MIAMI – The big e-commerce players like Amazon and Alibaba tend to dominate the conversation surrounding e-commerce’s impact on cargo volume growth, but panelists at yesterday’s 2017 ELEVATE cargo conference said “one-on-one” relationships with smaller e-commerce businesses offer big opportunities for forwarders.
Robert Imbriani, executive vice president, international, with Team Worldwide, told conference attendees that although expectations surrounding delivery and e-commerce are changing, “Ultimately it’s still moving goods from point A to point B,” he said, adding that there are innovative ways to meet the rising expectations of e-commerce customers.
“Work with software companies that are creating e-commerce solutions to allow for the proper tracking and tracing of cargo, sharing of information and coordination of movements that maybe we didn’t use before – like postal systems and others for that last mile,” Imbriani said.
Smaller e-commerce sellers may not have the desire to manage their data and logistics themselves, but innovative logistics providers can offer products to them to capitalize on this information and help level the playing field of the e-commerce space. “It’s not about small, medium or large organizations,” said Dheeraj Kohli, vice president and global lead of travel and transportation for Unisys. “Once the data is integrated into a system,” the playing field is flat, he added.
Innovations that have contributed to e-commerce’s rapid growth in the airfreight space are also helping smaller sellers with logistics issues they might struggle to handle themselves. “Five years ago, if you wanted to start an e-commerce company, you’d have to hire engineering folks like me to create a new platform,” said ShipBob CEO Dhruv Saxena. Now, companies like ShipBob, which Saxena called a “tech-enabled 3PL,” offer services from order management and fulfillment to data analytics and reverse logistics for returns. Competing with the big players means promising the same- or next-day delivery that the big integrators offer, which means “having real-time access to inventories” across all its sales channels is vital, Saxena added.
Liege Airport’s commercial director, Steven Verhasselt, reiterated the earlier panel’s point that data sharing can increase efficiency at airports and for forwarders when it comes to e-commerce, but said forwarders are hesitant to get on board with data sharing programs because “individual players worry about their own part of the logistics chain with increases in efficiency.” The other issue, which Verhasselt called “the elephant in the room,” is that digitization comes with an up-front cost, and “it boils down to who is going to make the investment and who is going to make that first step?”