Comparison and booking websites
Price comparison and booking websites, a concept introduced in the mid 90’es in the airline ticketing industry and later in the hotel industry, seem to finally be gaining some ground within freight forwarder shipping too. A Google™ search of “compare freight forwarder” reveals a handful of strong candidates – but there are a few things to consider before making your selection of which freight forwarder price comparison website to place your booking on.
Price comparison and booking websites can be a major benefit to customers. It saves time in finding a freight forwarder, getting the rates and making the comparison, as they can instantly compare prices and service at the click of a button. It also ensures clarity on a market level price, and allows choice based on real differentiators such as transit time, cost, proximity to warehouses and other customers’ feedback. In addition, customers avoid the hassle of disputing invoices and surprises of later unexpected costs.
Traditionally, the decision on which freight forwarder to use has been based on personal relationships, trust and prior experience with the forwarder. With increased commoditisation of freight forwarding products, and a general high level of service and accuracy now offered by the majority of established freight forwarders, it is now possible to base the freight forwarder decision more on metrics. These metrics are made available by comparison and booking sites, making it easy to get an overview of the market in your particular trade. Here you will find a few recommendations for making your first online freight forwarder booking a good experience.
Know the freight forwarder
Ideally, you want to book directly with the freight forwarder. This will increase your flexibility in case of any later amendments to the shipment as you can deal with the forwarder’s customer service team directly. So use comparison and bookings sites, which merely facilitate a shipper/forwarder contractual relationship. You can recognize these websites as they display logo, company name, and contact details of the forwarders together with the different services options. When you confirm and pay for your booking, the terms and conditions would usually also refer directly to the freight forwarder standard terms. You are thereby certain that you buy from the forwarder, and not from the website.
Check out this article on what you can expect from a good freight forwarder to get more of an idea of what you’re looking to find out.
Instant pricing and immediate invoicing
If you ship general cargo and you want to limit the time you spend on dealing with a forwarder, make sure to use a booking site, which offer immediate settlement and confirmation of the booking. Thereby you know that you have paid the complete cost of the shipment and avoid any future surprises. The alternative is to use an RFQ site (request for quote), which sends your shipping requirements out in a bid to associated freight forwarders. This, however, can be a tedious process and once again require manual comparison of quotes, which are usually not easily comparable.
This article on how freight rates are calculated provides more information.
Know what you are buying
When you specify your requirements on the freight forwarder comparison site, ensure you get an overview of exactly what is included in the rate. This will make comparison possible and ensure that you don’t get any unexpected invoices later in the process. In general, there are seven steps in the shipping process, which needs to be paid for every shipment, either by shipper or consignee. Agree this up front, and determine how big a part of this you want to buy from the freight forwarder online. See our blog to learn more about ‘The Seven Steps of International Shipping’.
Not only a benefit to customers
Interestingly, this development in the logistics industry benefits not only the customers. For the forwarder, the comparison websites offer an opportunity to offer their services to customers they would otherwise not be able to reach. By introducing on online sales channel and increasing cargo volumes, they should be able reduce unit cost with increased productivity or negotiating power. The comparison websites enables real time rate adjustments, which allow increased utilization of containers with consolidated shipments. This would eventually benefit both the customer and the environment. And lastly, it sends a strong signal that the freight forwarder has acknowledged that online is part of how we do business in the 21st century.
All in all, these freight forwarder comparison and booking websites are a step in the right direction of making everyone’s job less complex. Perhaps the biggest winner of all is the international trade in general: with efficiency improved and procedures more visible from all angles, the waters surrounding the international trade just got (literally) much easier to navigate. Surely this is a major positive change for all in the business. Everyone wins indeed.