Traditional vs. Digital Freight Forwarding: Can’t We Just Be Friends?

In this op-ed, Logixboard’s Business Development Manager of the EMEA region Jon Bass voices his thoughts on the state of the freight forwarding industry today. He shares his observations on the split between traditional and digital forwarders, and how both parties can come together to move the industry forward.

Hear Jon discuss the topic more in-depth on episode #29 of Sam Greenhalgh’s What’s in the Box? podcast.

A few months ago, I had a very strange interaction on LinkedIn. Essentially the sentiment was, “Oh, you work for that side of the industry… good luck.”

And it got me thinking, why do we always seem to want to create sides?

Exploring both “sides” of the industry

Having worked 10 years in the traditional freight forwarding industry at companies like Kuehne + Nagel, Agility, and Uniserve, I’ve spent a lot of time inside the engine rooms of freight forwarders. From those experiences, I gained a strong understanding of the challenges and quality of the work that takes place inside the engine rooms of freight forwarders.

During that time, I could also see that the continual investment into “digital freight forwarders” from venture capital firms was a sign that technology was a high priority for the industry. It also made me realize that I was personally very excited about that trend. So, I made the decision that I wanted to join a business on the tech and software side of the industry.

Over the next three years, I worked at the digital freight forwarder Beacon, where I learned a lot about SaaS, data, and customer experience. This was a great time in my career, and I really valued my time there in understanding the logistics tech space.

Now, having worked for both “sides” of the industry, I feel that I have a pretty fair perspective on both. It also makes me sad when I see such negativity around tech in the freight forwarding space.

Identifying the problem

There seems a real palpable desire to see the failure of tech and digital startups in the supply chain space, and I think that’s a real shame. Innovation in any industry should be encouraged. Whilst not all these tech disruptors are perfect or have all the answers, their very presence is helping to push things forward one way or another.

It shouldn’t be tech vs. customer service, digital vs. traditional, or data vs. experience. Really, we should all be striving to give our respective customers the very best service. In the end, that means combining knowledge and people skills with data and technology. 

In my humble opinion, creating technology without understanding the ins and outs of freight forwarding is just as short-sighted and problematic as being a forwarder with great customer service who is unwilling to embrace technology. Both these worlds exist, and we shouldn’t be trying to divide each other. Instead, we should be looking for ways to collaborate to deliver a truly better experience for shippers. 

Finding a solution

At Logixboard, we have created a user experience platform for shippers. But we don’t sell this to shippers– we sell it to freight forwarders. Why? Because we believe that whilst shippers want this level of insight and data in a digestible form, we want to use this software to empower freight forwarders.

Our customers already have the experience and know-how; our platform simply enhances their service to help them not only retain their existing customers, but also to go out and win new business.

This means that shippers, as a result, don’t have to choose between a “digital forwarder” who might lack the freight know-how and a traditional freight forwarder that can’t provide a customer experience platform. Now, they can get the best of both worlds– an experienced logistics partner they can trust, and a place to visualize their shipment data in a shipper-friendly environment.

There is so much we can all gain from being a little more open to working together, rather than against each other. All in all, my question is a simple one: Can’t we all just be friends?

Got any thoughts or opinions you’d like to discuss? Connect with Jon on LinkedIn to continue the conversation.


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