When talking about the digitalization of the ocean freight industry, one common sentiment held by both the media and industry experts is that the race towards the digitalization of the sector has begun. Slowly (in comparison with other industries) but surely, technology has permeated the industry’s main processes and is a key focus of important players.
There are, however, differences in opinions regarding certain aspects of digitalization, such as its advantages and disadvantages, the opportunities and challenges the sector faces upon full adaptation, and how digitalization will redefine the sector over the next five or ten years. This comes as no surprise, given the varying roles and responsibilities of the different players in the industry. Digitalization will affect them in different ways, and each will have its own specific way of adopting technology.
This wave of digitalization also has to be looked at and valued from the non-provider point of view; that is, the shipper. That said, we set out to find out what shippers really think about the current state of the ocean freight industry and the digitalization of its services.
Despite the surprisingly low number of freight forwarders and shipping companies that have begun adapting to technology, figures from our study show an overall interest from shippers in the digital ocean freight services:
Has the industry really started to embark on its technological transformation? What are the main benefits of managing ocean freight services online? What is it that shippers value the most about digital freight forwarders and what do they think can be improved?
Here are the results of our study on what shippers think about the digitalization of ocean freight services.
Survey was sent to more than 500 companies, of which 200 (40%) responded.
Method: Distribution via email and social media
Dates: Between May 1 and May 15, 2018
Profile of respondents: Managers and executives of companies that engage ocean freight services for import or export purposes.
Nearly an ubiquitous yes here, with 96% of the respondents indicating their opinion that technology adds value to users dealing with operations and procedures in ocean freight.
67% of those surveyed say they’ve begun to see signs that the sector has started its technological transformation.
75% of those surveyed believe this will happen within the next five years.
72% of respondents indicate that they’re clients of a digital freight forwarder.
With regards to the services of a digital freight forwarder, 46% of those surveyed say they value the convenience of managing their documents online.
23% enjoyed instant quote features, 17% quality-to-price ratio, and 14% like the wider range of routes and rates offered.
58% of respondents would like to see more competitive prices from digital freight forwarders, while another 20% indicate that they’d like to see more efforts towards building trust.
The different aspects of traditional freight forwarders shippers would like improved include ease of handling documents (22%), followed by price transparency (20%), and speed of offering container shipping rates (16%).
Others also indicated longer office hours (14%) and better customer service (11%).
"The problem with these costs is that they’re often impossible to predict and are thus hardly ever considered when analyzing and comparing ocean freight rates"
Klaus Lydsal, vice president of operations at iContainers