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Forwarders enhance digital sales platforms but there is more work to be done

Major freight forwarders continue to make progress in developing online sales offerings but there is much more work to be done if they are to capitalise fully on the opportunity presented.

The latest annual survey by freight rate portal Freightos looked at the online offering of the world’s top 20 freight forwarders.

The company approached the forwarders posing as a fast-growing e-commerce company to test how easy it is to request and receive a quote for a booking.

It found that two companies offered an instant quotation services, seven offered specific sales request for information forms, six had forms that were “too general, failing to explicitly request everything required for quoting" and five only provided an email address.

Only Kuhne+Nagel and Agility – although Geodis has recently joined them – were able to offer instant less-than-container load quoting.

Of the 18 that did not provide instant quotes, only five eventually provided a quote while the other 13 failed to follow up on the lead.

Of the five that quoted manually, they took an average of 57 hours, although Freightos said this was an improvement on last year’s 101 hours.

“Of the seven companies that quotes (two instant and five manual) only three subsequently followed up to close the deal,” Freightos said. Prices provided varied by 58%.

Drilling into airfreight, only three freight forwarders were able to provide instant door-to-door airfreight rates: DHL Global Forwarding, K+N and UPS.

“Their sites were clearly designed to enhance user experience, and all provide good coverage and ancillary services, although one limited users to TSA known shippers,” Freightos said.

“Quote prices ranged from $8,804 to $10,869, a price difference of $2,065.”

The survey also looked at up-and-coming digital freight forwarders and found that on a China-US ocean shipment only two were able to provide the required coverage and none could provide an instant door-to-door quote.

“However, the integration of quoting, shipment management, and chat in their customer interface means that those small business customers who switch will get a superior customer experience. Top forwarders should be wary of this key competitive advantage,” Freightos said.

“There’s real opportunity in small business. In the US, 97% of importers are small businesses, accounting for a third of all imports, some $800bn worth of goods,” it added.

“Meanwhile, last year over 250,000 Chinese companies started selling on Amazon.

Tapping into this market has been a challenge for forwarders and carriers apprehensive of the high cost of SME sales.

“Automation can overcome this, providing larger logistics providers with a massive opportunity.”

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