Tag Archives: PIERS

PIERS, Part 4: Directories & Databases & Research Reports, Oh My!

In the previous several articles, we outlined several of PIERS’ competitive advantages, then looked at their three evolved and related products: Piers TI, IPiers and MyPiers (which share a common UI and database) and subsequently summarized their newly acquired Trade Intelligence applications: Stats Plus, Prospects and Trade Finance.

In addition to these interactive platforms PIERS also offers other International trade related products.

International Trade Databases.  PIERS maintains transactional level databases (similar to U.S. Customs data) on 17 countries (all but two are Latin American).  Notwithstanding, these databases come complete with HS Codes, shipper names and commodity (product) details and encompass waterborne, land and air transport.

We reviewed the Mexican database. Despite being in Spanish, it was a treasure store of information.  Specific 6 digit harmonized codes were assigned to each shipment as well as the value, information and method of transport (which included air, truck and rail) for both imports and exports.  Therefore, with a little work and linking it to other databases, you could put together a pretty good profile of U.S. – Mexico cross border trade.

PIERS Importer – Exporter Directories

PIERS Online Directories of U.S. Importers & U.S. Exporters.  Basically, it’s a summary version of recent (last 12 months) trade activity by importers and exporters.  Previously available via hard copy publication or on CD, it is now accessible online (either separately or combined).  It includes over 150,000 importer and 50,000 exporter company listings.  These directories summarize top 3 to 5 U.S. ports of entry, countries of origin, SIC codes, number and value of shipments, and product descriptions for each trader.

PIERS Maritime Research. PIERS also publishes, in association with its sister company the JOC (Journal of Commerce), specific reports on Shipping, Carriers, Ports, and Trade Flows.

The scope of our survey necessarily excludes review of sister UBM Global Trade Companies and their products.  However, it may be said that in the area of integration – connecting the dots of disparate international databases – there is still significant ground to cover and opportunities to exploit.  Wiki reference.

Whereas PIERS has suffered in times past in the area of strategic forward thinking management, the acquisition of Commonwealth Business Media (including PIERS) by UBM in 2006 (UBM Global Trade formed in 2008) and installation of key executives John Day (CEO), Peter Spinelli (CFO) and Gavin Carter (CIO) have dramatically changed the mix.

Complete overall of their legacy IT systems along with acquisition and launch of innovative CenTradeX TI applications (as well as core technology staff) have also aided in PIERS’ competitive advancement.

Ironically, the one aspect they had shown greatest need for improvement is in marketing. However, recently they have joined the ranks of other market savvy TI providers in making intelligent use of social media. They have a compelling story to tell , the resources to tell it well and the management to sell it.

With both homegrown and acquired TI applications, PIER’S Arsenal of Products is impressive

In that spirit, below find a downloadable list of product brochures and data samples, courtesy of the excellent sales team at PIERS headed by Wael Jarous.  For more information, please feel free to contact sales manager Aliet Martinez at amartinez@piers.com.

**By the way the featured image appearing in this post is from a mural hanging in UBM headquarters, created by Meagan Spendlove.

PIERS, Part 3: Acquired Apps – Stats Plus, Prospects & Trade Finance

The next family of PIERS products I will expound upon were acquired not evolved.

Whereas Piers TI, IPiers, and MyPiers (along with individualized customization and forthcoming dashboards) utilize a common platform and database with varying features, add-ons, and options. Stats Plus, Prospects and Trade Finance are an entirely different ilk.

All referenced trade intelligence applications were acquired last year from CenTradeX, the company I developed and directed for 10 years.  For those interested, the background, start-up, development, acquisition of CenTradeX Applications by PIERS as well as retained assets that were excluded from the sale have been documented in earlier WTD articles.  Furthermore, I’ve already outlined the development and attributes of Stats Plus and Prospects in previous posts too.

Prospects & Trade Finance Geo Locator Home Screen

PIERS Trade Profiles and its sister application, Trade Finance were previous PIERS applications designed for sales prospecting (international trade leads) by the maritime/commercial and financial industries respectively.  These products were phased out and replaced by the (CenTradeX) Prospects platform.  The only difference between the two applications is that Trade Finance offers several additional search fields and sums up data quarterly (bankers like it sliced that way).

