Next Generation Trade Intelligence Portal

Your online guide

Step 3: Content and formats

Learning points

  • Key success factors for effective content and formats.
  • Good practice videos and screen recordings.
  • Forecasts and trends to 2016.
  • Combination of information, facilitation and learning.
  • Focus on opportunities and forecasting.
  • Attention on visual, mobile friendly and social media integrated formats.

Effective content? Interactive, mobile friendly and ‘less is more’.

In this step, we provide you key success factors towards effective content and formats. This can not be dealt with in isolation. The needs assessment in Step 1 and corresponding strategic choices from Step 2 are your guiding lights. But it is clear that added value content made available in the right format will definitely contribute to higher customer satisfaction.

I. Content 

Exporters want opportunities…

To develop a successful portal, the content has to correspond to the priority needs of the users. That will become clear from the user analysis as conducted in Step 1. However, if you consider good practices in Trade Intelligence Portals, you will find some striking similarities. For (prospective) exporters, the content is first and foremost focused on insights into business opportunities in international markets. Not so much a so-called request to buy, but market briefs about trends that indicate sustainable trade opportunities for the exporters. Up to date, and focused on priority markets.

…. and learn how to benefit from the opportunities

In addition, the content should guide your visitor how to benefit from these opportunities:

  • Specific market access requirements to consider.
  • Tariffs and preferential regimes.
  • Events, assistance and incentives provided by the organisation or other parties.

A good practice in this area is offered by Austrade. See video below.

Video: Good Practice(

Austrade provides premium content to exporters about market opportunities

This screen recording gives you a good impression how Austrade offers premium content in an effective way. Market opportunities linked to market access requirements and options for market entry. Including relevant links and contacts. A complete package to turn information into action.

Several organisations, for example CBI from The Netherlands, link market findings to recommended actions, suggestions for SMEs on how to deal with market trends and requirements. It is a matter of making the information actionable.

A good practice in this area is offered by CBI. See video testimonial below.

Video: Testimonial(

CBI: From information to intelligence

“In CBI we have transformed our market information into market intelligence. More focused on decision making, opportunities and fore sighting. It enables exporters to apply the intelligence into immediate and concrete actions.” 

– Janneke Vereijken – CBI, Netherlands

Don’t forget content for foreign buyers

For foreign buyers, the content focus is generally also on opportunities.

  • First of all, by means of a presentation of opportunities the country offers in general. That is generally done by explaining the benefits of buying from the country, the unique value proposition.
  • Secondly, by presenting opportunities in the priority sectors of the country. This can be done through sector reports, highlighting performance and capabilities in the priority sectors as well as competitive advantages and incentives.
  • Third, what should not be overlooked, is the assistance that can be provided by the organisation.

A good practice in this area is offered by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE). See video below.

Video: Good Practice(

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise provides premium content to foreign buyers

This screen recording gives you a good impression how NZTE offers premium content about business opportunities to foreign buyers in an effective way. Including reasons to buy from the country and opportunities in priority sectors.

Overview of services and success stories

When you describe assistance and support services, it is advisable to include success stories. It will enhance credibility and convincing power. Success stories featuring:

  • new exporters that successfully ventured into international markets with assistance from the organisation
  • foreign companies establishing business deals with exporters through the support of the organisation

Advisory and tutorials

For prospective exporters, specific advisory on preparing for exports, getting to know the basics of the export process should be offered. Many good practice Trade Intelligence Portals offer the following:

  • Gauging export readiness
  • Conducting market research
  • Developing export marketing strategies
  • Understanding logistics
  • Payment and delivery terms
  • Risk management and legal issues
  • Export financing

A good practice in this area can be found at Austrade. See good practice below.

Good practice

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Austrade offers a comprehensive section with advisory and tutorials

The exporters’ section on the Austrade website is a good practice when it comes to providing advisory and tutorials. It covers all  the relevant issues listed above, from export readiness to export financing and risk management and everything in between. Well categorized and easily digestible.  

Stimulate interaction through checkers, tools, games…

Instead of providing information on the issue of preparing for exports, e-learning courses and checkers are very effective. It will make the learning interactive and lead to better results.

A good practice can be found at New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. See good practice below.

Good practice

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New Zealand Trade and Enterprise Export Readiness Checker

The online export readiness checker is a good example of an interactive tool that helps SMEs to gauge their export readiness step-by-step. Apart from doing a self-assessment, the SMEs also get advisory and relevant links for more information or additional learnings along the way.

