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Amazon freight forwarding is one of those topics that may seem complicated at first sight, but, upon a closer look, is, well, still very complicated. We’re not going to lie. The entire business of freight forwarding is difficult to fully grasp.

Luckily, though, those engaged in freight forwarding are the type of players that are more than willing to help those interested in engaging in it. And so are we.

Zonguru is here to help you grow. As such, in this blog, we will not only share with you some essential information about freight forwarding, but we will also try to do so as simply as possible. We will be giving you a short list of which freight forwarding companies you can read about and choose from. By the end, we will be giving you experienced advice and tips on how to choose a good freight forwarder.

The Basics of Freight Forwarding

A wise man once said that the best way to understand a complicated topic is to strip it down to its most basic level to the point that an average person would understand it when explained to him or her simply.

On its face, freight forwarding may be a difficult topic to get into. But stripping it down is very possible and that will be our goal today.

A bit of a disclaimer here: we will not be discussing with you matters related to charges, costs, fees, duties, and all other such details. These numbers vary depending on several factors, such as your desired product’s classifications, the country of origin, etc., so giving you an estimate here would not even be that helpful.

There are a ton of websites that offer duty or fee estimates when it comes to customs. In the same vein, manufacturers or suppliers and freight forwarders will also be more than willing to give you their own estimates, themselves. And if they don’t, well, that’s a consideration for you to take when you decide which one to engage.

Now, without further ado, let’s go ahead and move forward with it.

What is Freight Forwarding?

Freight forwarding is simply the process of moving goods from one point to another. This process normally begins in a warehouse owned or managed by a manufacturer or supplier of those goods from a certain country of origin and ends in another warehouse in a certain country of destination.

Since we’re on the topic of Amazon freight forwarding and Amazon FBA, this process, in our case, will end up in a certain Amazon fulfillment center or consolidation center.

What is a Freight Forwarder?

Since freight forwarding is the process of dealing with the product movement, a freight forwarder is a corporation or person who specializes in the handling and management of the logistics of this entire process.

This includes preparing all necessary documents, scheduling, inland cargo transportation, warehousing, and insurance preparation and claims, among others.

A freight forwarder either specializes on a specific type of freight or all of them at once. These types of freight include the following:

  • Courier: Freight by courier is commonly known in the industry as express freight. This is so because the courier usually has its own fleet of transporters and personnel that personally picks up the specific goods in a warehouse and then uses the said transport and personnel to deliver the goods directly to the buyer. An example of a major courier is DHL.
  • Road: This type involves using trucks, vans, or semis between warehouses accessible or connected by road networks.
  • Ocean Shipping: This type of freight is the most common one and is also likely the least expensive of all types. But this type of freight will often involve two or more different countries. As such, the process invites complications, as the goods must comply with the rules and laws required by both the country of origin and the destination country, not to mention the customs offices of those countries, too.
  • Air: This type of freight may be the most expensive of all types, as this involves using aircraft to move the goods from one point to another. When time is of the essence, however, this type of freight may prove to be a lifesaver, which may justify the high cost.

With that basic information in mind, let’s jump right into those 6 freight forwarding companies. 

The 6 Best Amazon Freight Forwarders You Should Know and Check Out

This list is by no means exclusive. What we recommend and consider to be the best may be different from others, but as it stands, these 6 are some of the best freight forwarders operating in the industry right now.

  1. Unicargo – URL: https://www.unicargo.com/amazon-fba/


At the outset, Unicargo tells visitors that they are the best Amazon FBA freight forwarder in the market. Among all the sites listed here, including the others that you may check outside of this list, Unicargo may be the only one that makes this statement their mission, since providing Amazon FBA freight services seems to be the main crux of their business model. 

And rightfully so. Their site has a dedicated and direct page to Chinese markets (which, arguably, is the primary source of suppliers for Amazon FBA sellers). This page also has its own Chinese team to boot. In addition to a Chinese team, Unicargo also has a team based in Israel and, of course, the United States.

