Tag Archives: Summary of T.I. Providers

Survey of Trade Intelligence Providers: Review, Recap & Regards – Part 4

Ahead of the pack, both of newcomers and established top-tier Trade Intelligence providers (excluding PIERS), when it comes to the value added aspects of enhancing U.S. Customs data is Panjiva.  Other TI providers may be faster, have other country transactional databases, been around longer, have cool features with broader appeal and application, but the company that has done the most with the underlying raw data (again, with the exception of PIERS) is most definitely Panjiva.  Let me explain.

First, some really smart people (Harvard & MIT trained folk) founded Panjiva.  Really not a big deal in and of itself, I know some really smart people who work with the other TI providers as well.  They just don’t have the same credentials.  As the Wizard of OZ aptly reminded the Scarecrow:  

Secondly though, they had money. A venture capital firm backed Panjiva with sufficient resources to enable them to design & build something of significance. (Funny, there was no Wizard of Oz bequest of that commodity.)

Third, their User Interface was built to serve one primary purpose for one particular target market.  Help U.S. Importers source products and components overseas.  Period.  End of Story.  Simple ideas usually work best.

Most importantly, they truly have gone to great lengths to “connect the dots” integrating other pertinent databases (over two dozens various sources) to the U.S. Customs data toward the end of enabling their product to perform its singular objective more efficiently.

Their strength is also their corresponding weakness.  The singular design and function of their product makes it perform less adequately than tools created by other TI providers.  The best hammer for hammering ain’t going to work great as a saw or an axe.  Try to chop down a tree with a hammer, even a really good hammer… and you are likely to get frustrated.

I will refrain, in conclusion, from bringing PIERS and PIERS products into the equation for contrast and comparison.  Since half (3 of 6) of all their current products were developed by myself and my team, it becomes a rather narcissistic and self-aggrandizing exercise.  Furthermore, there are plenty of other articles on this blog that highlight the relative strengths and features of their home-grown and evolved products as well as those acquired from my company, CenTradeX.

I have learned through this recent investigation that there is no such thing as “The Best TI Tool”.  It all depends upon what you’re trying to do with the tool, your budget, your time, and what features you value most.

Survey of Trade Intelligence Providers: Review, Recap & Regards – Part 3

As far as the “top tier” TI Providers are concerned, I was impressed on many levels.   Ryan P. of Import Genius spoke with the zeal and fire of a true believer.  I resonated very much with him – his passion and vision.  I really “dig” his visual mapping tool that lets you dynamically interact with the international supply chain – foreign suppliers and their corresponding U.S. importers.  I also like the pragmatic approach they avow having come from being importers themselves. However, no degree of enthusiasm, cool tools and professional background can make up for the lack of rigorous normalization and data enhancements that are required in this marketplace to differentiate you as a Trade Intelligence Provider.   I believe if they had an ample infusion of capital, they would account for that shortcoming post-haste as well as zip past many of their competitors.

Zepol (Paul R.) as I have reported, has a kick ass search engine that can wheedle your desired data out of 100,000,000 million manifest records and deliver it to you with lightning speed.  It is truly amazing.  Their User Interface is elegant and well-engineered.  I love and appreciate the simple, straightforward logic inherent within its design and function.  Kudos to them for expanding beyond simply offering U.S. Customs data and weighing in on the statistical side by offering Census data (tracking U.S. imports and exports on a monthly basis). Sound business folks to be sure.  They’ve been around a good while now, coming on the scene over 6 years ago and being the first competitor to PIERS.  However, akin to Import Genius, speed, a well-engineered U.I. and sound business thinking ultimately won’t be enough to stand-up against the onslaught of bottom fishing competitors that are rampantly propagating across the planet.  It’ll take more.