These learning tools are valuable functionalities that provide interesting syndication opportunities with education centres or other service providers. Also see Step 4 on usability and functionalities and Step 6 on syndication.

Promote your companies through an Exporter Directory

One of the most popular sections in many Trade Intelligence Portals around the world for foreign buyers is the exporter directory. A key success factor is to determine the type of information to be provided in the exporter directory. Do this by applying the perspective of the foreign buyer, who would like to compare and qualify potential business partners. Key information areas to include in the export directories are:

  • Products and services with export potential
  • Type of activity (producer, trader)
  • Size (staff, sales value and production volume)
  • Value proposition (marketing message)
  • Export experience (countries and years)
  • Certifications (quality, health and safety, CSR)
  • Pictures and video showing the production area and other facilities

An good practice of an exporter directory on sector level can be found at Vietnam Manufacturing. See below.

Good practice

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Vietnam Manufacturing Exporter Directory

Vietnam manufacturing offers a good practice of an exporter directory in a portal dedicated to foreign buyers. It gives a good presentation and indication of company size, products, value propositions, standards and certifications and alike. It also offers appropriate filters to search on these criteria.

You can also add more value by offering an assessment or audit report, to provide additional trust and credibility to the potential buyer. That can be a qualification from your trade promotion organisation itself, a third party assessment or verification report as offered for example by online market place Alibaba.


For countries with significant exports of commodities and fresh produce, actual and historical price information is of high relevance. Given the nature of this kind of information, and required short response time to act on price fluctuations, this kind of information is increasingly offered by third parties through apps for mobile devices. Leading business news publishers and online channels like CNBC and Bloomberg are examples of parties that offer market data and price information on commodities. Another example is Agrowdata. See below.

Good practice

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Agrowdata App for mobile devices

Agrowdata is a good practice of an online service that provides up to date, current, historical and futures prices for mobile devices through a special App.

It allows users to compare commodity prices and identify trends and correlations.

Given the nature of this kind of pice information, and the fact that users would like to have it as quick as possible, at the fingertips, any time, anywhere, it is a service that fits well with the concept of an App for mobile devices.

ITC also offers specific price reports through its Market Insider service. For this kind of price information, syndication possibilities can be explored. Also see Step 6 on syndication and affiliation

Trade statistics: less raw data, more analysis

Up-to date overviews of trade flows and historical trends generally receive a significant interest of exporters. The trend towards adding value to trade statistics by analysing the data and providing short write-ups about trade flow trends at macro level, with partner countries and sector level is foreseen to continue. So, less raw data, but more analysed data. These analysed data are generally published in:

  • news section
  • the country’s or sector performance sections
  • market reports
  • country reports

In addition, users can be offered the tools to do their own custom search on specific product level by syndication with Customs trade statistics databases or affiliation with ITC’s TradeMap tool. An example of such affiliation can be found on Mauritius Trade. See also Step 6 on syndication and affiliation.

Trade facilitation

In accordance with WTO guidelines, WTO member states have to publish information online on:

  • Trade procedures and documents
  • Applied duties, fees, taxes and charges
  • Rules governing classification, valuation and origin
  • Penalty and appeal procedures

A good practice of provision of trade facilitation content is offered by Mauritius Trade Easy. See below.

Good practice

Mauritius Trade Easy

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Mauritius Trade Easy providing relevant content on Trade Facilitation

The website of Mauritius Trade Easy is a good practice when it comes to providing relevant content on trade facilitation by market and industry. The user is already guided to the trade facilitation content on the home page through clear calls to action.

Full details about trade facilitation content, in accordance with WTO guidelines, can be found at UNECE.

Highlights effective content

  • Content needs to be prioritised in accordance with the needs assessment and strategy.
  • Information about market opportunities should receive top attention and should be offered by sector and by country.
  • Exporter Directories should include searchable, qualitative information enabling foreign buyers to compare suppliers.
  • Information about trade facilitation is a must, in accordance with WTO guidelines.
  • Advisory and tips are very useful especially for starting exporters. An interactive environment with tools and checkers will increase impact.
  • Add success stories to enhance credibility and convincing power.
  • Consider content syndication with other providers.


II. Formats

What is the best format of presenting trade information to your user? It is a debate that continues over the years. Interesting enough, the outcome also changes over the years.

