Export Knowhow

Different countries, different customs: Market mechanisms abroad

Different countries, different customs: The market mechanisms and customer behavior that seem familiar from the domestic market are often completely different abroad. This includes the regulatory and legal conditions, but also all other marketing mechanisms that influence the purchase of your products. How to approach them?

Man and woman in conversation at a trade fair

Understanding these market conditions sufficiently to adjust business model and sales approach is one of the key success factors for conquering foreign markets. This also applies to neighbouring countries, even if these seem culturally similar at first glance.

Different countries, different customs

“It is essential to familiarize yourself with each market to a certain extent so that you can direct your marketing activities in a goal-focused way. This also applies if you work with local partners.”

Katalin Dreher-Hanal, Senior Consultant Eastern Europe, Switzerland Global Enterprise

“In India, price sensitivity and consumer segmentation have to be considered. The enormous geographic and cultural diversity requires adapted marketing strategies.”

Fabian Stiefvater, Head of Swiss Business Hub India

Similarities and differences – questions you should ask yourself

In addition to legal and regulatory requirements, the following questions should be addressed carefully:

  • What are your customers' buying centers like? Who has what role – as a door opener, knowledge carrier, user, decision-maker, buyer, payer? Who is involved in the purchase decision – when, in what form? What are the budgeting and planning cycles like? Who do you have to process at what time and with what information?
  • Who are the key stakeholders and players in your market? Who plays what role in sales, consultation and marketing? Which of these players derives what benefit, is remunerated how, has what influence on short and medium-term success? What kind of business relationship and contractual commitment do these people have?

  • Which path does the customer (customer journey) typically travel from the occurrence of the purchase requirement to the purchase? What does the customer think, what steps do they take? Which decisions are made when and why? Which chain of contact points and value contributions do you have to build for the customer to follow your offer to the end?

Initial recommendations for action

  • Market analyses and reports are useful and helpful for mapping key market information. However, not everything can be described in terms of figures, data and facts. You will only learn about all the interpersonal and cultural particularities if you travel to the market yourself and establish a relationship with the people relevant to your company.
  • The following also applies here: Travel to the foreign market with the aim of building relationships, building a network, understanding mechanisms. Talk to your customers and partners to gain an understanding. Selling comes later!

Switzerland Global Enterprise (S-GE) offers informative country consultations for questions concerning specific markets. You will find a selection of all available consultations here: Country consultation


The “Export Compact” handbook guides you step-by-step through the various topics that need to be considered when getting to grips with internationalization. You can download the whole handbook here:

“Export Compact” handbook



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