The air cargo industry has seldom been as well off as it is at the moment, which pleases not only the players directly involved, but also their organizations and professional associations, such as The International Air Cargo Association and its Director General, Glyn Hughes. All in all, the industry is thriving, apart from some regional differences and ongoing challenges. Yet, urgent tasks remain that need attending to, and in his speech at the recent Frankfurt Air Cargo Community meeting, Glyn warned against complacency. Moreover, he said, a generation is pushing forward that embodies different values than those of most of today's industrial decision-makers.
Retail shopping is more emotionally rewarding than online shopping, Glyn Hughes noted. As studies show, buyers get a kick immediately after they have passed a store’s cash till, and finally have the desired goods in their hands. In contrast, e-commerce enables only a delayed emotional gratification because there is a time gap of one or two days between order and delivery.
The good news for Glyn and many other Covid-inoculated people, is that they can meanwhile choose between getting an instant kick when purchasing goods in a store, as done traditionally, or postpone the high feeling until a courier knocks on their door to hand over the ordered goods; something his daughter often does mainly for the sake of convenience, he confessed.
We now live in a parallel universe that equally enables traditional shopping and online ordering, at least in most countries of this world. And it will stay that way, even after the pandemic subsides, the TIACA representative predicted.
He cited a study of eMarketer.com, forecasting a global e-commerce growth of 22.6% for 2021, totaling an incredible 4,280 trillion US$ in value. “e-commerce is here to stay,” the TIACA official reasoned. Today, tomorrow, and throughout the decade, all forecasts predict.
Changed buying behavior
For the air cargo industry, this trend brings along a variety of consequences: The traditional peak during the fourth quarter, will flatten out, because people tend to order goods online whenever an item is needed, regardless of the season. The share of sensitive and special cargo will keep outgrowing standard air freight. This requires higher investments in cooling systems to safeguard the product integrity of temperature-sensitive items. Digitalization will permeate all areas of the supply chain with ever-increasing speed; anyone who misses this trend will be left behind or go out of business altogether. And finally, air freight must sell its extraordinary service to the economy and public much better than before, requiring a completely new PR approach.
What’s also needed, he emphasized is “a regulatory environment and border management infrastructure that supports the agile, flexible, and efficient deployment of capacity where and when it is required.”
“Generation Z” is in the starting blocks
Finally, “Generation Z”, born between 1995 and 2010, will take over responsibility, gradually replacing members of previous generations. As a result, new expectations of public and private mobility, consumer behavior, meaningful employment, and changed forms of communication will emerge and influence the cargo industry, he stated. In contrast to the previous “fun generation”, the Z group focuses on ecological aspects when traveling by air, for example, or on the willingness of society to engage in social dialog when dealing with ethnic minorities. The sooner the cargo industry opens up to this new set of values of the “Z’s”, the more attractive it will be to its members, Glyn Hughes advises.
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