In the previous three Zepol articles, I have extolled the incredible speed of their search engine as well as praised their elegant, well-designed user interface. In addition, they seem to have consistently invested in product development and infrastructure. Whereas they were initially the newcomer and rouge to the trade intelligence field, they have established themselves as elder statesmen.
Notwithstanding, in my opinion, there are two major areas of improvement needed, not only to withstand the onslaught of new competitors arriving monthly but also to gain market share among the other four top-tier TI providers. Namely, better standardization of the manifest data itself as well as integration of other pertinent data sources. These enhancements are not optional they are mandatory.
Presently, within the blindingly fast search results there are many iterations for the same shipper (foreign supplier) and consignee (U.S. importer). In addition, NVOCCs and other transportation providers frequently show up as either the buyers (importers) or the sellers (shippers). Hence, some potential business applications are askew: validation of prospective foreign sources based upon shipment count, competitive analysis of U.S. importers, and trend analysis of shipments based upon any designated criteria. These are distorted by the lack of rigorous standardization of the underlying data.
This issue is not limited to Zepol by any means. Every Trade Intelligence Provider struggles with it. Some have developed better methods than others. Only two companies out there do it with any measure of success. Both are utilizing third-party company databases plus advanced algorithms to refine the data. Most don’t employ any advanced standardization procedures at all. At CenTradeX, we developed arguably the best parsing, standardization and integration processes out there, but it took many years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to accomplish this. It was an obsession for a decade. It’s not easy.
In the other area of improvement, integration of other pertinent data sources, Zepol is clearly heading in the right direction with TradeView. Contrary to their initially held position to only serve up U.S. Customs data, Zepol has added U.S. Census (Statistical) data. What is especially notable is that they utilize virtually the same user interface for TradeView as TradeIQ. It’s a fairly seamless and painless transition from searching and reporting on manifest data to doing the same with statistical data. This is no small accomplishment since the two databases are vastly different.
The real key and subsequent challenge will be to connect these two disparate silos of data to one another in significant ways that provide additional dimensionality and richness. There could also be some interesting results from marrying their new offering, Compliance Monitor with TradeView, but at this point, a potential relationship seems fuzzy at present.
I’ll end this series by recounting my comment about TradeIQ. Did I mention how freakin’ fast the darn thing is? I really can’t get over it. Again, if you want an idea of just how fast, check out the videos on Part 1 of this series, Zepol, Part 1: Fast, Faster, Fastest… Freakin’ Crazy Fast Search Engine. If you are interested in discovering the features and respective pricing of each of their subscription options, feel free to download this Spec Sheet.