Several TI Providers have recently started to offer silos of other data (besides U.S. Customs data), such as Census or U.N. trade statistics. The primary and revolutionary difference with Stats Plus, Prospects, and Trade Finance (again which is really just Prospects) is that they were developed and evolved as INTEGRATED data platforms.

Statistical information (State, U.S., World), Company information (from D&B aka Harris Info and Hoovers, Kompass, Zoom, Yahoo, etc.), PLUS daily U.S. Customs (transactional) manifest records are all interconnected.  They are not contained and accessed from individual, unrelated silos.  They are served up as a unified whole.  Thus there is greater dimension and depth to the data.

Also, integrating third-party information sources with the U.S. Customs data tremendously aids in the normalization and standardization processes.  In fact, it is really impossible to do otherwise.  For instance, D&B profiles can be employed to normalize the many possible iterations of a consignee name.  Statistics can set the context by which to evaluate potential foreign suppliers.

These novel PIERS platforms integrate disparate data sources in ways that empower users to get more complete, accurate pictures of international trade as well as the underlying global traders involved.

The alternative is to depend upon singular (and incomplete) snapshots taken from transactional (Customs) data, maybe piece them together with other fragments of information gathered here and there from other sources, try to patchwork it all into some incomplete profile by which to then make an (important?) business decision in order to better (successfully?) navigate within the choppy and highly competitive waters of global trade.

Prospects Summary Tab

Prospects Carrier Trend Report

PIERS, Part 2: Home Grown & Evolved TI Applications – I, My & TI

In contrast to many TI providers that offer a “one size fits all” user interface, PIERS offers many products for varying business applications that incorporate U.S. Customs data.  In this article, I will focus on three (of seven) related products: Piers TI, IPiers & MyPiers- all of which use the same platform but are differentiated by a handful of features and corresponding price.

Back in the day, PIERS largely distributed the (somewhat) normalized Customs data via stacks of monthly CDs sent to their several thousand clients.  They were a hassle to use and easily pirated with a clumsy Excel like interface.  IPIERS became their first online solution.  It is the medium priced option of the three.

With IPiers, you get access to fully normalized U.S. Customs data – both import and export – for the last three years.  If required, you can fetch data as far back as 1979.  They can set you up to only see certain product lines (based upon Harmonized Code) or the whole tamale.  You can pay for unlimited access or just pay per record downloaded.

The UI is efficiently designed and comfortably maneuverable. There are standard reports or you can design and save your own.  You can schedule your reports to run and be distributed at will.  Export options include Excel, DBF, PDF and DOC.  Overall, it is a fetching TI interface.

Piers TI was the second online offering and a level below IPiers.  Piers TI provides access (through the same UI) to RAW (not standardized) U.S. Customs data. Even though the consignee and shipper names haven’t been standardized as in IPiers, users still get the benefit of commodity code attribution along with estimated shipment value and TEU count.

Piers TI is available in export only, import only or import & export versions and provides for searching and reporting on the last five years of data.  Reporting functions allow for roll-up of results, graphic displays and download of 10,000 records at a time.

When comparing products (and pricing) with other competing TI providers’ offerings, Piers TI (import only) is really the best apples-to-apples UI to evaluate.

MyPiers is a fully customized version of IPiers, designed around the products, preferences, and applications of an individual client.  PIERS programmers construct individualized data groupings and reports around specific customer requirements such as designated sales territories, certain commodities and supply chain movements.  Obviously, this option is best suited for higher end commercial and maritime clients.

Soon to be released “Dashboards”, a further add-on (up-sell) to MyPiers, will offer advanced graphic-oriented, executive-level interactivity while maintaining drill down capability into the granular level detail as well.

Ultimately, individualized consultation, design, and application development utilizing U.S. Customs data is the most expensive and powerful aspect of trade intelligence: People IQ.  The singular element of Trade Intelligence that is not easy to commoditize.

