If you’ve been importing materials for your business, you must know how competitive the market can get. Even with ever-changing market trends, some companies seem to adapt and stay one step ahead of the competition constantly.
In this article, we’ll discuss how these businesses take advantage of public US customs import data and third-party tools to reveal competitors’ import info.
Why You Should Spy on Your Competitors
When you first start your business, there are many factors to consider - costs, labor, target audience, etc. But perhaps the most important out of all these is the competition.
Competitor research and analysis are crucial for long-term business success. Having an idea of who your competitors are serving, what their process is like, and where they are getting their supplies from can help guide your business decisions in the right direction.
It would ensure you have a low cost of production and a higher profit margin which would help you scale your business quicker than the competition.
Having lower costs than your competitors can also help you dominate the market by offering the same products at cheaper rates - increasing your market share.
How to Find Out US Customs Import Data?
Finding out where companies import their supplies from is easy.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is responsible for collecting import data. Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), they are bound to publish this data and make it publicly available in the National Archives.
But, most businesses prefer to use third-party tools to find US customs import data such as Import Genius or Panjiva. This allows them to quickly search through millions of importers and suppliers and scale the competitor research process.
Below is a screenshot of Import Yeti - a free tool to find out the suppliers for popular retail chains in the U.S. For this example, I searched for “Walmart,” and it gave me the following results:
In a matter of seconds, Import Yeti gives me the list of hundreds of suppliers that import to Walmart - including their addresses, top suppliers, and no. of shipments.
Now, although paid tools can give you more information, including the type of materials being shipped, all tools have some shortcomings in common.
● All tools are limited to the info provided in the Bill of Lading
● Major companies might hide or use a different name to import supplies, making the tools unable to crawl them
● Although the tools can give you information on shipments, they won’t specify the products. So, they might say something like “tools,” but not exactly which kind.
Despite their shortcomings, these tools can give you valuable insights to understand your competitors better.
Not All Import Data is Accessible
If you decide to reveal your competitors’ info as part of your research, you should keep in mind that not all import data is readily available - whether you search through the National Archives or use a third-party tool.
Some businesses realize that their import data can be found online and hide it. They do this legally by issuing a manifest confidentiality request to the CBP to hide their import information. After confirmation, the CBP hides the import data by making it private with a validity of 2 years.