Visual content drives engagement

Witnessed by the popularity of social media like You Tube, Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat, you may have seen a substantial change in preference towards visual content. Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text, and 40 percent of people will respond better to visual information than plain text. Including visuals with your update will drive engagement and the flow-on effect of follow-up action.


A good case of visual content by means of video is provided by ICEX, Spain. see below.

Video: Good Practice(

ICEX TV Channel

Natalia Peces, from ICEX, shares insights on the popular ICEX TV channel. It features over 30 new videos per month, including videos on sector and market opportunities.

– Natalia Peces – ICEX, Spain

Mobile friendly

This trend towards visual content is further enhanced by the rapid increase in usage of mobile devices. Together, it means people take less time for reading and want to capture the essence of the content instantly and on-the-go. That means that content has to be presented in the easiest and most digestable way:

  • Concise in text
  • Infographics for quick insights
  • Video for ease of consumption
  • Swipe friendly for smart phone and tablet users

While in the recent past, it was not recommended to put too much content on one page, because users were more inclined to click than to scroll, mobile devices have fundamentally changed that. Swiping has become a norm. Therefore, nowadays, it is very much acceptable to create swipe pages with considerable amount of content, as long as headers, illustrations and action buttons are used that have stopping power. More about usability in Step 4.

‘Less is more’

It also implies that downloadable documents in pdf format will become less popular. Instead, the focus should be on ‘less is more’:

  • less content,
  • more frequent updates
  • to trigger more repeat visits and
  • more frequent engagement and interaction with the users.

A blog section integrated in the portal, could in that respect be very functional. An interesting example is offered by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. In its blog and commentary section, experts and Trade Commissioners provide insights in trade and marketing issues and opportunities in target markets. The key issue when talking about ‘less is more’ is: instead of trying to be complete and offer a comprehensive report, it is wiser to offer digestible pieces of content, focused and consumable within the limited time and attention span of the user. After all, the priority user will be a busy entrepreneur.


Tim Parkman, Director Channels, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise“Our user research findings show that people want content summarised with the ability to drill down into areas of interest. Infographics provide great visual summaries and they get traction in social and with the media”

- Tim Parkman, Director Channels, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise

Apps for mobile devices

When thinking ‘mobile’ many people automatically start thinking of apps. But that doesn’t really need to be the case. Websites are nowadays generally developed with responsive design technology making it fit for proper display on mobile devices. Besides, websites can be developed in mobile versions with a customized user interface for mobile devices. So, apps may not really be needed.

Video: Testimonial(

Do you need an App?

In this video, Gerard O’Brien explains why Apps may not really be needed. Decision makers in trade promotion organizations need to carefully balance pros and cons. There may be more cost-effective options than jumping on the bandwagon of developing Apps. Key question is: What is the added value?

– Gerard ‘O Brien, Enterprise Ireland

Apps may be a good choice when one considers applications that truly add value. Examples can be found in the area of pricing information, learning applications (checkers, games), and location based information. A case in point can be the Apps of ICEX that include specific and practical country information that can be useful in an App format. See below.

Good practice

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‘Mercados ICEX’: An App with specific country based information

This App from ICEX is a good practice of an App that offers added value. It provides relevant country information of a selection of high potential partner countries with market characteristics, trade flow, and practical tips in a user friendly way, specially designed for mobile applications. Note: The App is in Spanish language.

Social media integration and alerting formats

The concept of ‘next generation formats’ becomes more successful if it is integrated with alerting systems and social media updates. As for email alerts, representatives of Trade Promotion Organisations that we interviewed are quite unanimous in highlighting the continued importance thereof in the next few years.

Engagement in  social media channels and through profile-based email (SMS or WhatsApp) alerts should trigger the attention and interest of the users to visit the portal to get more information (read, view), get deeper layers of information though interactive infographics,  or act upon the information (subscribe, download, contact, etc.). See Step 5 on social media integration.

Highlights formats

  • Limit text and use visual content by means of infographics and video as much as possible
  • Create mobile friendly formats, anticipating ‘swipe’ behaviour from the users
  • Responsive design is a must, Apps may add value
  • Stimulate engagement and interaction through blog formats, social media integration and alerting formats

Make use of ITC expertise

Want to know more about this step or how ITC can support you with your trade intelligence portal?

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