Instead of attending international conferences to engage their complex networks and logistical needs, freight forwarders have had to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many forwarders are leveraging technology to navigate the buying and selling terms between manufacturers and importers, as well as provide trusted recommendations. Needless to say, those online platforms are experiencing success.
The Israel-based software company All Forward, launched in 2020, is one such platform, calling itself “the Zoom of freight forwarding” for its ability to bring quick visibility and interaction to worldwide partners. Its massive user-growth in recent months makes it one of the biggest existing networks of forwarders, after networks such as WCA.
“All Forward’s platform takes the place of those face-to-face conferences that have been canceled by giving people the opportunity to recommend others to join in, people they know are valuable and like working with,” said Derek Scarborough, founder of Global Logistical Connections Inc. in Compton, California.
Using All Forward’s platform, freight forwarders can chat with a fast-growing global directory of partners and get immediate access to pricing and shipping routes. Unlike other networks with high membership fees, All Forward offers its expansive network to freight forwarders for no charge. They can even read reviews and ratings given by other forwarders to build trust.
“For freight forwarders, it’s critical to be able to compete with multinational corporations like FedEx and UPS that have their own offices all over the place,” Scarborough said. “The agent network is critical.”
With 20 years of freight-forwarding experience under their belt, the founders of All Forward — Yoav Dror, Oren Gilad, Sefi Shaked and Jonathan Ben-Zvi — have succeeded in connecting forwarders with one another in hopes of mitigating risk. In light of COVID-19, the phenomenal growth rate of users pushes All Forward into competition with the top forwarding networks.
Knowing that 250,000 forwarders exist worldwide and the average forwarder works with just 30 of them, the All Forward team has leveraged technology to make the right, trusted connection in a digital platform. Its network’s immense growth is a testament to these intelligent and timely strategies.
“A forwarder who needs to ship 20 containers to a new country will first ask his network if they know a good and reliable forwarder in that country,” said Dror. “He will have to take his colleague’s word and trust a new foreign forwarder he has never worked with before. The main asset of every forwarder is his reputation. With our platform, he will never have to risk it.”
While there are Facebook and LinkedIn groups for forwarders to use when trying to expand their network, they must still trust the advice of strangers, without credible reviews or ratings.
“Through the other networks, we’d have to email other forwarders, schedule a meeting and reach out again to double check,” Scarborough said. “With All Forward, it’s as simple as a click of a button and you’re able to connect to different people as long as they’re online. You can incorporate several members into one city together and be able to have a mini-tutorial about their local situation. From the portal, we could reach out quickly to somebody sitting in Italy, Israel or Nigeria and request rates.”
Buying and selling terms between manufacturers and importers vary from country to country. For example, Israel will use local freight forwarders to make decisions on pricing for its imports, but Scarborough said Israel will need a U.S. forwarder to confirm pickup costs and export fees.
“So All Forward not only gives us access to rates, but it gives us the platform to get opportunities,” said Scarborough.