The site also allows you to get a quote for your shipments. A support page provides some useful information about volumetric weight, relevant laws, and other matters. Going into their contact page, however, brings you to a typical e-mail messaging system, which may or may not be helpful.

Unicargo also provides insurance, and this is included in your quotation estimate for when you use it.

  1. Flexport – URL: https://www.flexport.com/


Unlike Unicargo, Flexport’s website is comprehensive and easy to use and navigate. Through this site, Flexport provides the usual freight forwarder services, generally, and not just for or about Amazon FBA.

What makes Flexport standout, though, is their Resource page. In this section are market updates, blogs (which are updated as of last month!), a page for webinars, and best of all, a complete and thorough help center.

The webinars deserve special mention, as it is something that you can view and learn from without difficulty. It’s free and not totally restricted (you don’t need to make an account). Be sure to check it out!

If you’re like us, however, then you’d appreciate this more above the rest: Flexport values environmental sustainability. One of their main thrusts is to help organizations attain a hundred percent carbon neutrality. This is worthy to note, because not every service or supply chain company values this. Fortunately, Flexport does!

But if we had to nitpick, it would be their lack of a quote or estimate page or calculator. We’re guessing that they’d only give you your quote or estimate for when you start talking to them. We tried to give that a go by signing up with them, but we have yet to get a confirmation email (it’s been more than an hour). Though, again, this is just us nitpicking, so don’t take this part too seriously!

  1. Freightos – URL: https://www.freightos.com/


Freightos is a freight forwarder that goes straight to the point. Unlike the first two freight forwarders, Freightos’ website is simple and direct. There’s no jewelry or make-up involved. They want to go straight to business, and they mean it.

Registering with the site allows you to get quotes, as well as track your shipments. Billing details are also provided to you via a simple dashboard. And best of all? We got their confirmation email within seconds of registering!

They also have a help center for when you need more information, including a customer chat service should you need a more dedicated kind of assistance.

All in all, Freightos is good for those who just want to do business and nothing else. Is it boring? Maybe for some. But for the others, it gives you the chance to just be done with the freight forwarding part so that you can focus more on your shop, your products, and your overall selling strategy. 

  1. Noviland, Inc. – URL: https://noviland.com/


Noviland is like a mixture of some of the good things from the previous freight forwarders we just discussed.

Like Freightos, their website is simple and user-friendly. After you register with them (very quick, as well), you’re taken to a dashboard where you can monitor your requests and shipments, among others. Also, like Flexport or Unicargo, they have updated blog sections for you to learn from and enjoy.

Yet the most interesting part of Noviland is their Spotlight products page. In it, you get recommendations on what products you can look to source for your business. It also bears stressing that Noviland is also a sourcing agent. This means that if you want to do away with taking the time to do research and look for a supplier, then going with Noviland can give you that “two birds with one shipping container” special. 

Overall, though, we can say that Noviland is vastly different from what we have covered thus far. Think of it as a company that wants to help you get into selling, as opposed to you already being into selling and are just looking for a partner.

  1. Boss Continental – URL: https://bosscontinental.com/en/


Boss Continental is a freight forwarder that is based in Spain. They boast a presence in every continent in the world and they provide all kinds of freight forwarding services.

Their pages cater to very specific categories, from consumer goods, to retail, and even to hazardous materials. They also boast a wide network for whatever warehousing needs and customs concerns that you may have. Finally, they also provide shipping insurance for your goods, as well.

Their blog section contains only short write-ups that are, frankly, more like FAQs than actual blogs. But that’s only us being nitpicky. Speaking of nitpicking, here’s one more: their quote estimator calculator is unlike the others we’ve cited earlier. In fact, it’s less of a calculator and more of an e-mail message.  

But on a more serious note, Boss Continental is one that we would highly recommend to those looking to sell specific or specialized goods. With a proven track record and a reliable network, business with Boss Continental is guaranteed to be smooth and hassle-free. 

