As 2020 comes to a close, it’s important to look back on how shipping trends have evolved throughout the year—and how they will continue to shift in the future.
2020 is a year unlike any we’ve ever seen. When it comes to the global changes caused by the pandemic, import-export companies have experienced them in a heightened way. Border closures, shifting regulations, and economic recessions are just some of the many challenges shipping companies have had to face this year.
While we’ve come a long way from the uncertainty of the early months of 2020, there’s still ground to cover before things reach any semblance of normalcy. In fact, instability may become the new normal in the import-export industry. What’s the way forward?
Let’s journey through the shipping trends of the past year and evaluate how they will continue to affect your import-export business in years to come.
1. Increased Demand for Rapid Delivery
Expectations for same- or next-day delivery aren’t going away anytime soon. If anything, the COVID-19 pandemic has made customers even more eager to receive their orders as quickly as possible. This puts enormous pressure on businesses of all sizes to offer rapid delivery options.
If you have a small import-export business, you may not be able to compete with the Amazons and Walmarts of the world in the delivery arena. Offer something to your customers that huge retailers can’t provide: a personal touch, a focus on sustainability, or a loyalty program. Tell your customers why your product is worth the wait.
2. New Standards for Sustainable Shipping
As people become more alarmed at the state of the world, environmental awareness is rising. More than ever, people are looking to see which shipping companies are stepping up to the sustainability plate—and which ones are ignoring their environmental impact in favor of convenience and profit.
This is a great way to make your import export business stand out. Investigate every link in your supply chain to ensure your product is sustainable all the way through. Look into carbon offsets to show your customers you’re earnestly taking environmental action. Try to go completely green with your shipping materials to build your brand as a sustainable label.
Check out Sustainable Shipping: Greener Ways to Ship for more helpful tips.
3. The Decline of Air Freight
It’s no secret that the airline industry is in dire straits thanks to COVID-19…and air cargo has not been immune to these challenges. Sadly, there seems to be little improvement in recent months. The data shows a 20% decline in air freight in October 2020 compared to October 2019.
What does this mean for your import-export sulfur business? It might be time to rely on other methods of shipping, such as ocean freight. While it has certainly sustained a loss in 2020, the ocean cargo industry has bounced back surprisingly well, with its Transpacific capacity netting an increase of 6.7% in September 2020 compared to September 2019. Take some time to reevaluate your shipping methods as we head into 2021.
4. Impact of IMO 2020
All that being said, the maritime industry has certainly been affected by IMO 2020 in a way that was easier to foresee than the global pandemic. In case you missed it, IMO 2020 is a set of regulations from the International Maritime Organization that requires an 80% reduction of sulphur emissions in international waters. It also decreases the maximum fuel oil sulfur limit.
While this has obviously had a huge financial impact on the marine sector (and on numerous import-export businesses), it has been seen by many as a great step forward in the fight against climate change. It’s encouraging to see the ocean cargo industry continuing to grow despite financial challenges.
5. Amazon is Everywhere
It’s been a long time since Amazon was a tiny bookseller out of Jeff Bezos’s garage. But the household name is becoming even more ubiquitous as people need to stay home more. There are endless anecdotes of people using their Amazon app to immediately fulfill any desire that pops into their heads.
Still, the growing controversies that surround Amazon are causing some people to think twice before choosing the convenient retailer. Allegations of mistreatment of workers during the pandemic certainly haven’t done Amazon any favors. Now might be a great time to choose a different platform to sell your products.
If you’re looking for alternatives to Amazon that give your products the best advantage, go here.
6. Other Marketplaces Diversify
The main reason Amazon’s success is growing is the expansion of e-commerce on the whole. This means other online marketplaces can grab a bigger piece of the pie as well. Brick-and-mortar stores were already on the brink when the pandemic hit, but COVID-19 has made it even less likely for people to venture out to malls and furniture stores.
Amazon doesn’t have a total monopoly as far as e-commerce is concerned. Other platforms (including small business sites) have numerous advantages over Amazon, such as accessibility, specialization, and personalization. Leveraging the current climate of customer confidence in online purchasing is the way forward for your import-export business.
7. Growth of Digitalization
There have been huge strides in digitalization over the past few years, particularly for the shipping industry. Last year, Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd, two global leaders in the shipping industry, joined forces to form the Digital Container Shipping Association, a neutral organization whose purpose is to implement digital standards throughout the industry.
This dedication to wide digitalization has promised to make the shipping industry more efficient, safe, and high-performing. Needless to say, it bodes well for import-export businesses that rely on a thriving shipping industry.
8. Effects of BOPIS
Don’t completely count out brick-and-mortar stores just yet. Many large retailers have started to rely heavily on BOPIS, which stands for buy online, pick up in-store. This allows customers to receive their orders faster with minimal time spent in stores. Additionally, retailers with widespread regional distribution have leveraged their stores as fulfillment centers to save shipping costs and become more efficient.
How will this affect smaller businesses that don’t necessarily have the broad distribution capacity of larger retailers? It may not be feasible for them to keep up with the demands of BOPIS and regional fulfillment centers, but they can still use these cutting-edge ideas to drive their businesses and search for other innovative ways to gain a larger share of the online market.
Wondering about the future of your import-export business amidst all these changes? You need someone who’s as invested in the success of your business as you are, someone who can easily handle all the logistics so you don’t have to. At BorderBuddy, we offer solutions for any size business, so give us a call today.