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How e-Business is Revolutionising International Shipping

How e-Business is Revolutionising International Shipping

The rise of the internet has had profound implications for a lot of industries. International shipping has seen a range of changes that are continuing to gather pace as e-commerce becomes increasingly embedded into people's day-to-day lives.

Anyone who is involved in the spot rate shipping industry stands to benefit from the speed with which the internet allows people to gather information and respond to enquiries. Having a system that is interconnected with the rest of the supply chain via the internet helps to ensure that freight forwarders and third-party logistics firms are able to meet the needs of the modern on-demand economy.

Online freight forwarding firms can offer customers a speedier, cheaper service due to increased automation and lower overheads. This helps them to acquire more customers for third-party logistics companies.

The growth of e-commerce also provides an incentive for freight forwarders and logistics companies to link their systems with online retailers. Currently, there is strong growth in e-commerce that crosses international borders. Logistics firms who want to gain a share of this market have good reason to want to move their services online.

New entrants to the market are driving innovation. In turn, established companies are finding new ways to do business in order to either resist the new entrants or adapt in order to maintain market share. As companies take on younger employees with experience in working online, these new staff members naturally begin to introduce new ideas.

Online data and rate service providers are among the new entrants. Transport management system providers are also entering in order to exploit the opportunities of online.

Freight forwarding is a natural fit for the internet. An online sales platform allows customers to make instant orders and allows the forwarder to automate much of the process. The platform can be hosted in the cloud, thereby allowing staff to access it from multiple sites.

Larger third-party logistics firms are also investing in online customer portals in order to help them efficiently manage their interactions with small and infrequent customers.

The main barriers to freight forwarding becoming an entirely online service are the need for orchestration, trust and the troubleshooting of issues that arise. Knowledge of customs and regulatory regimes is also required in order to stay on the right side of the law when transporting cargo across borders.

For these reasons, there remains some scepticism about the new breed of online-focused entrants to the world of logistics. Most decision makers at logistics firms believe that given the complexity of international shipping there will still be a role for traditional freight forwarders for some years to come.

For simpler forms of shipping transaction, such as port to port and spot business, online forwarding is already up to the task. But it may be some years before the more complex forms of shipping can be covered by online software rather than by a trained individual. Though few would bet against that day arriving at some point in the near future.