  1. Shipkoo – URL: https://shipkoo.com/


Shipkoo is maybe one of the few freight forwarders that specializes in something that others don’t and that is crowdfunding fulfillment.

So, say you have a product on Kickstarter or Indiegogo that was backed by thousands of people when it first appeared. When you get to the point where your product is now ready to be launched, how do you go about giving your backers their backed items? What if your backers are different people from 4 different continents? Shipkoo provides a solution for this dilemma.

Also, it is worth mentioning that one key way to help choose a freight forwarder is by assessing their Amazon FBA freight forwarding knowledge. Well, Shipkoo is also experienced in that endeavor.

Shipkoo also has a tracking feature for your goods. If you’re into programming, you can also get their API docs for your app or software. Shipkoo also easily integrates with most well-known e-commerce channels and marketplaces, too.

Finally, Shipkoo also has an active and up-to-date blog section for you to get lost in.

We do like to point out that we tried signing up with them, but, in our opinion, the sign-up process asked for too much information (they even asked us for a logo of our company), so we didn’t even bother going through with it. But yeah. Nitpicking. 

If you want to learn more about these 6 or about freight forwarding and freight forwarder companies, in general, you are always free to do your own research. When doing your research, be sure to use our guide as a checklist, especially when you start your initial communications with these companies. 

You can find this guide below. Of course, at the end of the day, your sound business discretion is the one that gets to decide. But using some of the knowledge we presented to you today can’t hurt. So if you’re that interested in learning more, read on. 

When Should You Resort Freight Forwarding?

Depending on your business needs or goals, you may eventually want to source your products directly from the supplier or manufacturer, itself. In today’s highly globalized world, those suppliers or manufacturers will often be from other countries, the most common being the People’s Republic of China or some countries in South or Southeast Asia.

So, when should you resort to freight forwarding? Well, it’s no secret that when it comes to online selling via Amazon, there’s money to be made using freight forwarding as both a service and a part of your supply chain and overall business model. Buying low and selling high is the name of the game and getting your supply for less in another country and then selling them for more in the United States is an opportunity that it’s almost alchemic. 

But the simplest answer may be the peace of mind that a good freight forwarder may give you. Sure, you can do this all by yourself. If you take the time, you’ll probably eventually be good at it, too. But in terms of resources--namely time, money, and your sanity--engaging someone else that is already doubly better at it than you is an apt allocation. 

It’s simple economics, really. Yes, you can take the time to learn how to bake. Yes, you can take the time to learn plumbing. But simply buying that bread or hiring that plumber is a better allocation of your resources than using it to hone those skills.

So, to answer that question: Now!

Should You Find Your Own or Let Others Do It For You?

In some cases, you and your chosen supplier or manufacturer can come to an agreement concerning the choice of a freight forwarder. Some would even have their own partner that they will surely recommend to you. Alternatively, you can go ahead and choose one for yourself.

But whether you let your partners choose for you or not is a decision that should depend on your sound discretion. Just make sure that when you choose, the business side of things are covered.

To help you decide on this, here are some things to remember:

  • Going with the supplier or manufacturer’s freight forwarder partner can mean engaging into certain contract terms that may or may not be beneficial for you. Still, letting them decide for you at this stage may make things easier for you by giving you one less decision to worry about.

  • Alternatively, choosing your own freight forwarder means giving yourself the ability to tailor your agreement with the freight forwarder to your business needs. This, of course, may make things more burdensome, since you will have to decide on some things for yourself, which may or may not pan out.

Do note that in the grand scheme of your business operations, this may be a minor detail, as you are always free to move and choose different freight forwarders and suppliers or manufacturers for each and every purchase.

Amazon Freight Forwarding Expert Tips

The information provided below is the result of careful research taken from reliable sources that are either experienced in the business of freight forwarding or are providers or customers themselves. 

