The age of Digitalization and Customer Intimacy

Posted on: March 19, 2021

A frontpage article in the New York Times over the weekend noted that, driven by the Pandemic, we are rapidly entering the age of Digitalization and customer intimacy.

This will pivot around digital interactivity and is critical to any company’s long-term success.

What does that mean and why is that important? What are the benefits and return on investment?

Digital customer intimacy will center around two or three key areas: rates, interactive operations (visibility on steroids), and invoicing / payment processing. Let’s take a look at interactive operations – that’s a big name for things like e-Bookings, where a shipper benefits from making the booking with the NVO / Forwarder online and sharing data with multiple parties simultaneously.

The first benefit is that the Shipper can save time making the booking and keep the data and the responses to that booking data in an organized place. The Shipper’s view of the booking can also include a quick reference to the allocations they’ve been given by that NVO / Forwarder so that they can track what has been committed to them and how they stand against that allocation.

The second big benefit is on the side of the NVO / Forwarder who can save time and effort managing a new booking in a single active workplace and look at allocation reports on a larger basis. The NVO / Forwarder will see a full view of space available by all of their carrier / vessel options utilizing a shared report that is constantly updated as a result of the booking process.

But the benefits go well beyond this point. The NVO / Forwarder local offices often rely on the assistance of their corporate HQ, who have centralized negotiation leverage with the carriers. This reinforces to the carrier at the HQ level their awarded space guarantees. The NVO / Forwarder who can respond quickly and accurately to shortfalls on the carriers’ part to provide committed space, will be the winners in this market. Traditionally, global distances have caused disconnected information flow.

Another big benefit comes with the interaction with the Importer at destination. Importers have been crying out for “Visibility” for the past 30 years. In a market where space is tight, e-Bookings provides visibility of shipment bookings as much as seven to eight (7-8) weeks in advance. Importers often want to approve bookings and adjust routings. As an example, an Importer could reroute a Los Angeles / Long Beach booking, redirecting it via Seattle / Tacoma where a fraction of the congestion exists. This is particularly beneficial to shipments destined to US inland points such as Chicago and New York.

It quickly becomes easy to see where interactivity leads to customer intimacy especially when there are more than just two parties involved.

One last note, a recent article that appeared in Lloyd’s List Maritime Intelligence© referenced parties “exchanging data”. This is an old EDI concept that the author is right to reject as having limited appeal. Interactivity is not about exchanging or sharing data, it’s about working together on the SAME data. Multiple parties are working together, adding their input, and collaborating to ensure the best possible outcome. That is the core definition of an intimate relationship.

International Supply Chains | Trade Tech

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