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Markets briefs: an effective information tool.


Short reports outlining specific market opportunities for selected products can often be one of the most effective ways to provide exporters with practical trade information. Such "market briefs" have the advantages of making information available relatively quickly, as they can be prepared in a short time, and of being easy to use, since only the most essential information is presented, in a concise manner.

For the organization preparing the market briefs - whether a trade promotion agency, chamber of commerce or other business institution - they are an effective means of offering relevant services to the foreign trade community because they require minimal extra resources, can be issued on a more timely basis than longer market studies and are focused on specific target groups of clients.


Market briefs deal with a single product (or occasionally with a group of homogeneous products) and a single market. They contain information of direct practical interest to exporters taking decisions on overseas trading operations. They have two objectives: to highlight specific market opportunities and describe the steps for taking advantage of them. They are usually no more than two or three pages long as they cover only the essential features of the market.

Since market briefs are intended to facilitate access to specific markets, their content should provide information on the practical points required by exporters, which can be grouped under the following headings for the product in question:

1. Product description.

2. Production.

3. Imports.

4. Exports.

5. Apparent consumption.

6. Main origins of imports.

7. Market characteristics.

8. Prices.

9. Market access.

10. Distribution channels.

11. Commercial practices.

12. Packaging.

13. Sales promotion.

14. Market outlook.

15. Useful addresses: importers, trade fairs, the media, sources of information and so on.

(It may not always be possible to provide information under all the headings listed above, but an attempt should be made.)

The information that should be provided under these headings is described briefly below:

Product description: The product description defines the scope of the brief. The products dealt with should be specific items, rather than broad categories - for example, "pepper" rather than "spices," or "shirmp" rather than "seafood." The tariff heading of the product in question, together with the official designation of it, should be given in the description.

Production: Detailed recent production statistics are not always available for individual products. Whether the product is produced locally or not, and whether production is increasing or declining (with supporting statistics if possible), should at least be given. Providing names of the main local producers is also useful.

Imports: A small table showing the trend of import volume and value of the product, over a period of three to five years, should be included if possible. (Such trends are useful to an exporter since, for example, a new supplier might find it difficult to break into a market in which imports are declining.)

The statistical data available for this section of the market brief, as well as for the three following ones, may not be sufficiently detailed, as tariff categories cover a group of products, rather than individual ones, and trends may vary considerably for different items in the group. For this reason, the figures should, if necessary, be supplemented by a short explanation of this limitation.

Exports: The existence of exports is generally an indication of substantial and competitive local production. However, figures shown under this heading might instead reflect re-exports in the absence of any local production, and this should be mentioned if relevant.

Apparent consumption: Apparent consumption (production + imports - exports) suggests the size of the market, but should not in itself be used as a basis for marketing decisions. For example, the potential of a particular import market often depends to a greater extent on market access regulations than on market size.

Origins of imports: Information on the main countries supplying imports, together with data on the volumes concerned, gives a picture of the foreign competition. An exporter can then check to see whether his or her own country or neighboring countries are among the sources. Moreover, a list of the supplier countries can insome cases give an idea of the specific type of product that sells on the market in question, for instance when different varieties of agricultural products are concerned.

Market characteristics: This key section should contain a brief description of demand for the product in the market, focusing on: * Consumer tastes and user expectations (such as varieties, colours, styles, materials, qualities, technical aspects). * Market segment for the items (price in relation to quality, types of customers, regional disparities in demand, seasonal trends and so on). * Conditions for marketing the product. * Competition; market "leaders." * Demand trends (a description).

Prices: The CIF prices quoted by the competitors can be particularly useful in developing marketing strategies, if they can be obtained. The range of retail prices for consumer goods can also be useful. If the middleman's usual profit margins are known, the descrable CIF or FOB price level can be estimated on the basis of the retail price. This type of information is relatively confidential and, generally speaking, can be obtained only through an on-the-spot survey.

Market access: This section should discuss the factors affecting the entry of the product into the market, such as customs duties and other import charges, quantitative restrictions, health and safety regulations, and technical standards. The aim should not be to reproduce the regulations themselves but rather to indicate relevant sources of information on them

It is usually the local importer who must comply with such regulations, although information on them enables the exporter to select markets and market segments in which his product has the best possibilities and, if necessary, to adapt his product in the light of the regulations.

Distribution channels: This section consists of a description of the channel(s) through which the product passes from the supplier to the end-user. If several channels are possible, the best one should be recommended. Distribution methods and in particular the proportion of sales accounted for by various categories of retailers is important information to provide.