Up next, a look at PIERS newest family of products.

Stats Plus Global Market Report

Stats Plus Report of U.S. Buyers

PIERS, Part 1: The Fleet Battleship in an Ocean of TI Providers

This week’s series focuses on the 500 pound gorilla and alpha dog of Trade Intelligence Providers, PIERS, a division of UBM Global Trade (along with 7 other related companies) which in turn is one of 17 “business verticals” owned by London-based, publicly traded United Business Media.  Download annual report. For purposes of comparison and contrast, we will only be looking at PIERS and their handful of TI products.

PIERS company history goes back 175 years rooted in the Journal of Commerce  which provides news about global trade specifically related to waterborne freight movements.  JOC is one of the oldest publications in the United States, founded by Samuel Morse in 1827.  So, in some fashion or form, PIERS and sister companies have had almost two centuries evaluating and reporting on international freight movements.

Why is this important?  Well, it is definitely one of PIERS’ competitive strengths.  Tenured knowledge and experience with obtuse and complex data over time accrues to one a significant advantage that cursory acquaintance can’t replicate.  It’s safe to say no one knows the data better.

The other obvious advantage is the synergism and strength derived from being connected and intimately related to a multi-national media and information conglomerate with respectable resources at their disposal.  A single cruiser may be faster and more maneuverable but in comparison with an entire naval fleet wouldn’t last long in a firefight.

PIERS has elaborate normalization and refinement procedures in place for handling U.S. Customs data

On a more micro level, PIERS has some particular competitive advantages over other TI Providers that offer searching and reporting utilities atop U.S. Customs data, including:

  • They’re the ONLY ones to offer transactional waterborne export data.  The combination of reciprocal information exchanges with many ports & carriers along with an extensive staff stationed at ports collecting data is going to make this aspect hard to replicate.  Hence, PIERS is the only company that can provide BOTH sides of the import – export transactional picture.
  • PIERS attributes a harmonized code, many times down to the 6 digit level, to the individual shipment manifests.  Consequently, they assign estimated trade values by connecting said code to U.S. Census statistical data.  Arguably the values are many times askew, but as they say, “Bad breath is better than no breath at all”.  Nobody else even attempts it.
  • They are the best at data standardization and normalization, overall.  Many of us have done interesting, innovative and truly remarkable things with U.S. Customs data (and vastly superior in many ways) but the benchmark and standard is and always has been set by PIERS.

In the forthcoming articles, we will look at the specific “families” of products (both evolved and acquired) that currently comprise the expansive PIERS arsenal of Trade Intelligence.

PIERS StatsPlus™ Attempts to Transform Trade Statistics Into Intelligence

One of the latest additions to the PIERS arsenal of product offerings is called StatsPlus. Acquired from CenTradeX, inc. in May, 2010, this particular application represents a departure from their typical fare built upon waterborne import export manifest data. StatsPlus integrates U.S. import and export statistics, state export data, and global trade flow information together with global buyers and sellers underlying the statistics.

A little history: StatsPlus is the fifth iteration of a Trade Intelligence Product developed over a three year period from 2000 to 2003 by Nashville based CenTradeX.  The initial version, labeled Trade Made Easy, represented the first time State, U.S. and Global trade flow statistics had ever been integrated and presented in combination.  The following year, in TME 2.0, millions of trading companies -domestic and overseas- were added to the mix in an attempt to connect the actual players (importers and exporters) to the statistics that were represented by their trading activity.

The third iteration called SEEDS (State Export & Economic Development System) brought with it a significantly different user interface.  As the name implies, it was created for state based trading agencies – such as government export assistance offices, economic development organizations and world trade centers.  Although simpler in design and usage, as always there is a trade off between usability and depth. And while most customers embraced and celebrated the streamlined process of searching and reporting, a few loyalists mourned the loss of scope and detail.

The next significant, and rather revolutionary, development that occurred came as a result of a major contract with the State of Pennsylvania.  During an initial custom design project, CenTradeX expanded its SEEDS engine within the State’s international trade web portal. Working closely over a six month period their technology team, PR agency, web company, research firm, copywriters, consultants and way too many other “chefs” in the creative kitchen, the fourth iteration of Trade Made Easy was birthed  and lovingly named The Virtual Trade Advisor (VTA).

