Digital forwarders are gaining traction

Digital forwarders are gaining traction

Digital forwarders are gaining traction in a global forwarding market characterised by uneven change, according to a new Ti report, Global Freight Forwarding 2019.

  • Traditional forwarders must recognise online forwarding disruptors as a catalyst of change – they will rapidly lose customers looking for better visibility, quotation and easy booking options if they don’t.
  • 49% of shippers that took part in a market-wide survey have used an online forwarding platform.
  • By 2023, nearly one fifth (18.7%) of volumes are expected to be booked/shipped through online forwarding platforms, according to survey respondents.
  • Global freight forwarding market grew 3.9% in 2018. Growth slowed from the levels seen in 2017, but the expansion is still one of the fastest seen since 2010.

Digital forwarding platforms are rapidly gaining traction in a global forwarding market characterised by uneven change. Technology is creating a vast range of forwarding options available to shippers across the globe from online booking and quotation through to visibility tools and ‘control towers’. However, “perhaps the most salient characteristic of the present freight forwarding market is that it has not seen a greater level of change. Markets and technologies have both developed significantly, but the overall landscape is broadly similar to that in the previous ten years and there appears to be little drive within the sector to change things fundamentally,” said Thomas Cullen, one of the report’s co-authors.

Tech-enabled forwarders are a catalyst for change in the global forwarding market, the report finds, but still under question is the extent to which online marketplaces, booking platforms and digital forwarders will fundamentally change the market’s landscape. What does seem certain is that if forwarders do not prove agile in their adoption of new technology, they will find that they rapidly lose customers looking for the types of visibility, quotation and easy booking which digital forwarders can provide.

The conclusion is supported by an extensive market-wide survey carried out for the report, which found that not only had 49% of participating shippers used an online forwarding platform, but that respondents expect nearly a fifth (18.7%) of all their volumes to be booked/shipped through such a platform by 2023.

The report’s co-author Viki Keckarovska commented: “Survey results show that, currently, shippers are making use of the more basic services provided by online forwarding platforms, such as booking and requesting quotes. While this indicates that online platforms aren’t yet widely used to process more complex tasks, it isn’t to say that their technology won’t advance and offer shippers more sophisticated visibility tools and value-added services.”

Global Freight Forwarding 2019 also examines market size and growth rates, concluding that, in real terms, the global forwarding market expanded 3.9% in 2018. Although this is down from 8.0% in 2017, it still represents something of a high point – excluding 2017, this was the fastest growth rate since 2010. After a bumper year in 2017, 2018’s growth rate was the result of a rebalancing between inventories and demand as shippers were again more able to opt for sea freight services over air. Growth during 2018 in the global air freight market was 3.8%, whilst in sea freight the expansion totalled 4.1%.


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