Questions to ask a Freight Forwarder
Every successful Amazon seller knows that your choice of a freight forwarder can make or break your business. Your freight forwarder will directly and profoundly impact your profitability through:
- the shipping prices they offer,
- the opportunities for freight consolidation and cost reduction, and
- the successful and on-time delivery of your stock.
What’s more, poor service from your freight forwarder can affect stock levels and, consequently, your ability to serve your customers and your best seller rate (BSR).
As an Amazon seller, finding a partner that can help you forward your freight to Amazon’s FBA warehouses can play a decisive role in your success. But how do you go about choosing the right freight forwarding business for you?
Here are the questions that every successful Amazon seller asks their freight forwarder.
Does the freight forwarder have experience shipping freight to Amazon?
The single most important question to ask if you are shipping to FBA warehouses.
Amazon has special requirements for packaging, labeling and scheduling appointments with their warehouses so the shipment can be received and processed properly. Working with a freight forwarder who has experience managing these tasks on behalf of its clients is vital if you’re looking for a seamless and efficient service.
Is the freight forwarder capable of finding you cost-effective, smart and efficient solutions that meet your specific needs?
An experienced freight forwarder will help you decide which ports are best for a specific shipment in terms of costs and your required transit time. Some ports will have better and faster solutions than other ports – and good advice from your freight forwarder will help you make sense of the options available to you. A good freight forwarder will know the trucking costs and the port fees and will help you analyze which is the most cost-effective solution for your shipment. Asking this question doesn’t just test their expertise, it demonstrates your potential partner’s willingness to share knowledge and the consultancy services you can expect from them.
Can the freight forwarder offer advice about Amazon’s requirements?
As well as the usual questions you would ask a freight forwarding partner about customs clearance and staying up to date with regulations, you need your freight forwarding partner to keep you informed about Amazon’s terms and conditions as well as any updates as they happen – so you have enough time to prepare and respond.
What experience does the company have forwarding freight from your cargo’s origin country?
This question will help you establish whether the freight forwarder understands the culture, market conditions, and infrastructure of the country of export. They need to have a clear understanding of the export laws and fees. In addition, they’ll quickly be able to help you arrange pickups – and optimizing local costs will be second nature.
It will be advantageous if the freight forwarder can offer local or regional office support in the country of export. This way, you have a team on the ground that can respond to any issues in real-time.
What experience does the company have forwarding freight to your destination country?
It is important to check the freight forwarder’s experience in your target import market as well as the country of export. For example, to ship to the USA if the seller is not a US citizen, you must use an importer of record. This means the freight forwarder will be responsible for ensuring that legal goods are imported in accordance with the law and the legally required documents are filed. Without this, your freight won’t be able to enter the USA.
Again, it will be beneficial if the freight forwarder can offer local or regional office support so their team on the ground can respond to any issues in real-time.
How can the freight forwarder help you optimize costs?
If you work with a freight forwarder with a strong Amazon FBA background, the value you will receive from their consultancy service can have a huge impact on your bottom line.
Their advice should extend beyond specific advice and optimization of your scheduled Amazon FBA deliveries into general consultancy about optimal routes.
For example, choosing a slower and cheaper route when you can afford longer lead times can save you money. But when you are low on stock, you’ll need to choose a direct and fast route so you don’t jeopardize your ability to generate sales, Amazon’s ability to fulfill your sales, and potential damage to your seller’s ratings.
Consolidating cargo with other sellers using the same route can also save you money on shipments – ask what the freight forwarder can suggest in terms of air and ocean consolidations. If a freight forwarder regularly places shipments to amazon FBA centers, they will be in a better position to offer consolidation services on these routes. This can have a huge impact on your profitability and/or the price you are able to sell at if you are shipping in relatively small quantities.
How will the freight forwarder share information about shipments with you?
Ask any potential freight forwarder about the processes in place to keep you informed. Transparency is important because there is so much at stake: you need to know every detail regarding your shipment so you can choose how to respond as soon as any issue occurs.
How can the freight forwarder help you keep track of stock levels? What support can it offer if you need to replenish stock quickly?
If the freight forwarder understands how Amazon FBA operates, they’ll understand the importance of stock levels to your business profitability. Transparency, immediate updates and good communication with your freight forwarder will be critical to your success – it enables you to move swiftly to replenish your inventory.
Sometimes it can take as long as a week to secure a scheduled appointment with an Amazon FBA warehouse – or even more during peak seasons such as the holiday season. If you have urgent cargo, the freight forwarder may be able to fast-track your stock replenishment by editing an existing appointment with the Amazon FBA warehouse – but they can only do this if they already have such a scheduled appointment.
For this reason, it will be to your advantage if you choose a freight forwarding partner that makes regular shipments to Amazon FBA warehouses. You build in greater flexibility and business responsiveness through your choice of freight forwarding partner. And you are better placed to respond quickly to customer demand.
What support can the freight forwarder give you when something goes wrong?
A good freight forwarder will always endeavor to offer several possible solutions to any issue.
Response times are critical here. Delay in responding to issues – whether they are presented by internal business issues, the airlines, trucking companies, the courier, customs or any other entity in this complicated process – can cause unthinkable problems and costs. A good freight forwarder can solve any problems or issues before they impact your business.
Look for customer testimonials that support the freight forwarder’s claims about their own service.
Another tell-tale sign about the speed of response comes from how quickly the freight forwarder responds to your queries. This is a pretty good indication of how promptly and fully they will respond to issues as well.
A good relationship with Amazon is also vital. Does the freight forwarder have direct access to Amazon’s computerized system, Transportation Central? How often are they in contact with staff at the Amazon warehouses? Choosing a freight forwarding partner with a strong existing Amazon FBA customer base will pay dividends. If you aren’t able to make a shipment as planned, if the freight forwarder has other shipments flowing to the right Amazon centers, they could adapt an existing delivery – thereby offering more opportunities to rectify the situation quickly.
Your choice of freight forwarding partner can directly impact your processes and profitability in several different ways. By asking the right questions, you can identify which freight forwarder will help you maximize profits.
Further reading regarding Unicargo’s services for FBA sellers click here
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