As traditional offline and paper processes fail to keep up with demands for speed and visibility, some freight and logistics companies have incorporated new high-tech solutions to streamline operations. But many have also been hesitant.
With changes accelerating and investment pouring in, freight forwarders need to start digitizing now to remain competitive and thrive in the imminent digitized logistics environment.
Emerging technology leaves an “uneven” playing field
For decades, many freight forwarding companies did not feel the urgency to adopt new, emerging technology outside of their operating systems. Instead they held on to their current and proven processes, not wanting to risk the potential complications and downsides that can come with integrating new tech – like losing the human touch to their services.
But the pressure to digitize is growing and seems to be coming from all sides.
“I think there are a couple of really key forces driving digitization,” said Julian Alvarez, CEO of logistics technology startup Logixboard. “Over the last few years, there’s been a lot of digital freight forwarding companies, or leading digital first forwarders, coming into the space who are raising a lot of venture capital and ultimately changing the end-user expectations of what working with a freight forwarding company should look and feel like.”
Many traditional freight forwarders hold onto the belief that these digital-first forwarders are not able to execute, lacking the expertise and networks to back their sophisticated technology. Whether or not this belief is true, as one leading digital-first forwarder begins transitioning from their current CEO to former Amazon Head of Worldwide Consumer, Dave Clark, it would appear significant investments are being made into “operational excellence” in order to dispel this belief – and quite possibly the competitive advantage currently held by traditional freight forwarders.
These investments in the industry, along with COVID-19 and supply chain disruptions, have all served to increase the demand from freight forwarder customers for more visibility and a better digital customer experience.
Those that have responded to these pressures to improve the customer experience appear to be benefiting from it. Those that have resisted are quickly becoming at risk of falling behind.
Finding even ground
Letting technology maximize productivity and combat operational inefficiencies will be a benefit for both freight forwarding teams and their customers.
According to Alvarez, technology should be viewed as a way to enhance the human touch and customer experience, not replace it.
“The digitization of customer-facing applications is not going to be stopped,” Alvarez said. “If you look five to 10 years out, everyone is going to have to have a platform where they can service their customers online in a really seamless way. There are companies that believe in making that change now and there are others that believe they can wait. Ultimately, they will all have to make that change. It’s just a matter of how much pressure they’ll have to feel first.”
He also added that lagging technology restricts growth. Many companies are not able to scale up because, without adding more people, older processes are not able to accommodate for additional clients.
Despite efforts to make the process as seamless as possible, leveling up your technology requires change and change can be challenging. A lot of care and attention needs to be placed on making the transition with minimal disruption to the business and a short time-to-value for the new tech. Partnering with companies like Logixboard that understand the best processes for change management is critical, Alvarez said.
Winning with technology
The freight forwarding companies that are behind in technology possess the expertise to remain competitive. All they need now are the proper tools.
“While the foundations of good customer service stay the same, customer expectations and the way we deliver great service are constantly shifting,” said Jason Fowler, president of Air and Sea, a transportation company that provides complete multimodal shipping and logistics solutions. “Digitizing our customer experience is helping us evolve and enhance, and it’s also helping us get a foot in the door with more new business.”
Logixboard offers a direct integration dashboard that puts everything freight forwarders need for their customers in one place, including tracking, visibility, invoicing, reporting and more. The company helps freight forwarders and customs brokers worldwide modernize and digitize their customer offering in order to level up and exceed growing expectations in the fast-paced market.
Logixboard integrates with customers’ existing technology, using the system that houses their data and complementing it with third-party data to deliver a customized, seamless and modern interface to customers.
Digitizing ensures that traditional freight forwarders are able to combine their existing expertise and networks with new technology to create a competitive advantage. Or, at least an even playing field to stand on.