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.