How do Importers and Exporters use trade data?

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The following is a guest column from Kevin Palmstein of

While most readers are transportation service providers, it is important to understand how their customers utilize the same information that they use in their businesses to find new leads. Importers and Exporters use trade data just as much as their 3PL partners to create new opportunities and make better decisions in a quickly changing international market.

While there are many uses for Bill of Lading data, I’ve put together the top 5 ways that Zepol’s customers are using the data.

1. Competitive Intelligence: This is the most obvious and common use of the data. The Bill of Lading details provide windows into what competitors’ supply chains look like, their upcoming product releases, and how much product they are bringing in. I have worked with companies that have even found their competitor’s prototype shipments months before the products hit the shelves of retailers. That is pretty powerful for any company.

2. Lead Prospecting: Finding customers is at the center of almost every company, but for companies working with customers that do international trade, this data is the most targeted source of leads available. Because the data is robust, they can concentrate only on the leads that fit their requirements. However, beyond list building is where the data can have the most impact for sales professionals.

3. Supplier Sourcing: Users of Bill of Lading data are able to see who the supplier/manufacturer was for almost every shipment. This allows them to both find new suppliers for their products and monitor their current relationships. By finding new suppliers they can diversify their supply chains in case of supply disruptions, regional shipping cost increases, and natural disasters to reduce overall supply chain risk.

4. Market Analysis: Analysts and consultants across industries access this data to develop supply side analysis at a company level. While other types of data provide high level statistics by country, like the United Nation’s data, Bill of Lading information allows for market share assessments for very specific products. Because the data is so detailed, many users have been able to do research into individual types of product and get more accurate results than high level HTS data sets.

5. Legal and Brand Protection: There are two ways that users of this data enhance their brand protection and legal efforts. The first is fighting counterfeiters with the counterfeiter’s own Bill of Lading information, which could include researching the shippers and consignees from seizure notices or ensuring their brand names and trademarks are not being used by unauthorized parties. Secondly, other users have used the data to establish jurisdiction in cases and provide evidence of relationships in court.

Kevin Palmstein is the Director of Marketing and Product Development for Zepol Corporation. Zepol is the leading provider of United States trade information. Zepol’s products, TradeIQ™ and TradeView™, provide access to the latest U.S. Import Customs trade data and U.S. Import/Export Census trade statistics respectively. To learn more about Zepol, visit and read their trade data blog,

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