A complete guide to choosing an Amazon freight forwarder As a seller, your reputation is everything, something to which your customers will testify. You have a great product, your customer service is impeccable – so don’t let your hard work be ruined by your chosen freight forwarder. Most complaints about goods bought online refer to goods arriving late or not at all and goods arriving damaged, complaints which will often result in goods being returned and refunds demanded. Your freight forwarding company should be able to take care of the entire logistical process of shipping for you, leaving you to concentrate on supplying your great product and service. The internet is host to a baffling range of freight forwarders and courier companies and, here, we help you to sort through those which will help your business fly and those who will leave you up in the air. The benefits of a good freight forwarder A good freight forwarder will fulfil its contract with you and deliver the goods – a great freight forwarder will go the extra mile and become an extension of your business. Using a reliable and professional freight forwarding company will save you time, money and stress. As your business grows, you will depend more and more on your Amazon freight forwarding company and, your contact there will probably be the person you speak to most during your working day. The benefit of a great freight forwarder is, of course, reliability – when you hand over your package, you need to know that it will reach its destination on time and in one piece. In addition, a freight forwarder will have experience in the many complex areas of international shipping including correct classification, filing of government and customs paperwork and bonds – all of which can delay delivery for up to several weeks if implemented incorrectly. Your freight forwarding company will also be able to advise you on the different regulations for different countries to make sure that your goods are not seized by customs. Although your Amazon freight forwarding company can help you to navigate the complexities of export and shipping, ultimately it is the exporter or importer of the goods who is held responsible for any Licenses, Certificates or Authorizations required for the cargo so it’s a good idea to know your way around this complicated industry. Depending on the country being shipped to / from, penalties can be tough so don’t fall victim to rookie errors which could spell disaster for you and your business. Before contacting freight forwarding companies, put together a check list of what you need – this should include time frames, speed of delivery, special packaging requirements, valuable goods insurance, terms of sale and volume of goods being shipped. Freight forwarding is an increasingly competitive market and some unscrupulous companies will try to ‘blind you with science’ on the assumption that you are less than knowledgeable about the industry. Stick to your checklist – if a company can’t or won’t answer a question to your satisfaction, it’s time to move on to the next. 3 things you should know before choosing a freight forwarder Air or sea – Most freight forwarding companies will offer the option of sending your goods by air or by sea. Although usually more cost effective, deliveries by sea can take much much longer so you would need to make customers aware of a longer wait for their goods. Also, at present, the paperwork required for ocean freight is a lot more time consuming (and, at times, baffling) than that needed for air freight. Cheap at the price – Many freight forwarders will try to reel in new customers with special offers, sign up gifts and limited time discounts. Although this may sound great, it may be that these fabulous incentives are hiding inflated regular pricing structures which will come into play once your initial discount runs out, so make sure you know the real cost before signing up. Added costs – Often, sellers will choose a forwarder based on a great price on their website’s homepage; only to discover that, once they begin a transaction, there are a number of extra costs to be factored in such as taxes, weight levies and customs charges. These added costs can add considerably to the price – sometimes even doubling it – that the seller is expecting so always make sure that you read all the fine print before booking your delivery. How to choose a freight forwarder Now that you know what to look for, you’re ready to choose your Amazon freight forwarding company and will, no doubt, have a short list of potential companies ready. Take a look at each company’s website or give them a call to check for the following: Do they deliver to all of the destinations I need? Although the company may advertise itself as International this doesn’t necessarily mean that they cover every single country. A good freight forwarder will include information on their website as to where they collect from and deliver to. Also find out if they run a full delivery service – i.e. door to door rather than just port to port; if it’s port to port only then you will incur extra costs when booking road transport to finalise the delivery. What insurance options are available? In many cases, a freight forwarding company will offer standard insurance to cover basic loss and damage costs. Ask if there are other options available – particularly if your goods are valuable or the delivery time sensitive. Expensive machinery, solar panels, antiques, items containing glass and other fragile items should be professionally packed for export. Some items may be excluded on your freight forwarders general liability insurance, so best always to check. Are they a member of any trade associations or freight forwarding networks? Being a member of a network or a trade association is a kind of seal of approval for a freight forwarding company, indicating that they have passed a number of checks in order to be eligible as a member.Reputable freight forwarding associations such as WCA require a company to demonstrate financial strength, operational