Datamyne, with roots in Latin America, along with their handfuls of other transactional databases certainly has a competitive advantage in that regard.  Their new U.I. is definitively the most robust – analytically speaking.  Their management and customer service is purported to be superior. Lisa W. continues to make data/technological advancements moving in the right direction to connecting the dots (U.S. Customs data with other databases).  Referential Company Data obtained from reputable venders such as D&B /Hoovers is essential to normalize /standardize the many iterations found within the U.S. Importer & Foreign Supplier Name /Address fields.  Attribution of product codes is also an essential value added. Datamyne has begun applying both essential processes and, in those regards, is way ahead of most of their competitors, but at this point still has a considerable distance to travel to perfect and maximize the underlying U.S. Customs data.

Survey of Trade Intelligence Providers: Review, Recap & Regards- Part 2

To start with I was surprised to find so many new companies out there that are offering products based upon U.S. Customs data.  It seems of late that I hear about a new venture almost monthly. Another surprise is that among those that I refer to as “Second Tier” TI providers (and even have dismissively at times called “bottom feeders”) there are notable, commendable qualities beyond price. Although I didn’t go through the same in-depth investigation and product demos as I did with the five top-tier providers, I was usually able to glean enough information from their website to get a snapshot and form a cursory opinion.

For instance, several not only offer various utilities by which to search, retrieve and manipulate U.S. Customs data, but also provide Customs (transactional) data from other countries and regions.  Consequently, a competitive position taken by both PIERS & Datamyne of offering transactional data for other markets (primarily Latin American) is diluted by the addition of a handful of others (second tier) who do likewise.

Screenshots, when provided, from some of the TIP’s (Trade Intelligence Providers) U.I.s (user interfaces) looked interesting.  Although I would need an extensive firsthand demonstration to form a concrete perspective, there seemed to be a number of products with robust search utilities, including graphic displays and trending capabilities.

Most astonishing though was /is the price.  $99 per month is typical and even on the high side.  As I have reported, one China based company sells entry-level subscriptions at $30 per year (8 cents per day).  With another India based organization –  a “pay-per-record” model – you can download 100 complete records for $1.60.   And, as I have said, new companies are cropping up monthly.

Honestly, it made me grateful that I’m not competing as a TI Provider in the field anymore.  It was always a challenge to enlighten prospects about the value of data in the first place.  Most people either don’t get it or undervalue it.  It was frustrating.  International Trade involves trillions of dollars yet some billion-dollar international companies don’t spend squat on data (or people who understand how to use it intelligently).

So now with new companies offering U.S. Custom data for almost nothing, the challenges for TI Providers get that much more difficult.  The obvious answer is to develop value added solutions that empower users to make better business decisions, easier, and faster as well as document tangible, quantitative, profitable results.

Soon gone are the days (IF they are not gone already) wherein TI Providers will be able to survive in this competitive marketplace without bringing something very significant and distinctive to the table beyond an off-the-shelf search and reporting utility atop minimally standardized bare-naked U.S. Customs data.  The market will demand more… and/or pay less.

Survey of Trade Intelligence Providers: Review, Recap & Regards- Part 1

For six sequential weeks, notwithstanding last week’s respite to introduce two new contributing WorldTradeDaily.com authors and some fresh topics, we have focused upon Trade Intelligence Providers – both “top tier” and secondary players, taking an in-depth look at their products / interfaces along with their respective strengths and weaknesses.*

And to qualify, the type and kind of TI providers I chose to highlight and contrast were those who offered U.S. Customs data: Waterborne Transport, U.S. Import, Shipping Manifest (Bill of Lading) records collected and disseminated daily.  Why single out that ONE specific database as the qualifier for “Trade Intelligence” providers?

After all, there are many types and kinds of trade data – transactional, statistical, company and referential.   Trade Intelligence is about using information, connecting dots and making informed business decisions within the international trade arena.  It isn’t about one kind of data.

The reasons I focused upon those companies and applications that utilize this type of data are manifold:

  • Customs data is inherently the most powerful data source.
  • Customs data is the most obtuse, complex type of data.
  • Customs data is still the most underutilized resource.
  • Customs data offers abundant opportunities for innovation.

