“Not the film!” Freightos CMO, Eytan Buchman says, laughing. With “Matrix”, he is referring to WebCargo’s “Matrix View” – an innovative, dynamic, and real-time capacity overview that goes live for all WebCargo users this week. CFG talked to him and to pilot user, Quim Sangés, Air Import/Export Coordinator at Spanish freight forwarding company M.C. TRINTER, S.A., about this latest eBooking innovation.
“What we're rolling out is basically a view that almost everybody knows: that same matrix view that you get when you search on Expedia or Kayak, and we actually have a trademark on this new
view. It’s a view that recognizes the way that logistics providers work and allows them to prioritize according to what is important in that moment – price, duration, or specific airline, for
example - leveraging the expertise that they have about how to actually ship goods. All the options are then presented in one perspective, from which they can select and book in real-time.”
Eytan Buchman is enthusiastic about the new overview, which presents a colorful, concise information package on a single screen and is a far cry from the usual never-ending list-views requiring
extra clicks to uncover more information.
He emphasizes a crucial change in the way we should approach digitalization in air cargo: the outdated stereotype of booking staff being tech-shy. We now live in a world where we are comfortable with digitalization in our private lives, from internet banking to Netflix, booking holidays, social media, and it is time to marry this image with our work environment: “I think the real underlying change there is this idea that we need to treat logistics professionals like tech professionals, and they deserve an interface that works for them instead of having to do all that work themselves.”
“21st Century Fax”
In a rapid-fire, 29-minute interview, Eytan manages to convey the entire history of Freightos and WebCargo, and it is apparent where the company’s drive comes from. WebCargo has hit the news pretty often over the past few months – most recently announcing the partnership with its first cargo airline, AirBridgeCargo (CFG reported) last month, and there is no sign of the brakes being applied at the “largest digital airline network” which currently numbers over 2,000 freight forwarders in 90 countries, and over 370 carriers. On the contrary, true to its claim of “bringing cargo into the 21st century,” much work is going on in the background to attract more carriers into the Matrix, and expand the general cargo offering to include Dangerous Goods in WebCargo.
WebCargo’s beginnings go back 12 years to an era which saw airlines sending excel sheets of rates to forwarders every time a new pricing season came around – “21st century fax”, Eytan says, describing the static pricing methods coupled with the need to call the airline to request the slightest deviations. “We started off by digitizing freight forwarders, helping them manage their rates they would get from multimodal transport channels, so that they could give customers a door-to-door quote based on their own rates.”
Around 2.5 years ago, WebCargo began looking at shifting from one-way communication from the airlines, to “how we can work together with the airlines and the freight forwarders to enable real time, bi-directional communication.”
He tells of the challenge of working through “not only technology barriers, but also cultural barriers, to reeducate and convince airlines and forwarders that this really is the future,” referring to 2019 as still being “on training wheels” in terms of digitalization.
“We started seeing a spike in eBooking numbers”
2020, on the other hand, saw things take off. The logistics industry felt the covid effects already before the pandemic began, “and we started to see, in the end of January, beginning of February, this huge spike in the number of ebookings – we were breaking record numbers every single week.”
The explosive growth continued to the end of February when capacities started decreasing and demand was “not only pushing rates through the roof, it was pushing the need to get real time information through the roof as well.”
Yet, by April there was a sudden slump which is explained by the dramatic changes happening as capacities were grounded, schedules changing by the hour and intense rate volatility. All this initially drove booking agents back to phone calls to confirm rates and space with the airlines directly, in order to be on the safe side.
Smoother shipping with the world's online freight marketplace.
In the midst of the pandemic, pilots were testing the new Matrix View, working closely together with the WebCargo team in giving feedback and proposing changes. Quim Sangés, Air Import/Export Coordinator at M.C. TRINTER, S.A. was one of them.
The Barcelona-based, multimodal Spanish freight forwarder which operates internationally out of Barcelona and Madrid, started eBooking around two years ago, both by way of airlines such as Air France/KLM and Lufthansa Cargo pushing their websites, and WebCargo, which offered an overview across carriers and on which around 80% of M.C. TRINTER’s bookings are made. “Matrix View testing started mid-end May,” says Quim, who was then having to work from home, like many others around the world. “It’s been great to have new technology added to our sector that we really needed, because it helps a lot in our daily work and will definitely be a tool to use in the coming future.”
At that time “rates were very volatile; many flights were cancelled. There were not many flights shown in the Matrix, but on those that were, you could propose a booking.”
With a few teething problems at the start where bookings were missing confirmations or errors were being shown, the WebCargo team were directly on hand, monitoring and helping. “Now it’s running very smoothly.” Currently around 6-7 airlines are available in the Matrix View, and Quim looks forward to more soon.
In the air cargo booking process, every second counts!
Quim explains that though the input time to enter booking details such as origin, destination and shipment specifics is the same as for the original WebCargo, the overview which can be filtered according to focus, is excellent, and the speed of confirmation given the real-time information is the major benefit.
“The biggest change is that the Matrix View lets you compare different airline options in rates, transit times, departures, arrivals – all in one place and live, so that you know you that you’re getting real options and you can book at the same time and get an immediate confirmation from the airline. Before the Matrix, WebCargo had fixed rates published from the airlines, and if you needed a spot, you had to go to the airline directly. With the Matrix, you have real rates for the available capacity, so we feel we are getting better rates.”
And those dynamic rates help to give a clearer indication of how various markets are going, enabling more accurate quotes to customers.
Dynamic rates may well be the “new normal” from now on, given that many airlines have stopped their published rates during the pandemic.
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