The global freight forwarding market is expanding significantly, and today’s forwarder services are advancing to keep pace. According to a recent review, published by Valuates Reports, “the global Freight forwarding market size is projected to reach USD 207 Billion by 2026, from USD 170 Billion in 2019, at a CAGR of 2.8% during 2020-2026. The increasing demand for low-cost shipping, the ability to understand customer preferences, and the prompt reaction with logistical solutions are the primary drivers driving the expansion of the freight forwarding market. Furthermore, freight forwarding market expansion is likely to be fueled by rising demand for integrated services.”
Yet, integrated services and capabilities can be difficult to figure out and put into action. With the growing arsenal of possible supply chain platforms that forwarders could use, it’s difficult to see the forest of possibilities for all the hype behind them. Complicating the stage is the current state of flux the industry is facing. As a result, supply chain leaders need to know the features to expect in world-class freight forwarding systems and collaboration platforms.
1. Real-Time Data Access
Access to real-time data is the most universal benefit and in-demand feature of modern freight forwarding software. Shippers need instant access to current shipment status, estimated time of arrival, cutoff dates, unforeseen delays and complications, and more. Rather than simply waiting for that information to come in via communication channels, users can seamlessly and instantly stay on top of all applications and needs within the right platform. We’re already trained to pay attention to signals in our supply chain, now we can couple data and signal-based alerts to truly become the partners and advisors our clients expect and need us to be more than ever these days.
2. Commercial Business Intelligence and Data Analytics
The value of data grows even stronger for shippers when applied across data analytics. Analytics help shippers understand what carriers or forwarders did, their performance rankings, and how to use those relationships to keep landed costs in check. Good working knowledge of key performance indicators around operations and profitability helps build a more strategic, informed organization that can move forward more confidently. Forwarders realize a similar benefit by unifying their data streams to continuously monitor the performance of their partnering carriers or other service providers as well. Seek out integrations, or even operating layers, to help further connect siloed data sources and try to use systems with modern APIs, and at very least other means of communicating with other systems such as EDI or CSV data exports.
3. Collaborative Messaging Platforms
Any strategy for freight forwarding success will falter without instant and clear messaging. In today’s world, the timeliness of communications can mean the difference between a happy customer experience or a cancellation request. But there are more means of communication than ever before, and clients, just like 2-day shipping, expect instant communication and a personal touch at the same time. It’s what separates regular, one-off clients, from that of repeat business and more loyal, dependable customers.
The challenge of balancing out new and loyal revenue is something that touches the daily lives of all indie forwarders – there are only so many calls, texts, and emails across platforms such as WeChat, WhatsApp, signal, SMS, email, and the like, that forwarders and other logistics services providers can give to their demanding clients. Similarly, the collaboration tools within a world-class freight forwarding system software should help users navigate through the commercial noise, document activities, and support more proactive customer communication.
Being able to not only communicate in a timely manner but keeping these communications organized and centralized for both parties can structurally differentiate and bolster the customer experience. If you have proper, dedicated systems in place to strategically scale up these preferred customer communication channels, while gaining work leverage, you can drive more loyal revenue that helps the entire organization operate more strategically.
4. Centralized, Cloud-Based Recordkeeping
The modern supply chain is full of opportunities for improvement and many activities, across the globe, and across time zones. Managing and running a successful supply chain that wins comes down to the various touchpoints within the customer experience and the possible issues that may arise.
As noted by McKinsey & Company, “Only by looking at the customer’s experience through his or her own eyes—along the entire journey taken—can you really begin to understand how to meaningfully improve performance. Customer journeys include many things that happen before, during, and after the experience of a product or service. Journeys can be long, stretching across multiple channels and touchpoints, and often lasting days or weeks.
Bringing a new customer on board is a classic example. Another is resolving a technical issue, upgrading a product, or helping a customer to move a service to a new home. Organizations that fail to appreciate the context of these situations and manage the cross-functional, end-to-end experiences that shape the customer’s view of the business can prompt a downpour of negative consequences, from customer defection and dramatically higher call volumes to lost sales and lower employee morale. In contrast, those that provide the customer with the best experience from start to finish along the journey can expect to enhance customer satisfaction, improve sales and retention, reduce end-to-end service cost, and strengthen employee satisfaction.”