efficiency, integrity and many other requirements before allowing them to become a member. It then follows that a freight forwarding company who is a member of a reputable association, is much more likely to handle your shipment with care, professionalism and diligence. It also shows they are financially stable, providing stability for you and your goods. Ask if they have a network of agents in your destination country This can be vital for any DDU, DAP, DDP shipments and also if your customer overseas has any unforeseen issues such as a port strike, customs issue or other delay. Their destination agent can help smooth out many of these issues. Ask about communication In order to forge a successful partnership with your freight forwarding company, you need to know that you can get hold of somebody when you need to. Look for a company whose telephone lines are directed to an actual person rather than an automated service and offers an actual, personalised email address rather than an online contact form which may or may not be regularly manned. TrackingaAlthough you should be able to speak to somebody whenever you need to, it’s also convenient to be able to track your package yourself; especially out of office hours. Ask what kind of tracking software is available and whether or not it’s updated in real time. A professional tracking system will provide purchase order (PO) management, exception notification, customized reports and dashboards as well as digital copies of your paperwork and proof of delivery both online and as hard copy. Transport Find out if the company has their own fleet of transport. Whilst some providers have their own fleet of aircraft and road vehicles, others use established industrial and commercial lines – the latter meaning that your deliveries may be subject to third party staff strikes, national issues and bankruptcy. Client base Ask if the company already has customers with similar businesses to yours. Problems can arise if the company has never handled your particular genre of product before and, therefore, does not have experience of the particular issues and pitfalls related to the shipping of your goods. Packaging Ask if the company will provide you with branded packaging for your products and, if so, if there will be a charge for this packaging. Most freight forwarding companies will supply plastic sealable bags for smaller products and labels for larger boxes. Forewarned is Forearmed Ask if the company is aware of any impending international issues such as strikes, extended holidays or trade issues. Not only will this help you with planning your forthcoming deliveries but it will also give you an idea of how informed and knowledgeable the staff at the freight forwarding company are. Speak the language Like any business – including your own, freight forwarding comes with its own set of language and codes. Here are a few of the most common abbreviations which you’ll need to know as you enter the world of international shipping. FMC – Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) is the body in charge of governing all vessel operators and non-vessel operators such as NVOCC’s and Freight Forwarders Freight Forwarder – Freight forwarder, forwarder, or forwarding agent is a person or company which arranges the shipment of goods for individuals or corporations from one point to another. OTI – Ocean Transportation Intermediary (OTI) is a company licensed by the FMC to be an ocean freight forwarder, a non-vessel operating common carrier (NVOCC), or an ocean freight forwarder and NVOCC. NVOCC – Non Vessel Operating Common Carrier (NVOCC) is a bit of a mouthful and means a consolidator or freight forwarder who does not own any vessel, but functions as a ‘carrier’ by taking responsibility for shipments. These are similar to freight forwarders but typically they have better ocean freight rates and can issue bills of lading.Note the main difference between a freight forwarder and NVOCC is that a freight forwarder acts as the agent of a principal (typically a shipper or consignee) and the NVOCC is a transportation company (carrier) that is physically responsible for the carriage of goods and acts as its own principal. IAC – Indirect Air Carrier (IAC). This refers to any person or entity within the United States who is not in possession of an FAA air carrier operating certificate. An IAC undertakes to indirectly arrange the air transportation of property and uses for all or any part of such transportation the services of a passenger or commercial air carrier. Each Indirect Air Carrier must adopt and carry out a security program which meets TSA requirements. An IAC is essentially a freight forwarder which also handles air cargo. IATA / CNS – International Air Transport Association (IATA) / Cargo Network Services (CNS). The IATA is the airline industry’s trade association which also sets guidelines and laws for air cargo. CNS is the US arm of IATA and therefore regulates US IAC’s. Independent Freight Forwarder – an independent freight forwarder is a company which is not part of the Global 25 Freight Forwarders. They do not have a base or office in every major country and they use different agents around the world for various services depending the client’s needs. You may find that you end up with a list of two or three providers who all offer the service and price that you’re looking for, in which case it’s worth joining an Amazon Seller Facebook group or forum where you can gain from other people’s experiences with different freight forwarders. Join a few different groups to gain as wide a perspective as possible. A simple online search will generally highlight companies which offer a substandard service so that you can quickly cross these off your list. FBA Forward is the full service logistics company specialising in deliveries for Amazon sellers. Operating in over 70 countries worldwide, FBA Forward are the experts when it comes to making sure that all deliveries are made within seven days of being collected, wherever in the world they may be going.