The “Top 25 Global Freight Forwarders” and Digital Marketing
Top 25 Global Freight ForwardersI develop digital strategies and tactics for independent freight forwarders. So when Armstrong and Associates released their list of the "Top 25 Global Freight Forwarders" I had to check it out (see the complete list at bottom of this post).
Surely they must know the secrets of the great Pharaohs and mystics that I could glean and then share. Hungry independent freight forwarders have thin margins and are always pressed for time. So the more tips we can apply to grow their business the better.
I decided to focus on a few key areas. Their overall website, public relations and communications, blogs, and their social media presence. What were they up to?
The results were a mixture of interesting and surprising. And I was able to uncover some similarities and missed opportunities.
They're doing some really good work and their digital strategy is being communicated and updated on a regular and consistent basis. But the same can not be said for all of the companies on the list.
Website: 100% of the forwarders have a website. The quality of the websites vary as does the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX). Some are very circa 2001.They are basically online brochures that have not been updated. Text heavy. Lack of color. No sliders or hero images. No video. No audio. And no social media icons.
Pretty much just the facts (and I suspect some of these companies still use their fax daily). I particularly notice this with some of the Asia forwarders including China and Japan. The mindset seems to be to tick the website box, provide track and trace functionality, but have little concern for design and modern style points.
About Us: 100% of the websites include descriptive text about who they are, and what they do. Typically this is on their "About Us" page. Some have information about the history and evolution of the company. And a few have information about their Board.
Language: 100% of the sites are available in English language. More than half provide at least one other language on the home page, One of the sites offers five different languages on the home page. Some of the Japanese sites have a US version which is a totally different website and URL. But the design and interface remains the same.
News Feed and PR: 100% of the companies have a company News Feed. These range from the simple archive of corporate press releases to extensive Media Centers. Those with Media Centers include image galleries, videos, white papers, social media links, company newsletters and publications. A few also include specific press contacts.
Blog: Today blogs are a critical tool to boost traffic and search engine ranking. But this memo has not yet reached many of the top freight forwarders.
Only 20% of the top 25 freight forwarders have a blog. I think this shows the lack of sophistication in their digital approach. Hosting a well maintained blog requires a greater commitment. There needs to be a content marketing and development strategy in place. However, done properly the impact and benefits could out weigh the costs.
Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO): None of the websites were optimized for conversion and effective funnel growth. There were no lead magnets, opt-ins, exit pops or other digital tactics that add value and ask site visitors to leave their email or other contact info. Now some had a join at the bottom of the page but it was really lost and I doubt if anyone is filling out those forms. These tools are common in B2C and increasingly growing in B2B industries.
Speaking of forms, some require you to complete an entire form to contact the company. We're talking complete name, physical mailing address, phone numbers and departments before you can even type in and submit a question. They do not know about CAPTCHAs. This is another massive fail as some of these companies generate annual revenue in excess of $4 billion.
Why not offer premium content and relevant information to develop relationships? With the level of monthly traffic these sites experience even a 2% conversion could reduce customer acquisition costs and add significant revenue to the bottom line.
Social Media: The image above shows "the percentage of Top Freight Forwarders utilizing each of these platforms". The most popular social platforms for freight forwarders of all sizes are LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and a case can be made for YouTube (with the importance of video).
Around 2012 when Google+ launched many forwarders jumped on the band wagon. Today we know G+ never lived up to the hype and promise of being the "Facebook killer". So many of these social presences are mainly littered with out-dated content and updates that stopped around mid-year 2015. About 12.5% of the Top Forwarders have a Google+ page.
Other Social Media: Popular social sites like Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Tumblr are in marginal personal use by some forwarders. But they have not gained traction for business. I would not expect significant change in the near term.
Independent freight forwarders and the Networks that represent them should attempt to capitalize. There is an opportunity to use digital media and marketing to connect directly to shippers and other forwarders. This will allow them to compete effectively and gain advantage in the marketplace. The playing field is level.
Combine your personal relationships with updated digital marketing. The increased pace of digital disruption in the logistics industry will force many freight forwarders to move away from time-consuming and out-dated approaches to business. Customers are demanding increased transparency if you want to be a part of their supply chain. And greater speed and accuracy of rate quotes is required just to remain competitive.
As marketplaces, tech startups, and automation gain traction having a below average website will make forwarders even more obsolete -- faster.
So the takeaway is at a minimum to update your website, include a corporate news room, and have a social presence on LinkedIn. There is an opportunity to incorporate blogging and CRO to increase the ability to compete, improve search engine visibility and grow bottom line revenue for even the worlds largest freight forwarders.
We know the clock is ticking.
Kindly drop your thoughts in the comments.