Export Knowhow

Guide: the most important online tools for Swiss exporters

Digitalization is supposed to make our work easier. We have tested which online tools really do lend a helping hand when it comes to all things export: assessing new markets, identifying partners and customers, and clarifying regulatory and logistical issues.

Online Tools for Exporters

Information on global markets

When analyzing foreign markets, it is useful to be able to compare certain key figures with each other. The GoGlobal Cockpit from Switzerland Global Enterprise (free for companies in Switzerland and Liechtenstein) provides important information for assessing a market, such as export volumes for your customs tariff number (broken down by individual market), the “Ease of Doing Business” ranking, average wage levels and the proportion of the population with internet access. In addition, the integrated business opportunity database shows public tenders, relevant business opportunities and project descriptions for the individual industrial sectors, enabling an initial assessment of the market volume to be undertaken. 

globalEDGE’s country comparison tool allows you to compare a larger number of export-related indicators, while the trade map specializes in data on import and export volumes for product groups and countries. The AUMA trade fair database provides information on trade fairs around the globe, along with specifics relating to each event, such as statistics and contact details.

Identifying and establishing contact with potential distribution partners, customers, stakeholders and experts

Finding the best business partners abroad is one of the biggest challenges for Swiss SMEs. Personal contacts are key in this area – with online tools not being the most intuitive solution. Nevertheless, there are a number of services that can help you in your search for the right partner.

The Enterprise Europe Network was set up by the European Union to support small and medium-sized enterprises on their quest to find foreign partners. The network’s services include a showcase of your company or the profile of the business partner you are looking for, for instance.

Furthermore, there are, of course, company databases where you can search for suitable partner companies. These include ZoomInfo and LinkedIn Sales Navigator, for example. Often, supra-regional providers only record larger companies, meaning that your hunt for a distribution partner – usually a firm with smaller structures – may not be very productive. Furthermore, not all services offer the option of filtering by producers and distributors, or instead they may list all distributors under a single category. Specialized databases for wholesalers also exist for some countries, which makes the search much easier. If you would like to know which company database is best in a particular country, the skilled advisors at Switzerland Global Enterprise (S-GE) will be happy to provide you with information.

Last but not least, there is the Expert Directory, where you can search for experts on specific issues, industries and countries, including for experts who can help you find business partners.

Performing due diligence on business partners

Company databases are also useful as an initial indicator when checking potential business partners. Here, too, supra-regional tools are a handy option, but they are by no means the most efficient choice in all countries. The European Commission’s VAT Information Exchange System has proved very useful for checking companies’ VAT registrations at European level.

Export and import regulation

Online tools are particularly advanced in the area of regulation:

Customs duties and the rules of origin set out in free trade agreements (from the Swiss/EFTA perspective) can be accessed in the customs database provided by S-GE (free of charge for Swiss companies and companies from Liechtenstein) by using the customs tariff number (HS code). The customs database also contains information on the import regulations applicable in the country of destination.

In addition, the federal government provides a number of online tools. They include:

  • The Tares database, which holds information on customs tariff numbers, customs rates and details of other taxes (VAT, incentive taxes, tobacco tax, beer tax, mineral oil tax, etc.) as well as details of prohibitions, restrictions or authorization requirements.
  • Forms, information sheets and publications for goods export can be obtained online from the Federal Office for Customs and Border Security.

At EU level, there is:

  • The TARIC database, which enables product information valid on a given date (description, applicable import/export restrictions, applicable customs duties and other import/export measures) to be retrieved by means of a customs tariff number and the country of destination.

Most countries’ legal regulations can be viewed online. In some cases, there are also private databases, which offer search and filter features, as well as comment functions, to make it easier to work with legal texts. Our consultants also know which portal offers the greatest benefits in a specific country.

If you have any further questions, contact our via our ExportHelp online chat; they will respond to your messages promptly during office hours.

Logistics and finance

In the areas of logistics and finance, there are now various platforms that allow you to search for the best offers from different providers. It is important not only to make a selection based on price alone: reliability is also worth checking.

Online checklists

There are some very helpful checklists on the internet that cover different aspects of market entry. At S-GE, for example, you will find two lists for companies new to the export business, as well as lists of individual countries’ import conditions on the country pages. The online version of Going International also offers some useful lists (german only).

Support and promotional services from the federal government

To wrap things up, as of this year, SECO’s support services are also available via an interactive advisory tool.


Finally, it should be mentioned that the online tools can provide a valuable first impression. As their sources are often unclear and it is not always evident when they were last updated, however, it is always advisable to consult an experienced peer or expert as a second step, or to see the situation for yourself on the ground.

Share your knowledge about distribution partner management!

Innosuisse is currently conducting a survey on distribution partner management to help optimize the support offered by the federal government. It will take around 7 minutes to complete the questions. The responses are evaluated anonymously, and cannot be traced back to you personally. If you wish to receive the findings, you can, of course, do so by providing your contact details.


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