Online Freight Forwarding: Easing International Shipping for SMBs!

Online Freight Forwarding

With more customers ordering goods online than ever before, the margin of error for mistakes in shipping and logistics has become that much smaller. Simply put: A poor delivery experience will likely lose an SMB their customer.

Logistics operations are notoriously difficult and expensive to set up, especially for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Margins are low and resource needs are high, both stumbling blocks for the average SMB. Thankfully, digital freight forwarding is presenting SMBs with a unique solution.

Here’s how online freight forwarding is easing international shipping for SMBs.

Reducing unit shipping costs

Shipping packages to customers, whether international or domestic, poses serious challenges for an SMB. From packaging and inventory to navigating the minefield of payment acceptance, modern shipping solutions are expensive to build from scratch.

Digital freight forwarding helps SMBs access industry-leading expertise for a fraction of the in-house cost. Digital freight forwarders help SMBs book deliveries from any platform and access lower shipping rates. The freight forwarder passes on their wholesale prices to individual SMBs by combining several small deliveries into a single large order.

Some online freight forwarding solution providers go the extra mile to mitigate cash flow issues. For instance, some offer SMBs the option to buy now and pay later. SMBs can book shipments and spread payments interest-free across several months to minimize cash flow disruption.

In addition, freight forwarders also help SMBs understand the implications of international duties and tariffs. An SMB shipping from North America to the EU has to navigate a web of VAT and paperwork or risk their customers not receiving the package. 

A digital freight forwarder helps SMBs understand the additional costs involved and create transparent pricing for international customers.

Handling complex supply chain issues

Many modern SMBs find themselves dealing with international suppliers and fulfillment agents when delivering packages to customers in a certain region. While dealing with local suppliers reduces costs, this decision brings management challenges for SMBs.

Cultural differences can negatively impact customer experiences. For instance, a product might not arrive on spec as a customer expects due to miscommunication in the supply chain. An international digital freight forwarder usually has local staff that mitigates such issues and offers supply chain visibility.

Their vast network of logistics partners also ensures SMBs work with only the most trusted local partners, minimizing any impact on their customers. Given their experience in handling goods, digital freight forwarders are highly experienced in sorting out documentation and manually filing declarations.

Document handling alone gives SMBs an edge, given the arcane list of documents international goods must be accompanied with. The result is minimal supply chain disruption and great customer experience.

Boosting customer experience

Modern consumers expect fast shipping times, as evidenced by the rise of next-day shipping in the eCommerce industry. An SMB competing with an online seller must offer nimble shipping options while keeping costs under control. Digital freight forwarders solve this issue, whether the SMB ships locally or internationally.

SMBs receive access to the latest shipment data, helping them give customers visibility into package statuses. The self-service nature of such portals reduces any need for SMBs to man their phones at all times and address customer shipping queries.

Freight forwarders also handle tricky “last-mile” deliveries, referring to the delivery stretch from the final sorting warehouse to the customer’s doorstep. Given their extensive experience and network, freight forwarders deliver goods to customers reliably, enhancing an SMB’s reputation and competitive stance.

When shipping internationally, digital freight forwarders help SMBs navigate and plan around international shipping delays and routes. Best of all, SMBs can give their customers visibility into delays and causes, reducing any negative perceptions they might have.

Route planning

While route planning is technically a subset of supply chain management, it deserves its section due to the complexities within it. Planning a delivery route is not as simple as picking the shortest route between two locations. 

Weather, local regulatory conditions, tax conditions, and storage charges are critical variables in figuring out an ideal route. Often, the shortest route tends to take the most time due to local conditions. For instance, a portion of a route might experience adverse weather conditions.

SMBs are not equipped to consider all these factors when shipping products to customers. Digital freight forwarders use their experience and supply chain know-how to design optimal routes that balance costs and customer expectations.

For example, when shipping internationally, a freight forwarder might avoid customs zones notorious for lengthy delays. Past experience helps immensely, and SMBs can access this at a cost-effective price. The result is a happy customer and low unit shipping costs.

Removing shipping complexity

Given the online nature of modern business, SMBs must work with digital freight forwarders to eliminate delays in getting goods to customers. Experience and knowledge of industry best practices help freight forwarders give SMBs the boost they need to compete with eCommerce sellers and put their best foot forward.

Online Freight Forwarding article and permission to publish here provided by Hazel Raoult. Originally written for Supply Chain Game Changer and published on June 28, 2023.

Cover image by Bob from Pixabay