For many companies transporting products around the world, such as ecommerce brands, a freight forwarding supplier is a crucial logistics partner. In fact, the freight forwarding industry is expected to reach $285.2 billion in 2031, driven by increased globalization and online shopping trends.
Freight forwarders specialize in helping businesses move their goods from one location to another, working with a global network of transportation and shipping partners. Not only do they help you to book shipments, but they can negotiate rates with carriers (reducing costs), and provide access to services like document processing, and insurance.
However like any partner in the business world, not all freight forwarders are created equally. To choose the right supplier for your solution, you need to consider a number of key factors.
Choosing Your Freight Forwarding Supplier
Choosing the right freight forwarding supplier can be more complex than it seems. Different businesses offer unique levels of service and support. Some focus exclusively on larger brands and enterprises, while others can work hand-in-hand with SMBs and growing companies.
So, how do you start your search?
Step 1: Choose your Own, or Use a Recommendation?
Depending on the structure of your company, you may be working with a variety of suppliers and vendors to access products or materials, and ship them to different locations. These suppliers could already have relationships with freight forwarders, which they recommend to you.
If you’re struggling to get started, taking the recommendation of a supplier could be a good idea. However, choosing your own freight forwarding supplier gives you a lot more freedom.
When you make your own decision of who to work with, you get to control the entire shipment journey, and the logistics strategies you use. Plus, you can take your time to select a supplier that offers the additional services and support your company needs.
Step 2: Traditional or Digital?
If you decide to select your own freight forwarder (which we recommend), the next step is deciding what type of partner you want to work with.
Traditional freight forwarders are companies that rely heavily on manual processes, like exchanging paperwork and communicating directly with companies over the phone and email. They can sometimes offer bespoke services and unique deals to larger companies, though they rarely choose to work with smaller brands.
Online or digital freight forwarding suppliers are a little different. They digitize many of the freight forwarding processes, from finding quotes, to booking deliveries, saving businesses time and money. They can also offer access to more tools for tracking your shipments, and automating processes.
Step 3: Examining Expertise
Now it’s time to look into the expertise and experience of the freight forwarders you’re considering working with. When handling something as crucial as logistics, make sure you’re working with a vendor that understands your business operations, as well as the supply chain landscape.
The best freight forwarder should know how to keep your cargo safe, protect you from disruptions, and guide you through the customs process. As mentioned above, some freight forwarders specialize in serving specific companies, such as those shipping hazardous or delicate products.
Others focus on businesses of a specific size, such as large enterprises or SMBs. Finding a supplier with experience working with companies like yours will make it easier to access services and support relevant to your brand.
Step 4: Examine Service Options
One factor that can make choosing the right freight forwarding supplier so complex is that not every company offers the same range of services and solutions. Some companies can offer door-to-door shipment options, which reduces the need to hire an additional service to move products from a port to a specific location or warehouse.
Other companies can offer access to flexible payment terms to help you manage your cashflow, or support in the form of additional capital. If you choose a digital or online freight forwarding company, these organizations can offer different services too.
Most will offer a comprehensive platform where you can search for delivery quotes and manage communications with partners. However, there are also companies that can give you access to real-time order tracking tools, so you can monitor the movements of your shipments at any time.
Step 5: Consider Budget and Pricing
While freight forwarding will always have some expense associated with it, the supplier you choose can make a huge difference to how much you spend. Most freight forwarders work with their global networks to offer access to “exclusive rates” for certain types of shipments.
However, not all of these vendors will offer the same rates to every type of customer. If you’re a smaller business, a traditional freight forwarder might not give you the same deals. Ideally, you should look for a vendor that gives you a range of options to choose from.
Being able to sort through real-time quotes should mean you can make the best decision based on your budget. Just remember not to cut corners when you’re booking the shipments you need.
Step 6: Ensure Scalability and Flexibility
Finally, it’s important to remember that the ideal freight forwarding supplier should be able to grow and evolve with your company. The services and solutions you need now might not be the same as those you need in the future, as your business expands.
A good freight forwarding provider should be able to adapt with you, both in the short term and long-term. They should be able to accommodate sudden changes to your shipping needs, and offer alternative options such as train or sea freight depending on your requirements.
Great forwarders should also make it simple to scale your business, ensuring you can book, manage, and track as many shipments as necessary without complexity.
Choosing the Right Freight Forwarding Supplier
Selecting a freight forwarding supplier to support your business as it scale across geographical borders can be a complex process. However, taking the time to find the ideal partner can make a huge difference to your future cash flow, business operations, and your chances of success.
Pick the right vendor to work with, and you can save money on crucial shipping costs, streamline complex processes, and navigate the difficulties of global shipping with relative ease.