4 Ways Digital Forwarders are Changing the Game – and 4 Ways Established Forwarders Still Have an Upper Hand

by | Industry

With digital forwarders making waves in an already crowded global logistics market, are there lessons established forwarders can glean from the “new kid on the block”? What can you do to secure your market share and compete against digital freight forwarders? And where do you, in fact, hold the upper hand?

In the past five years, digital freight forwarders like Freighthub and Flexport have been shaking things up in the industry, attracting the attention of shippers and investors alike.

The massive global shipping industry has been ripe for change for quite some time now, and digital forwarders are introducing new efficiencies and a modern customer experience at a time when it’s needed most.

What does this new cohort of competition mean for established freight forwarders in an already crowded market? Are there lessons you can learn from the “new kid on the block”? What can you do to compete against digital freight forwarders? And where do you hold the upper hand?

 Key Takeaways

  • There lacks a standard definition of a digital forwarder. and as established forwarders ramp up their digital capabilities, the lines are blurring even more.

  • Digital forwarders are changing the game with enhanced customer experiences, faster response times, a better ability to scale according to demand, and more.
  • Established forwarders have distinct advantages that can’t be replicated overnight: diverse partner networks, local presence, in-depth hands-on experience, and more.

What is a digital forwarder?

As Cathy Morrow Robertson wrote in The Loadstar, if you ask half a dozen logistics industry insiders to define “digital freight forwarder,” you’ll get half a dozen different answers.

That was back in 2019, but not much has changed since then. There still isn’t a standard definition of a digital forwarder that’s accepted across the board.

In fact, it might be even murkier now, as established forwarders ramp up their digital capabilities and seek to offer better online experiences for their customers.

Whereas digital forwarders were once an emerging class of technology-first logistics providers, the lines are blurring. The students are quickly becoming the masters. Established forwarders are taking advantage of digital forwarder software like the Magaya Digital Freight Portal to modernize their businesses – and there are advantages for all stakeholders.


How Digital Forwarders Are Changing the Game

There are several areas where digital forwarders tend to outpace their established counterparts, including:

  • Enhanced customer experiences

Digital freight forwarders are poised to provide significantly improved customer experiences as compared to their traditional counterparts. By making it possible for customers to quickly access key information on-demand and making it easy for clients to connect with customer service agents, digital freight forwarders can stand out from the crowd.

  • Faster responses to information requests

No one likes waiting for answers. Digital platforms facilitate speedy replies to information requests, in turn reducing customer frustration. Where traditional firms might take days to respond when requests are made, digital-first organizations are equipped to answer most queries in mere minutes – or even faster.

  • Improved ability to react to change

If there’s one thing the last two years have made abundantly clear, it’s that change is constant in freight forwarding. And even as some processes return to near-normal, disruptions won’t simply disappear — and the market won’t stop evolving. Digital freight forwarders are better equipped to handle this change, pivot when needed, and experience minimal disruption to operations at scale.

  • Ability to scale on-demand

Speaking of scale, digital solutions make it possible for freight forwarders to scale key functions up or down on-demand. For example, companies can quickly add new data sources for quote information, or integrate additional carriers into their current roster to provide more choices for customers.

Where “traditional” forwarders retain a competitive edge

Despite the ongoing shift to digital, traditional forwarders still retain a competitive edge in some aspects of business operations, such as:

  • Established partner relationships

Traditional freight forwarders often have established relationships with other traditional companies to provide land, sea, and air shipping as well as logistical support. These partnerships can help companies cultivate an industry reputation for reliability which can, in turn, help them keep current clients and attract new customers.

  • Local “boots on the ground”

Traditional companies often have staff on-site at various satellite offices around the world. This allows them to understand existing cultural norms and prepare for potential shifts in government regulations, taxation, or audit procedures. Experienced staff on the ground can also help companies find and recruit new staff members with local ties to help streamline forwarding processes.

  • In-depth industry experience

Some traditional providers have been in the industry for decades, in turn allowing them to capture and amalgamate massive amounts of in-situ industry experience which can help them stay competitive.

  • Personalized service

Call it the Cheers Effect if you will: who doesn’t love attentive service “where everybody knows your name.” There’s something to be said for a personal, friendly approach. More established companies often prioritize in-person service that’s tailored to customer needs and can be customized to meet evolving client demands. It’s a level of customer experience that simply can’t be replicated with tools: even as technology evolves, the will always remain a place for professional service.

How Established Forwarders Can go Digital With the Magaya Digital Freight Portal

The Magaya Digital Freight Portal gets you quickly established as a digital freight forwarder to deliver the transparency, control, and ease of use that your customers have come to expect.

From quotations to schedules, bookings, shipments, tracking, and reporting, we’ve got you covered with a branded and customized web portal that will set your business apart from the rest.


Significantly improve your cost of sales by letting your customers quote online. Be it spot or contract rates, they’ll only see the pricing you’ve set up for them. Then, they can easily convert their quotes into bookings – in just a few clicks. saving time for both your customer – and your sales staff.


Set up your own schedule site in minutes! We give you the tools to get the carrier data you need, and our smart routing guide automatically picks the allocated one based on the customer’s search criteria. No more maintaining schedules manually or simply foregoing them entirely.


Instant acknowledgments for your customers, and less time keyboard punching for your operators. With the Magaya Digital Freight Portal, your customer can turn a schedule, quote, or P/O into a booking in seconds and we’ll push it into Magaya Supply Chain or your TMS/ERP instantly.


Give your customers 360-degree visibility, 100 percent of the time, and enable them to take care of their shipments – together with your team. With the Magaya Digital Freight Portal, your customers will have a full view of their running shipments with you at all times.

VisibilityTracking and Visibility

Your customers will always know the status of their warehouse inventory and the whereabouts of their shipments, without having to pick up the phone or send endless emails. You have full control over what milestones to show them. And customers can receive notifications to alert them when a milestone is updated or reached.


Maintaining visibility of many shipments, across multiple vendors, regions, and products is made easy with built-in reporting. Customers can create their own reports, analyzing any part of their business with you, and we’ll even email them their reports on a regular basis.

The Magaya Digital Freight Portal can work with your existing TMS, RMS, or ERP and also works out-of-the-box with Magaya Rate Management and Magaya Supply Chain, giving you the most comprehensive and feature-rich customer-facing freight platform on the market today.

Provide the connected experience your customers want, and bring your productivity to a whole new level with the Magaya Digital Freight Portal.

Ready to digitize and modernize your freight forwarding operations?

See how Magaya can help.