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:
- 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.
- It linked information about PA trade programs and services: its 12 domestic trade offices and 25 foreign correspondent offices into the system.
- Extensive user/interface testing was conducted to refine the steps and processes wherein manufactures and exporters would access and utilize the platform.
- 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.
- One corresponding click created a dashboard of reports showing potential foreign buyers/suppliers, market research and competitive intelligence.