Given that insight, it amounts to the need to see everything from within a centralized platform, and software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms like Cargologik make this possible. And regardless of which solution you choose for your organization, make sure it’s done through the lens of your client. Even better, if you can involve your clients and request their feedback, you will find them appreciative of your efforts – especially if it will save them time, money, and simplifies operations.
5. Digital Document Management
Another feature of the right freight forwarding system software involves how well it aggregates and allows users to access documents. In other words, does the system enable digital document management and digital forwarding shipment execution?
Paper-based processes worked great in the past but imagine the headache of searching an endless paper trail to find shipment status. An advanced platform overcomes that issue by providing a central resource for document storage, retrieval and searching. Think “Google-search” for your shipments, alerts, and communication.
This ensures your entire team can easily find and apply information from across these documents on demand. That’s a marked advantage over traditional approaches to managing freight forwarding, and it inherently lends itself to the next benefit of a modern platform, increased transparency.
6. Less Email Management and Improved Transparency
Since everything is contained within an overarching platform, users spend less time trying to compile and enter data, respond to customer service requests, and other back-office processes. Instead, they gain a way to effectively lessen the burden of email management while also promoting increased transparency into all operations. For instance, the right forwarding software should include storage for trade compliance filings, quotes, purchase orders, POD, the BOL, and more.
In the same way that Slack & Microsoft Teams transformed traditional emails and other redundant, error-prone methods of communication that are slower, so your system can simplify and streamline experiences for the customer. This is a win-win for everyone involved – saving time, money, and resources for both the forwarder and the shipper.
7. Integration With E-Commerce Shopping Carts
The success of freight forwarders depends on the ability to reach more customers and how they build stronger relationships. This, therefore, includes integration with major e-commerce platforms and shopping carts. These services, such as WooCommerce, Magento, and Shopify, all have a loyal following of shipper customers, and if your platform doesn’t integrate, you’ll alienate potential customers. Meanwhile, integration further leads to additional opportunities to build better experiences as well.
8. Mobile Shipment Tracking
Mobile shipment tracking, via an app like in Cargologik, also streamlines operations for freight forwarders. Since everything is integrated, shippers can instantly see their shipment status from any mobile device. And, forwarders can stay on top of high-priority items without logging into a dozen different systems. Any platform you use should be able to immediately provide value to both the shipper and forwarder on a 3G connection and whatever device that they’re on. This is a unique advantage of modern logistics and precisely how a world-class freight forwarding software should work, unifying all processes and activities to make it easier to manage from anywhere – especially the customer.
9. Logistics Timeline Tracking
Perhaps the biggest innovation in freight forwarding is the ability to track cargo across multiple parties, legs of transportation, and service levels. This is where leveraging logistics timelines can help forwarders easily see the current status and coordinate movements across multiple services, including Amazon and DHL, in one solution.
Functions like the DHL Tracking Number or Amazon Logistics Timeline are examples of software ecosystems that are unwalled. Meaning that they are able to provide value without requiring logins, and naturally promoting adoption, vs forcing it. The former almost always outperforms the latter in the software world. If you can replicate these types of functions for your own system, the better likelihood you’re going to be able to keep up with those growing customer transparency demands.
10. Chat Platforms to Stay Informed and Working Together
Logistics timelines are only one part of the equation, and leveraging collaborative tools, i.e., chat platforms, can help forwarders interact with other service providers. By working together and within a singular system, forwarders can instantly share shipment status and help everyone stay on the same page with integrated functionality across any communication channel, such as WhatsApp, WeChat, SMS, and email, within a singular, unified chat platform through Cargologik.