Commercial practices: The commercial practices that should be explained include the usual basis on which orders are placed, customary payment conditions, the suggested mode of transport and delivery dates.

Packaging: The type of packaging recommended should be briefly mentioned, both transport and retail packaging.

Sales promotion: This section should inform the exporter how he can make his product known in the market in question, through such means as participating in specialized fairs or using the trade press or other media. Addresses for promotional activities should be given in the "useful addresses" section below.

Market outlook: The importance of the market in question for exporters should be evaluated briefly in this section. Recent and foreseeable developments that could affect local exporters' prospects in this market should be highlighted. Special attention should be drawn to any market opening identified, mentioning the products concerned, quality requirements, trade channels and so on.

Useful addresses: These should include importers, trade organizations, specilized fairs, media and sources of further information. Addresses provided should be checked carefully, as most such lists are valid for only a few years. A note should be included stating that the organization providing the addresses does so without responsibility for the status of any firm listed.

Sources of information

Two sources should be used in preparing market briefs - documentary sources and contacts.

The availability of a well stocked trade library containing, in particular, recent articles and studies on specific products and product sectors, up-to-date statistics and lists of importers is important for preparing a brief. Computerized databases can be of assistance for identifying additional sources of information. In some cases their references contain details that can be used directly in the brief.

The most useful source of information for preparing briefs is direct contact with persons working in the sector concerned, namely, local exporters and importers and others involved in the distribution chain in the market in question. In the absence of such direct contact or in addition to it, trade organizations, chambers of commerce and similar bodies in the market can be contacted, as well as the home country's commercial counsellors posted in the market.

The larger the number of professional contacts consulted during the preparation of the brief, the better the quality of the brief and the greater its practical value.

Selecting products and markets

When an organization is starting to produce market briefs, it should concentrate on a few priority products. Criteria for selecting products and markets to be covered should include:

* The number of local suppliers of a given product.

* Frequency of requests for information on the products by such suppliers.

* Opportunities in a given market.

* Need to diversify export markets for the products.

* National trade promotion priorities.

* Availability of recent documentation.

* Possibility of using contacts in a given market.

It is highly desirable to associate trade organizations, if not companies themselves, in the selection process.


When the subjects have been selected, the briefs should be prepared as rapidly as possible so that the information is not outdate when published. Instead of dealing with each section of the brief in turn, it is often preferable to concentrate initially on the more difficult ones, i.e, those requiring correspondence, contacts and visits rather than merely library reference work. The actual writing of a brief does not in general require more than a few days. Additional time might be needed to collect the necessary information. The time required can be greatly reduced if the country's commercial representatives abroad provide data for the briefs. Countries with an efficient network of trade representatives in the main target markets have a definite advantage in the collection of practical and up-to-date information for inclusion in the briefs.

The joint preparation of market briefs by institutions in the exporting and importing countries or subcontracting this work to outside organizations may in some cases be the most efficient way to produce them, particularly in the absences of an information-gathering network abroad. For instance trade promotion organizations in the two countries could exchange a series of briefs on their respective markets.

If such reciprocity is not feasible, universities or commercial schools may be prepared to assign this task to their students as part of their training, under the supervision of the trade promotion institution. Moreover, some international banks are willing to cooperate in a programme of market briefs that is of interest to their customers. Or, if sufficient finances are available, agencies specializing in market surveys could be engaged to perform this work on a subcontractual basis.

Dissemination and follow-up

Briefs are principally intended for a specific group of customers, namely, local firms that have been identified and, if possible, consulted before the briefs are prepared. The briefs can either be distributed immediately to these users or supplied upon request. The latter procedure makes it possible to determine the actual demand for this type of information.

It is useful to know what the users think of the briefs so that their content can be improved in the future. Various methods of evaluation can be applied for this purpose.


The methodology for preparing market briefs has to be developed gradually by the staff of the national institution or regional organization preparing them. Setting up effective information networks in the target markets is a particularly important aspect of this process. Appropriate networks will help ensure a constant flow of information on market opportunities to serve as the basis for the briefs.

PHOTO : Market briefs focus on the prospects for selling a specific item in a target market.

PHOTO : Such short reports are intended to facilitate exporters' access to markets.

PHOTO : When subjects have been selected, the market briefs should be prepared rapidly.
COPYRIGHT 1990 International Trade Centre UNCTAD/GATT
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Mori, Yasusuke; Paradies, Antonio; Monrozier, B. Jocteur
Publication:International Trade Forum
Date:Jan 1, 1990
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