Understanding your in-market competitors

Having a clear view of the competitive landscape in an export market will help you identify and validate a profitable niche or modify your offer to ensure your success. Many New Zealand businesses try to launch into international markets with me-too products, or a product or service that sells well here but have no chance there.

With a little more research using multiple channels and sources of market intelligence, you can ascertain what your competitors do, how and why, thereby improving your ability to develop a winning go-to-market strategy. It is particularly critical that you prepare well when you are a small player entering into large markets with well established or sizeable competitors.

“The main benefit to us in knowing the competition is that it really helped differentiate ourselves.” Geraldine Schnauer, Dunninghams.

Understanding your in-market competition

This guide leads you through ways to build a profile of the competitive landscape. Find information on:

  • Ways to gather market intelligence from your desktop in New Zealand
  • Using your networks, industry associations and professional advisors
  • Getting closer to your competition in-market

Download our free introductory guide on this page.

Watch this three-minute video of Geraldine Schnauer from Dunninghams and Paul Dibbayawan, NZTE Beachhead Advisor, explain the gains from doing in-market research and how understanding the competitive landscape can help you identify your competitive advantage and hone in on a market niche.

If you would like to learn more about developing the right approach to exporting for your business, register now for the next Export Essentials workshop. We’ll give you practical tools and techniques to take your business global.

Paul Dibbayawan: I think it’s important to understand the competitive landscape in any target market is because you have to know where you’re stepping. And if you start walking into areas that you’re not aware of, and the competitors are quite strong, they could crush you in a heartbeat. If you’re coming up from New Zealand you are generally a lot smaller than possibly some of the other players unless you are pioneering that category, which means you do need to be wary of what is out there so you can come up with the right mitigating strategies.

Geraldine Schnauer: It would be nice to think that there aren’t other businesses operating in the market but, of course, there are. And we typically, for the early stages, just used online, telephone, you know interviews, calls, and being in market also when you’re visiting prospects, visiting customers; that’s the best chance you have really of finding out who else is supplying them.

Paul Dibbayawan: The advice I’d give to new exporters doing competitor analysis is - and it may sound obvious - but define who your competitor is; it may not necessarily be the obvious one, it may not be the one that is necessarily in your category but it may be something else or an alternate to your product that you may not have thought about. So try and think of it holistically in terms of when would your consumer use your product and how would they use your product, and see what else is around there that is not necessarily the same as what you do.

Geraldine Schnauer: The main benefit for us with understanding the competition was that it really helped us differentiate ourselves and things that we take for granted probably in New Zealand because we’ve been operating so long and we’re very well-known, is that we weren’t well-known at all over there and so we had to establish ourselves. And by understanding the competition and going to market you really that, you know, you were a niche player to leverage off the New Zealand reputation. Also the heritage we had, the fact that we had that control over manufacturing, that meant that we could personalise things, custom-make things to companies and it definitely made us aware of those points of difference by going through this process because there were things that you don’t really think about when you’re supplying the domestic market.

Paul Dibbayawan: The top three benefits of doing competitor analysis is, one, to know who your potential enemy is. Secondly, is to make sure that you feel that you have the tools and the equipment to be able to combat that should they start coming at you. And then thirdly, it’s seeing “Well, what are they doing right and what are they doing well that you could learn from?”

Exporter guide

Identify gaps in your strategy using the Export Plan template
  • I want to find out about trade shows or events overseas
    If you’re looking for key trade shows in a particular market, you’ll find a lot of information about trade shows and events through online searches. There are several good online directories of international shows. We suggest 10times, EventsEye and Trade Show News Network (TSNN) as possible starting points.

    It’s a good idea to also look up local or national trade promotion organisations in your target market. Many of them have online calendars of major events and shows.

    Get in touch with any business councils or trade associations within New Zealand that deal with your target market, as they may have knowledge of good shows to attend (or ones to avoid). 

    Don’t overlook learning from other New Zealand companies - ask around within your networks for others who are targeting the same market and get their impressions on shows they have attended or visited before.

    If you’ve found a trade show overseas that looks right for your business, you can also contact us to ask if there’s an official New Zealand stand or pavilion planned, or to get insights from NZTE staff and other companies’ experiences in previous years.
  • I want to find an in-market distributor for my business
    NZTE doesn’t maintain lists of distributors for specific products and markets. We encourage companies to do as much of the initial search process as they can for themselves, while bringing in professional help where needed.

    You’ll find useful information on researching, finding and selecting the right distributor for you in our Export Essentials guide to understanding your channel partner options.
  • I want to find out about regulations and tariffs for export
    Regulations and tariffs should be one of the first things you find out before exporting. They often determine whether a market will be easy or hard for you to export to, or whether you should try to do business there at all.

    Understanding regulations in your export destination is a must-do. For an introduction to what you need to think about, see our guide on understanding international compliance requirements. This includes tips on how to research regulations, as well as insights on local regulations, standards, health and safety, and dealing with local bureaucracy.

    It’s a good idea to take a look at the rest of the international compliance process while you’re doing your work on regulations – see more information in our guide to understanding international compliance requirements.

    If you’re planning to export food or food-related products, you should also check out the food exporting page on the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) website. MPI maintains a list of Overseas Market Access Requirements (OMARs) for New Zealand food products in different export markets – search and identify OMARs for your product online

    Tariffs can make your products more expensive and less attractive to overseas buyers, so you need to know the charges your products will attract before you commit to a new market.

    You can get a big head start in finding tariff information by using the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) tariff finder or the World Trade Organisation’s tariff download facility. You can search the databases by product name, but they work best when you know the approximate Harmonised System (HS) code for your product. HS codes are used by customs authorities around the world to identify products and apply tariffs. The longer the code is, the more precisely it describes your product. The first six digits of an HS code are usually the same worldwide – after that, there can be up to eight further digits, which often vary from country to country.

    New Zealand Customs can help you to find out the first six digits of your HS codes – email VOC@customs.govt.nz.

    To get a longer and more precise HS code for a particular market, look up and contact the local customs authority online, or talk to a customs broker or freight forwarder who has done business in that market.

Export Essentials Workshops

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