Digital forwarders gaining traction in a global forwarding market characterised by uneven change, new Ti report finds

30th May, 2019, Bath, United Kingdom – Digital forwarders gaining traction in a global forwarding market characterised by uneven change, new Ti report, Global Freight Forwarding 2019, finds.
  • Traditional forwarders must recognise online forwarding disruptors as a catalyst of change – they will rapidly lose customers looking for better visibility, quotation and easy booking options if they don’t.
  • 49% of shippers that took part in a market-wide survey have used an online forwarding platform
  • By 2023, nearly one fifth (18.7%) of volumes are expected to be booked/shipped through online forwarding platforms, according to survey respondents
  • Global freight forwarding market grew 3.9% in 2018. Growth slowed from the levels seen in 2017, but the expansion is still one of the fastest seen since 2010.

Digital forwarding platforms are rapidly gaining traction in a global forwarding market characterised by uneven change. Technology is creating a vast range of forwarding options available to shippers across the globe from online booking and quotation through to visibility tools and ‘control towers’. However, “perhaps the most salient characteristic of the present freight forwarding market is that it has not seen a greater level of change. Markets and technologies have both developed significantly, but the overall landscape is broadly similar to that in the previous ten years and there appears to be little drive within the sector to change things fundamentally” said Thomas Cullen, one of the report’s co-authors.

Tech-enabled forwarders are a catalyst for change in the global forwarding market, the report finds, but still under question is the extent to which online marketplaces, booking platforms and digital forwarders will fundamentally change the market’s landscape. What does seem certain is that if forwarders do not prove agile in their adoption of new technology, they will find that they rapidly lose customers looking for the types of visibility, quotation and easy booking which digital forwarders can provide.

The conclusion is supported by an extensive market-wide survey carried out for the report, which found that not only had 49% of participating shippers used an online forwarding platform, but that respondents expect nearly a fifth (18.7%) of all their volumes to be booked/shipped through such a platform by 2023.

The report’s co-author, Viki Keckarovska, commented, “Survey results show that, currently, shippers are making use of the more basic services provided by online forwarding platforms, such as booking and requesting quotes. While this indicates that online platforms aren’t yet widely used to process more complex tasks, it isn’t to say that their technology won’t advance and offer shippers more sophisticated visibility tools and value-added services.”

Global Freight Forwarding 2019 also examines market size and growth rates, concluding that, in real terms, the global forwarding market expanded 3.9% in 2018. Although this is down from 8.0% in 2017, it still represents something of a high point – excluding 2017, this was the fastest growth rate since 2010. After a bumper year in 2017, 2018’s growth rate was the result of a rebalancing between inventories and demand as shippers were again more able to opt for sea freight services over air. Growth during 2018 in the global air freight market was 3.8%, while in sea freight the expansion totalled 4.1%.

Ti’s Global Freight Forwarding 2019 report examines key trends in the global forwarding market, including:

  • The state and disruption of the global forwarding market
  • The threats and opportunities tech-enabled forwarders face over the next 5 years.
  • The changing role of freight forwarders in global supply chains.

The report contains:

  • Market sizes and forecasts of global, regional and country level air and sea freight forwarding markets.
  • Detailed analysis of the present and future of freight forwarding.
  • Comprehensive profiles of the largest freight forwarders.
  • An evaluation of technology in freight forwarding.
  • Analysis of Ti’s Online Forwarding Market survey by Ti’s CEO, John Manners-Bell.

For more information regarding the Global Freight Forwarding 2019 report, please click here or contact Sarah Smith at [email protected]


About Ti: Transport Intelligence (Ti) is the leading source of market research and intelligence for the global supply chain and logistics industry. Since its founding in 2002, the company has delivered a range of research products and consulting solutions to the world’s largest retailers, banks, consultancies, shipping lines and logistics providers, and become trusted advisors to global institutions such as the World Economic Forum, the World Bank, the UN and the European Commission.

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