The PA VTA had many interesting attributes and enhancements:

  1. A “custom branded solution”, the VTA was invisibly and seamlessly woven into their existing web portal and conferred (by creating a value perception) millions of dollars of trade technology and development upon the State of PA trade office.
  2. It linked information about PA trade programs and services: its 12 domestic trade offices and 25 foreign correspondent offices into the system.
  3. Extensive user/interface testing was conducted to refine the steps and processes wherein manufactures and exporters would access and utilize the platform.
  4. A unique search engine was created. Two international product coding systems (SIC with HTS) were combined in an easy-to-understand hierarchal structure. A million word thesaurus of product identifiers was linked with corresponding HTS  codes, and dynamic search results were instantaneously displayed along with ranked product alternatives.
  5. One corresponding click created a dashboard of reports showing potential foreign buyers/suppliers, market research and competitive intelligence.
The fifth incarnation, titled PIERS StatsPlus, retains the slick visuals, colorful graphics and dynamic charting capabilities that were always inherent in all the CenTradeX interfaces. But now with UBM resources, Oxford trained management and hearty PIERS sales muscle behind it, Stats Plus is sure to see sizable growth and market penetration in the months ahead.

PIERS Prospects™ – Prospecting For International Buyers and Sellers

Almost a year ago today, May 5, 2010. PIERS officially purchased certain CenTradeX Assets, primarily several software Trade Intelligence Applications including PIERS Prospects. Importantly they also hired key CenTradeX technology staff, namely Chuck Wigand, Jared Guy and David Burks. After the sale was completed, the newly acquired tech team went to work on wiring up the Prospects application to the PIERS database engine. PIERS had spent considerable resources over the previous 18 months overhauling their legacy systems with newer, “beefier” technology. Perhaps the rewiring task was not as complicated as open heart surgery, but it was certainly more difficult than replacing an automobile engine. Anyway, winter that same year, they were ready to launch.

Prospects is unique in the world of Trade Intelligence. It combines many data sources into one easy to use graphic interface. U.S. Customs Waterborne Import data is matched with D&B Company information as well as various statistical sources. In addition, PIERS adds their proprietary export data (at this point they are the ONLY game in town able to offer data on daily exports) as well as some supplemental referential databases. One of the coolest things about Prospects is that all this data, from individual shipment detail to highly aggregated summary, is searchable by product, company, or region.

I haven’t utilized the system since the acquisition but have made a cursory review of the wrappings. A couple things stood out. There is a well put together product brochure: Prospects Product Brochure . They created a fairly comprehensive training video you can view (after providing a bit of summary information): Prospects Training Video. They also offer live on-line training several times a week. Overall, good support I think. One change I noticed is that the user interface comes armed with additional search features that allow for more specificity. Thankfully, it seems to have maintained it’s signature graphic appeal and efficient engineering. I will soon put it through the paces and give it a full evaluation… and let you know the details.

A bit of history and background. Initially, Prospects was an iteration of one of our (CenTradeX) applications called “SEEDS” (State Export and Economic Development System). At the time, our primary markets were to state trade offices, world trade centers, trade associations, educational institutions and other non-profits. A friend and business associate, Jack Fain, who at the time was Vice President for Panalpina (a major NVOCC), worked closely with us to modify SEEDS to function as a prospecting tool for his U.S. Sales force. It took several months of dialoging back and forth with his sales team and handfuls of revisions, but Prospects was the result.

Several other global supply chain folks added their two cents over the subsequent year or two, but the result is an application that was built with the customer in mind because a customer(s) designed it. PIERS Prospects therefore is THE ideal prospecting tool. It has been and is being used by many companies within the International Trade Industry to pinpoint buyers of their particular products or services. You can find out more about the features of PIERS Prospects by visiting their website. PIERS Prospects Information.

If you have used (or are using) PIERS (or previously CenTradeX) Prospects please comment on your experience with the product.