Booming cross-border e-commerce driving change in supply chains
The global e-commerce sector grew 18.2% last year, driven by greater volumes of cross-border traffic, ...
Hong Kong-based 3PL Tigers has beefed-up its digital logistics capabilities with what it claims is the world’s first combined freight, e-commerce and logistics portal, SmartHub:Connect.
The cloud-based platform gives online retailers end-to-end supply chain visibility from manufacturer to consumer.
“Our platform is unique because it delivers glass pipeline visibility of both your global transport and e-commerce fulfilment from factory to shop floor,” said Tigers’ chief executive, Andrew Jillings.
He said the modular and “off the shelf” nature of SmartHub allowed Tigers to get customers set up in 48-hours, including integrations with third-party systems and vendors, and on multiple e-commerce platforms such as Amazon, WooCommerce, Macy’s and Nordstrom.
The forwarder has “pioneered how traditional logistics players can adapt for the e-commerce age”, helping SMEs to “go global” and enjoy the same kind of digital logistics arsenal as their larger rivals.
In 2017, the company launched eShop, an online sales marketplace for SMEs entering the rapidly expanding China and South-east Asia e-commerce markets, providing what it described as a one-stop shop for marketing, payments, supply chain, order fulfilment and returns.
The platform has since been rolled out to markets worldwide, including the US. Mr Jillings said eShop allowed smaller retailers an alternative to selling on Alibaba and Amazon, where they ran the risk of “getting lost or having their brands diluted”. Tigers can also ‘white label’ their technology to customers who would rather sell from their own websites.
“We help brands who want to control their destiny,” he added.
Meanwhile, SmartHub’s capabilities have been likened to those of Flexport. However, Mr Jillings claimed there is a difference: as well as managing freight, SmartHub also provides global visibility on inventory and e-commerce fulfilment, he said.
“The tech-savvy consumer is ever more demanding, and with the accelerated digitisation and democratisation of information, we must be in a position to support our customers so that they can deliver for the consumer and grow and develop into new markets.”
He added that while Tigers focused on disruptive technologies and integrating deeper into e-commerce, the 3PL also faced external disrupters, with both large e-commerce players and shipping lines looking to get closer to shippers by providing them with integrated logistics services.
But Mr Jillings fears neither. For example, although Amazon is quickly developing its own ocean freight forwarding business, he said Tigers was well-positioned to further its “explosive” e-commerce growth by continuing to serve high-end retailers which don’t want to be commoditised by the US retail behemoth. Plus, Tigers is diversified with strong air and ocean business across Asia, Africa, Europe and the US.
Meanwhile, major shipping lines are attempting to provide more end-to-end supply chain services and make it easier for shippers to book directly online.
“Our view is that shippers will soon have the option to book directly with the carriers,” said Mr Jillings. “The challenge is technology and providing the bridge for shippers to do this, as most carriers and forwarders are burdened by legacy IT systems. But this is changing quickly.”
Tigers is testing a live quote engine developed by Doozee, a US-based enterprise software firm. Mr Jillings said Doozee would be embedded in SmartHub, allowing customers to access live quotes between all Tigers’ locations globally.
“We believe strongly in disruption – there’s lots happening and digitalisation will continue to provide greater transparency and yield pressure,” he added.