Another personal aspect of my preoccupation comes from the sizeable investment – in time, money, energy and resources – that I have made to understand, innovate and commercialize U.S. Customs Data.   And, as regular readers of this blog will recount, I maintain considerable unique technological assets that I consider to be superior and extremely valuable for which I desire to attract future sales and/or license fees for the utilization of such as well as potential consulting /development contracts (within the context of the “non-compete” clauses of my PIERS acquisition agreement).  So, those are my gratuitous commercial objectives.

Bottom-line, there are a plethora of data types and sources that are important.  The Holy Grail of Trade Intelligence is about “connecting the dots” to uncover not only the trends but also the trend makers… seeing the “big picture” and being able to drill down to the pixels if required… breaking down the supply chain to understandable and consumable pieces… applying knowledge to empower and enable more intelligent business decisions.

Conducting this recent in-depth investigation has challenged several preconceived notions that I maintained about the Trade Intelligence players and their products.  There have been many noteworthy developments in the field over the last several years.  That being said, there remain HUGE opportunities within the TI field and an ongoing need for vision and innovation.

*This post is republished.

WTD Editorial: Who Will Win the Prospect? PIERS, Datamyne or Zepol?

Recently I received a very intriguing inquiry from a “Prospect” shopping among the various vendors for best Trade Intelligence Application.  For obvious reasons I will omit the specific identity.  However, for background purposes, it is a publicly traded company employing over 50,000 people in 30 countries with annual revenues of almost $150 billion.

“I’ve been trying to research which trade intelligence software is better for our xxxxxxxx division. While I have done demos for Zepol, Piers, and Datamyne I am still unsure as to which one will give us the most accurate weekly data. I know you sold your company to Piers and you might obviously be somewhat favorable of Piers, but which do you honestly think presents the clearest and accurate data?We would like to get a report with the commodity, date, load/discharge port, vessel, consignee. The Zepol reports are all disorganized (because they don’t standardize the commodity/HS code descriptions). Tell me which one you think would be the best for reports.”

You have definitely named the top contenders in your list.  There are over a dozen cheaper providers of the data you’re looking for that I would avoid with the notable exceptions of Panjiva and Import Genius.  Zepol and Datamyne are good, reputable, seasoned companies that have certainly earned the right to be at any negotiating table.  I am personally acquainted with executives at all three companies referred to in your email and can vouch for the professionalism and integrity with which they generally conduct their affairs.  

As you noted, I am somewhat biased and favorable toward PIERS for several reasons, some pertinent to your question, some not. Notwithstanding, you mentioned that your primary concern was accuracy: “the most accurate weekly data” and “the clearest and accurate data”.   In that regard, I believe that PIERS is indisputably and unarguably the winner.  Let me detail: 

  1. They’ve been at the game the longest.  The Journal of Commerce is the oldest publication in the U.S. “Delivering Global Trade and Logistics Intelligence” – since 1827.
  2. PIERS has had many decades working with and refining the many idiosyncrasies and shortcomings inherent within the U.S. Customs Waterborne data.  
  3. During the last several years (since the installation of their new management team) they have made many dramatic improvements to their IT infrastructure and TI applications.
  4. Their acquisition of our innovative (CenTradeX) TI applications and accompanying tech guys put them way ahead of their competitors regarding access, integration and delivery.
  5. The majority of Governmental Organizations, Ports, Carriers and Fortune 500 Companies depend upon them for reliable, accurate timely information. 
  6. They are the ONLY TI provider that offers a TRULY integrated solution; i.e. the dynamic synthesis of multiple data sources which ‘dimensional-ize” the data (thereby increased veracity).

The negatives with PIERS are that you will most assuredly pay more, won’t get as much flexibility regarding terms/conditions and may or may not receive as much personal attention or customer service as with Zepol and Datamyne.