‘Mystery shopped’ forwarders reveal lack of tech-savvy

freightos_logo_bigHow in touch are you with your customers online? Before you answer, check out this customer service project conducted by freight sales software firm Freightos. The rather dismal results are further evidence that the logistics industry has yet to keep pace with the online world.

In the experiment, set up like a “mystery shopping” experiment, Freightos interacted with the websites from the world’s top 20 global freight forwarding websites asking for identical quotes for an LCL shipment from China to Chicago. The companies were chosen from the Armstrong & Associates 2013 list of top forwarders (the same firm that calculated Air Cargo World’s Power 25 list). The quote  request used the name of a well-established company, providing shipping requirements of a rapidly growing, mid-size U.S. based wholesaler. In the case of websites without a quote-request page, the mystery shopper used the “contact us” form. If either of those were missing, a quote request wasn’t submitted.

It should be noted up front that Freightos is a company that sells online quote automation software, so the results of this exercise are hardly scientific or unbiased. Readers may draw their own conclusions about any marketing agenda behind Freightos’ survey. However, the data the company collected and published in a downloadable white paper still suggested a disturbing trend. To download the white paper click here.

What the experiment revealed is that 20 percent of the top 20 forwarders have neither an online quote function nor a “contact us” form to attract new business. And only 30 percent of the forwarders’ homepages have a dedicated call-to-action page to attract new shippers’ business. It took an average of 3.25 clicks to reach the appropriate place on a forwarder’s website to request a quote, and not one company provided instant online pricing for new inbound prospects that didn’t have login credentials.

It gets worse. Of the 16 forwarders that had quote-request capability, 75 percent – 15 companies – didn’t automatically confirm receiving the request. Three of those 15 never even responded and lost out altogether. Five of those who did respond required the mystery shipper to have several online conversations, indicating that the initial quote request form was insufficient. The forwarder with the fastest confirmation of a quote request took seven hours. And one forwarder refused to quote online, stating that quotes would only be provided after an in-person meeting.

As for the actual quotes, only 45 percent of the forwarders that were mystery-shopped provided a quote. The average quote time was 90 hours, with the most prompt response occurring in 30 hours. The slowest quote time was a full 840 hours – more than a month. And only five companies followed up after providing a quote to see if, perhaps, they would get the business.

The experiment concluded that while online business-to-business (B2B) sales are growing, the logistics industry has been slow to adopt online freight sales and bookings. This leaves the market wide open for  more ambitious, tech-savvy forwarders to jump in and expand their business. Market research firm Frost and Sullivan predicted that online B2B sales will reach almost US$7 trillion dollars by 2020, which is 27 percent of global manufacturing trade. When price is not a factor, 71 percent of B2B buyers will switch suppliers when they are provided with an outstanding online experience, the survey found.

This all ties into IATA’s call for the freight forwarding and logistics professionals to step up to the plate and get up to speed in the rapidly growing online landscape, including the implementation of electronic airway bills. What’s it going to take?


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