Zepol provides information about imports into the US, with obvious applications for competitive intelligence. Zepol's main feature is TradeIQ, which lets you see any competitor’s import activity.
TradeIQ lets the user find lists of importers, find a specific company’s import shipments, and find any imports of a particular product. This is done by accessing the public information available through US Customs and Border Protection through submitted Bills of Lading. These Bills of Lading offer important information in the realm of competitive intelligence, including:
- Commodity type: A Bill of Lading must list the type of material being imported (e.g., car parts, hard disk drives, etc.). If a user is curious about any new items or country of origin of a particular item, this information is accessible through the Bill of Lading.
- Piece count: The amount must be consistent with the smallest, innermost packaging (e.g., how many cases are on a pallet). A user can find out if a competitor is having an upsurge in orders, or a down trend of the same.
- Ultimate destination: The Bill of Lading must also state where the final point of delivery is. The user can find out the competitor’s global positioning on the market.
By being able to see this information, a user can view their competitors' volume of imports, type of imports, and positioning of imports. These results are as close to real-time returns as possible. The main caveat about using Zepol or other import databases is that the company listed as the importer/exporter may not be the real buyer/seller, as some companies use intermediaries, either to disguise their activities or for other legitimate purposes.
Zepol offers other tools for competitive intelligence, and some ideas about how to use these tools. By accessing the public records in an organized fashion, users are given an efficient way of gathering information on different competitors.