Export in Vietnam: 10 challenges for International Brands

Exporting to Vietnam can be a lucrative opportunity for international brands seeking to expand their global presence. However, it is not without its challenges. Vietnam’s unique business environment presents various obstacles that international brands must navigate to succeed in this dynamic market. From market access and cultural differences to government regulations and competition from local brands, there are ten key challenges that international brands need to be aware of when exporting to Vietnam. This article will explore these challenges in detail, providing insights and examples to help international brands develop effective strategies for overcoming them.

1. Trade barriers and regulations 

To successfully export to Vietnam, international brands must navigate various trade barriers and regulations that govern the importation of goods. These include tariffs and customs duties, non-tariff barriers such as technical regulations and labeling requirements, as well as intellectual property rights protection. Tariffs and customs duties can significantly impact the cost competitiveness of products, making it essential for brands to understand and comply with the applicable rates and regulations. Non-tariff barriers, such as complex technical regulations and labeling requirements, can pose additional hurdles, requiring careful attention to product compliance and documentation. Moreover, intellectual property rights protection is crucial to safeguarding brand reputation and preventing unauthorized use or infringement.

2. Cultural Differences and Consumer Behavior 

It’s crucial to keep in mind that Vietnamese culture is rich and deeply rooted in traditions and values. To effectively penetrate the Vietnamese market, international brands must gain a comprehensive understanding of the local culture and values. This includes appreciating customs, traditions, and social norms that influence consumer behavior and purchasing decisions. By aligning their marketing strategies and product offerings with Vietnamese cultural preferences, brands can establish a deeper connection with consumers, fostering trust and loyalty.

Besides, Vietnamese consumers have unique preferences and buying habits that international brands need to understand to succeed in the market. For instance, they highly value affordability and seek out value-for-money products. Therefore, brands that offer competitive pricing or promotional offers often resonate well with price-sensitive Vietnamese consumers. 

3. Language and Communication

Language plays a crucial role in effective communication and building meaningful connections with Vietnamese consumers. While English proficiency is increasing in Vietnam, there can still be language barriers that hinder communication between international brands and local consumers. To overcome this challenge, brands must invest in localization efforts, translating product information, packaging, and marketing materials into Vietnamese. By speaking the language of the target market, brands can convey their messages clearly and accurately, ensuring that consumers fully understand the value and benefits of their products. For example, multinational beauty brands often provide localized product descriptions and instructions in Vietnamese to facilitate consumer understanding and usage.

4. Complex supply chain networks

Establishing an efficient distribution network in Vietnam can be challenging due to the country’s complex supply chain networks. With a vast geographic area and diverse market segments, international brands must carefully plan their distribution strategies. This involves selecting reliable local partners, distributors, or wholesalers who have a strong understanding of the local market and possess the necessary infrastructure to reach customers effectively. By collaborating with trusted partners, brands can navigate the intricacies of the Vietnamese supply chain and ensure timely delivery of products to retailers or end consumers.

Efficient warehousing and inventory management are also critical for successful distribution in Vietnam. Brands must carefully monitor demand patterns, consumer preferences, and market trends to ensure the right level of stock availability. Effective inventory management practices, such as implementing just-in-time strategies or utilizing third-party logistics providers with warehousing capabilities, can help optimize storage space, minimize costs, and ensure a streamlined flow of products to meet customer demands

5. Competing with Local Brands 

Vietnam boasts a vibrant marketplace with a strong presence of domestic brands that have deep roots in the local culture and a loyal customer base. Competing with these well-established local brands can be a significant challenge for international companies entering the Vietnamese market. Local brands often have a better understanding of consumer preferences, established distribution networks, and competitive pricing strategies. To compete effectively, international brands must differentiate themselves by highlighting their unique value proposition, emphasizing product quality, innovation, and leveraging their global reputation and expertise.

As a result, building brand awareness and loyalty is very crucial for international brands to gain traction and compete with local counterparts. This requires investing in strategic marketing and advertising campaigns that resonate with Vietnamese consumers. Brands can leverage various channels, such as television, digital advertising, social media, and influencer partnerships, to raise awareness and generate brand engagement.

