I always skim through Next Draft. It’s a well-curated daily overview of news stories but I found the recent ranking of vegetables by how healthy they are illuminating. Who knew asparagus would be number one?

Great Business Research Tools

I often get asked for business research on the Australian market, and one of the first places I look is Trove, the National Library of Australia's catalogue of journals and news items, much of which is now digitised. All the important business or industry journals are indexed there, so it's easy to find that background info you're after. Want the New Zealand equivalent? It's INNZ.

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The Best Podcasts for Market Researchers

Listening to market research podcasts can be a great way of keeping up-to-speed with what's happening in the industry while you make your way home in the traffic. Here's one that I like for understanding how social marketing is changing the way we shop, which is vital for marketers to know https://player.fm/series/behind-the-numbers-emarketer-podcast. It’s cutting-edge stuff, so have a listen. Another great one is https://player.fm/series/the-present-beyond-measure-show-data-visualization-storytelling-presentation-for-digital-marketers. This podcast tells how you can improve your data visualisation efforts so that your market research insights are clear and actionable to your clients.

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Need Access to the Best Magazines?

Blendle has changed my life. For years, I have wanted an aggregator to come along and pull together the best of general interest sources such as Newsweek, The Economist, Wall Street Journal, TIME, Vanity Fair etc. and Blendle has done it! You can curate the content and get daily or weekly feeds, plus it's all pay-per-view. The downside is that the search engine isn't flash, so I use other indexing tools to find the info for my clients. Seriously, it's cool!

Who are the Biggest Companies in the World?

Sometimes you quickly need to find out who the big global, regional or country players are in an industry. Here's a free search option that will provide that  - The Global 5000. The first 50 matches from a search cost nothing, but then you have to pay, and yes, that's a bit pricey. The data can then be 'sliced 'n' diced' on both public and private companies worldwide by industry, employees, and revenue, where available. Depending on what you are looking for, I think the free search option can save a lot of legwork.

What Trends will Affect Consumers in 2018?


It’s that time of year when we look at consumer preference trends in 2017 and forecast what 2018 might be like. If you want some futuristic inspiration or need to get up-to-speed quick smart with what’s changing, try these reports on trends…

Looks like we're on the cusp of massive change! Email me (cathy@heath.co.nz) if you need help keeping up with it all. We specialise in getting rid of the all the noise, so you only get the good, life-changing insight.


International Polls and Surveys

With country or regional-specific sites, You.Gov has self-selecting polls on a variety of topics from how many of us fear robots taking our jobs to how many of us eat dinner in front of the TV each night. The results aren't scientific, but the information can present some really nice jumping-off points for doing more rigorous research. Here's a diagram below featuring the countries in the APAC region which feature in the surveys.

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How to Find Out About New Product Development (NPD)

I’m always on the hunt for cool new apps, websites or tools that will help me work smarter. Have a look at Product Hunt. It’s a daily list of the best new products or new releases. The breath of what is being developed is just amazing and great to see what features developers are adding to their products. This could give you ideas about where to take your product or service, plus offers some great competitor research insights.

How Venture Capitalists Make Decisions on what to Invest in

By the very nature of what they do, venture capitalists have a need for detailed research on companies and markets. My new favourite daily newsletter is by CB Insights (https://www.cbinsights.com/) which provides up-to-date analysis on where the money is going. We are living in an era of disruption with massive change occurring in sectors such as health, finance, retail and manufacturing to name a few. CB Insights have their finger firmly on the pulse, with on-point analysis, so that you can keep up. Some info is behind a paywall, but the daily newsletter is free and written in a very entertaining way. Subscribe now!

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Market Research For Exporters

The New Zealand Story (https://www.nzstory.govt.nz/pages/about) was created with extensive input from over 200 leaders from the primary sector, manufacturing, Māori, export industry, education and wider government services to promote New Zealand. Lots of good on-the-ground research here. One report about exporting to Japan reminds Kiwi's to highlight how we excel by being creative and ingenious in primary markets rather than telling them how good we are at supplying agricultural products.

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