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Ocean Freight Spoiler Alert: Here’s What We’ve Learned

Jun 29, 2018, 12:35:04 PM / by Fauad Shariff

Here at CoLoadX, one of our founding principles is transparency. We strongly believe that with more information, everybody in the ocean freight industry (both Freight Forwarders and NVOCC’s) wins. But that’s not just how we built our product. Whereas many startup companies keep their learnings close to the vest, we’d like to share what we’ve learned over the past few years by interacting with customers and watching how they use our platform. So here are four conclusions we hope you’ll find useful.

Prices matter, but they’re not everything

Of course, the economics of logistics depends on dollars and cents, but the value you deliver to your customers isn’t purely economic. You may have noticed that our homepage promises “The Best Rate for Your Ocean Freight.” And while “best” often means least expensive, we embrace a broader definition that includes, transit times, carriers and other important factors. We analyze how our customers use our search, filter, and booking functions, and we’ve found that they find it extremely valuable to compare capacity options in their entirety, not just by price.

Human expertise isn’t obsolete

On the one hand, a benefit of the the CoLoadX approach is standardizing information about shipping options so users can reliably compare their choices “apples to apples.” And while that’s very helpful for objective criteria like price and capacity, in the end Forwarders must be 100% certain that their freight will arrive safely and in a reliable time frame. That’s something that -- even with today’s technology -- simply can’t be fully automated. And it’s why we have a dedicated team of logistics experts to manage issues like documentation and exceptions handling. Ocean freight still isn’t as simple as buying something on Amazon, and our customers appreciate that we have representatives with decades of experience available to ensure smooth sailing.

Innovation is a line, not a dot

As a tech company, of course we are always preaching the gospel of technology and innovation. But we also understand that taking risk on new technologies is hard. Our customers want to maximize their opportunities, but they also need to minimize risk. They need to decide what to invest in and when.

What we’ve found is that adopting new technology is seldom the result of one “aha moment.” It is a process. The ones who have had the most success have gradually learned what their customers need and have adopted technology to meet that demand. As we say in the startup world, “let your customers build your product.” We’ve been impressed by the industry’s willingness to partner with us in innovation, but we’ve also learned that patience is a virtue. In the end, the motivation to innovate will always come by relationships with your customers and your ability to learn alongside them.

Ocean freight professionals are smart and curious

A lot of company blogs offer nothing more than self-promotion and public relations. We’ve tried a different approach, and it’s taught us an important lesson about how to work with our industry. We spend a lot of time crafting quality content, and we always apply three criteria before we publish anything:

  1. Is it relevant?
  2. Is it interesting?
  3. Does it have something new to say?

By applying these criteria, we’ve found ourselves not only writing about the intricacies of ocean freight, but also about broader issues of logistics, supply chain, e-commerce, retail, and global trade. The results have exceeded our every expectation. Thousands of people read and engage with our content by sharing and interacting on social media, citing us in prominent industry publications, and contacting us with their feedback.

The point here is not to pat ourselves on the back (although if you’ve read this far, it’s certainly a good sign!) What it tells us is that our audience of ocean-freight insiders aren’t just interested in industry minutia. They are forward-thinking and have a broad interest in topics in the wider world that can affect their business in the medium- and long-term as well.

We’ve gleaned these learnings by consistently trying new approaches, conducting many experiments, and, most importantly, listening to our customers. This approach will continue to guide how we continue to build CoLoadX in the coming months and years. And we hope that, by being transparent, this will help you grow your business the same way we have grown ours.

Topics: Freight Forwarding, NVOCC's, Freight Forwarders, Logistics, Startups, CoLoadX, Innovation

Written by Fauad Shariff

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