6. Difficulty navigating Government Regulations and Policies 

Exporting to Vietnam involves navigating a complex regulatory landscape. The government regulations and policies in Vietnam can impact various aspects of business operations, including import and export procedures, product standards and certifications, intellectual property protection, and investment regulations. International brands must ensure compliance with these regulations to avoid legal issues and disruptions in their operations. This requires thorough research and understanding of the relevant laws and regulations, as well as engaging with legal experts or consultants to navigate the compliance process effectively.

To encourage international brands, the government even offers various support measures and incentives. These include tax incentives, streamlined administrative processes, investment protection, and market access facilitation. Therefore, international brands should explore and take advantage of these government support programs to maximize their opportunities and minimize potential challenges. Engaging with relevant government agencies and industry associations can provide valuable insights and guidance on available support mechanisms.

7. Quality Control and Standards 

Implementing robust quality control processes is essential for international brands to deliver products that meet or exceed consumer expectations. This involves rigorous testing, inspection, and monitoring at various stages of the production and supply chain. Brands should establish partnerships with reputable testing laboratories and quality assurance agencies to ensure that their products meet the required quality standards. By maintaining consistent quality and addressing any quality issues promptly, brands can safeguard their reputation and build trust with Vietnamese consumers.

8. Payment and Financial Transactions

When conducting business in Vietnam, international brands need to be aware of the local currency and payment methods. The official currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). While cash transactions are still common, digital payment methods are rapidly gaining popularity. International brands should consider accepting various payment options, such as credit cards, mobile wallets, and online payment platforms, to cater to the preferences of Vietnamese consumers. Partnering with local financial institutions or payment service providers can facilitate seamless and secure financial transactions.

For international brands exporting to Vietnam, managing cross-border transactions and currency exchange is crucial. It is essential to have a clear understanding of the applicable regulations and procedures for foreign exchange transactions. Collaborating with reputable financial institutions or currency exchange providers can ensure smooth and efficient currency conversion. Additionally, considering the timing of currency exchanges and monitoring exchange rate fluctuations can help mitigate potential financial risks associated with volatile exchange rates.

9. Risk of copycat brand

Counterfeiting is a significant concern in Vietnam, and international brands must implement robust anti-counterfeiting measures to protect their IP rights. This includes implementing security features on products, packaging, and labeling to distinguish genuine products from counterfeit ones. Brands can also collaborate with local law enforcement agencies, customs authorities, and industry associations to combat counterfeiting and piracy.

To protect intellectual property in Vietnam, international brands must navigate the registration and enforcement processes. Registering trademarks, patents, and copyrights with the relevant Vietnamese authorities provides legal recognition and protection. It is advisable to work with experienced IP attorneys or consultants who can assist with the registration process and ensure compliance with local laws and procedures.  

10. Risk of bribery and non-transparent regulations

Bribery poses a significant business risk, as it undermines fair competition, distorts market dynamics, and damages a brand’s reputation. It is essential for international brands to adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards bribery and corruption and establish robust internal controls and compliance programs to mitigate this risk. Besides, inconsistent interpretation and application of regulations, excessive administrative procedures, and lack of transparency in decision-making can hinder business operations and create uncertainties. Brands must invest time and resources in understanding the regulatory landscape, engaging with local authorities, and seeking legal counsel to ensure compliance and navigate the complexities effectively.

To mitigate the risk of bribery and non-transparent regulations, international brands should implement robust anti-corruption measures. This includes establishing clear policies and procedures that explicitly prohibit bribery and corruption in all business dealings. Brands should provide regular training to employees, suppliers, and business partners on anti-corruption laws and compliance requirements. 


By understanding and addressing these challenges head-on, international brands can position themselves for success in Vietnam’s evolving marketplace. With a combination of market research, adaptability, strategic partnerships, and compliance with local regulations, international brands can unlock the vast opportunities that Vietnam has to offer and establish a strong foothold in this vibrant and promising market.

However, remember when working with distributors in Vietnam, there will be a lot of things that are easily mistaken. Learn more about them in this article:

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