Everyone knows how they can import a pair of shoes they want to buy – thanks to the likes of Amazon. But ask your friends how they think we import a whole container of shoes from China, and you’ll witness a lot of blank faces.
Freight forwarding is typically an overlooked industry, but we firmly believe that that will have to change over the coming years. And our customers will be the ones who make it move.
As we start a new year, here are three areas where we expect to see a significant change by 2020.
- Digitising freight forwarding
Whilst this isn’t a new idea, we’re definitely not 100% there towards digitising the industry. Digital platforms are now pretty much a given, but what’s the next step?
It’s about removing as many obstacles as possible out of the entire process for our customers. We need to digitise the freight forwarding structure as a whole by enabling faster and smoother collaboration between industry participants, digitising the full document flow and making unit-level real-time tracking a given.
- Moving to a self-serve model
One of the first steps in digitising the industry end-to-end is adopting more of a self-service, on-demand model for our customers. If we can make the freight forwarding process easier and quicker, they will ultimately gain much more control and flexibility over logistics.
But that requires a change in mindset from all players in the industry. Incumbent market players, in particular, will have to change in order to adapt to newer ways of working. And the larger existing companies have the network to create change from within – so they could play a vital role in our industry’s future.
- We’ll have to build ‘network effects’
In today’s market, we have the scenario of the buyer and seller trading with each other. But in the future, we expect that we will have to create a network in order to succeed. And that’s what we’re trying to do with Twill.
Any digital platform – including Twill – is more use if more people are using it. Take Airbnb as just one example in the consumer world. If there are more sellers on the platform, more buyers will be interested, and when a network grows, there is inevitably more of a benefit for all parties.
Over the next two years, our job will be to see how we add most value to our platform. For example, would adding truckers add greater value for our customers? Or perhaps it would be adding raw material producers? How would that enhance the user experience?
In our industry, we’re hearing numerous debates over the different definitions of freight forwarding vs supply chain management. It’s a grey area and there’s no real clear cut differentiator in many respects.
But we predict that by 2020, what we today call ‘simple supply chain management’ will be called ‘freight forwarding’ – we’re seeing this already coming into place with Twill. Digital solutions will make complicated tasks and processes simple – hence allowing customers to take more control and derive more value.
There’s no doubt that it will be a constant evolution for us and we will ultimately have to decide where we sit in that spectrum over the coming months.