Almost half of shippers participating in survey have used an online forwarding platform and expect nearly a fifth of their volumes to be booked or shipped through such a platform by 2023.
Tech-enabled forwarders are a catalyst for change in the global forwarding market but questions remain over how much they will change the landscape.
DIGITAL freight forwarding platforms are rapidly gaining traction in a global forwarding market characterised by “uneven change”, according to the new Global Freight Forwarding 2019 report from Transport Intelligence, which found that almost half of shippers participating had used an online forwarding platform.
The report notes that 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, Thomas Cullen, one of the report’s co-authors, points out that “perhaps the most salient characteristic of the present freight forwarding market is that it has not seen a greaterlevel of change.”
He added: “Markets and technologies have both developed significantly, but the overall landscape is broadly similar to that in the previous 10 years and there appears to be little drive within the sector to change things fundamentally.”
The report said tech-enabled forwarders “are a catalyst for change in the global forwarding market”, but said it was “still under question the extent to which online marketplaces, booking platforms and digital forwarders will fundamentally change the market’s landscape.”
It noted that: “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.”
It said this conclusion was 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 or 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% in 2017, it still represents something of a high point; excluding 2017, this was the fastest growth rate since 2010, the report noted.
“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,” the report noted. Growth during 2018 in the global air freight market was 3.8%, while in sea freight the expansion totalled 4.1%.