It’s certainly not easy to wean shippers off WhatsApp and emails, but an element of an important platform is also the ability to facilitate actual usage and the direction of communication into the platform in the first place. This streamlined form of communication eventually unlocks valuable time and resources from both the customer experience and freight operations perspective by allowing commercial reps and their client to stay focused on the highest-margin-producing activities, clients, and projects.
11. Automated Push Notifications
While automated processing and management are excellent for complex operations, there will always be the need to keep everyone informed, especially when something goes wrong. This is where automated push notifications—another feature common to the right forwarding software for your business, are crucial. Push notifications provide that instant touchpoint to ensure your team, your partners, and your customers all know what’s happening and what’s next. These also alleviate customer service shipment status inquiries by ensuring everyone gets notifications when any issue, or exception, occurs as well. Last they further support an instant response on the right system, by making it easy and quick to navigate back to the important item, alert, or communication at hand with just a tap or click. Leverage is the name of the game and the advantage of push notifications can mean all the differences between a successful and unsuccessful logistical operation.
12. Bulk Information Uploads
In global forwarding, manual upload of individual shipment details is a massive waste and killer of time efficiency. That’s why a world-class platform should enable bulk information uploading, seamlessly providing a way to pull data from across a master BOL and populate individual BOLs or other shipment data to provide context behind every shipment every time. This helps users better isolate and overcome potential disruptions while keeping everyone on the same page.
These systems should also be compatible for integrations, data export formats (ex. .CSV, .XLS), and have wizards and tools to make it easy for the end-user to figure out how to get the right information to where it needs to be in the system. For a software provider, the user experience for the forwarder must be taken into account and made to be really simple to figure out and get started using.
13. Instant Quoting Processes
A bulk way of uploading data naturally gives rise to improved quoting processes that also help provide a more automated approach to forwarding. Instead of waiting hours, if not days, for quotes and confirmation or scheduling of a pickup, freight forwarding software integrations enable a turnkey quoting process. And such functions are vital across all modes, especially as capacity tightens and time becomes more of the essence in everyday activities.
Today’s independent forwarders and their clients, who often have their own end-user clients, need to be able to bypass all the back and forth, and valuable time wasted exchanging the same basic messages over and over again. This cuts down on response time, increases service level, and helps build more loyal clients and repeat revenue over time. And when the end-user and shippers win, so too do the forwarder.
14. Customer Facing Portal
A customer-facing portal is yet another feature to look for in a world-class freight forwarding system software. A customer-facing portal eliminates many of the unneeded data points housed within your system and ensures your partnering providers, or customers, can access the right information. This also gives forwarder’s clients the ability to request quotes on-demand and from any device, even those that haven’t yet downloaded a software app, which is yet another benefit of choosing Cargologik too. Additionally, these portals need to be designed in a user-friendly way, and the best platforms that are aware of this, build their product and software in a way that makes the user experience seamless and smooth. When this happens, the customers are happier, NPS scores go up, and again, more loyal revenue and clients come back and get referred to your forwarding or brokerage business.
15. Rapid Search Tools to Find Shipment Details
The last core feature to look for when choosing a freight forwarding platform is the most universal to all the 14 features listed thus far: it’s the ability to leverage rapid search tools to find information on-demand regardless of its medium. This includes emails, chats, carrier-generated updates, exception notifications, and documents. It’s this universal search tool that can do the most for reducing inefficiencies and promoting a more strategic and successful freight shipping tech stack. If all software had google’s magical usage capabilities, meaning having the ability to simply put in a few words, and achieve the most relevant results quickly, becomes a major advantage on both the internal and external sides of the forwarding process.
Choose the Right International Freight Forwarding System Software to Succeed
Freight forwarding is only growing more complex, and delays in back-office processes will lead to massive losses throughout your team’s efficiency and productivity. More technology, tools, and data feeds are giving us more and more information, to which the task of operating on the data becomes that much more difficult. Avoid these issues by partnering with a world-class forwarding software that includes all the above features and more within a singular, advanced, and data-backed solution. Choose Cargologik, so sign up for Cargologik to get started today to start scaling up your business and client base.