Know the Stages of the Freight Forwarding Process

As we just discussed, freight forwarding is simply moving products between places. This movement can typically be broken down into three stages. These three stages are the following:

  1. From the supplier to the customs of the country of origin.
  1. From the country of origin to the destination country.
  1. From customs of the destination country to the Amazon fulfillment center or consolidation center.

Each of these stages have their own sets of requirements, rules, charges and fees, and potential problems to look out for. Learning all these are key to your success. So, let’s discuss these with you one by one.

First Things First

Every country has a list of goods, products, or items that they do not want to get into their territory. The United States is no different. Before you even begin with your freight forwarding goals, be sure to check if the product you intend to purchase is one that is allowed to enter US soil.

But prohibited goods are not your only concern here. Some goods also come within the coverage of certain restrictions or import limits. Some goods are even covered by anti-dumping laws. Make sure that you check your chosen product, first, before you even look for a supplier of that product.

Other potential problems involve intellectual property violations and safety or packaging requirements. Save yourself the hassle and do your homework on these for some extra peace of mind. All else, contact an experienced lawyer and seek legal advice on these matters.

With that out of the way, let’s go ahead and learn about suppliers.

Start with the Supplier

You probably started with an idea for a product or maybe you saw a good that you believe will absolutely sell in the US. Whichever the case, looking for and contacting a supplier for that product or product will not be a problem for you. There are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of suppliers that manufacture that product around the world.

No, the problem is looking for a good supplier. In the freight forwarding business, having a reliable and competent supplier can mean the difference between a stressful situation and a successful delivery.

For your first step in engaging in freight forwarding, start with your supplier. This means doing your initial research and then, once you finalize a list of suppliers, contacting them for a potential business partnership.

Starting with your supplier can very much dictate the rest of the freight forwarding stages, so choose wisely and carefully.

Things to Know Before Partnering with a Supplier

A little due diligence about your intended supplier will always go a long way. Looking for a supplier for your freight forwarding goals is no different than looking for a local supplier for a local business in the US in that there is an element of trust in the center of it all.

Will the goods be packed and packaged well? Are all the necessary papers in order? Am I getting the best deal for my money?

Aside from these questions, here are some things that you need to know before partnering with a supplier for your freight forwarding needs:

  • Experience: How long have they been in operation? How many successful shipments have they done before? Experience is by no means the ultimate measure, but it’s a good starting point. Freight forwarding can be costly and when you’re faced with spending large amounts of cash, it is always best to minimize your risks and one of the ways to do that is to refer to experience.
  • Network: Successful suppliers have an established network that enables them to do good and continuous business for their buyers. A good supplier will be one that has all the necessary connections with everyone involved in the freight forwarding business. Whether it be a logistics company, key people in customs, or with Amazon personnel, a supplier boasting a good set of relationships with the right set of people can make things easier for you.
  • Packaging: When it comes to freight forwarding, every product has its own specific packaging needs. Some goods, for instance, require double boxing. Most have pallet requirements. These packaging also need to be properly marked and, in some cases, protected (from possible thievery). A good supplier would be one that is fully aware and experienced in all these things. But since we’re dealing with Amazon FBA freight forwarding here, let’s add one more thing: a great supplier would be one that understands Amazon’s packaging requirements. This way, you won’t have any problems come your way once your goods reach an Amazon fulfillment center.
  • Freight Terms: There are various freight terms that can be made a part of your agreement with a freight forwarder, but it all usually boils down to who pays the fees and who picks up the goods. Some suppliers will only accept contracts under specific freight terms. Others may be more flexible. This, of course, is part of the negotiation process, so it would be up to you to understand what freight terms would be best suited for your budget and your needs.
  • Best value: Probably the best indicator that you can base your decision on is the question of “Am I getting the best value here?” Obviously, you can’t know the answer to this beforehand, but there are ways to help you guess and assess. Some suppliers, for instance, allow the sending of samples of their products (at cost to you, of course!). If you opt for this, you not only get to check their products firsthand, but you also get to see the freight forwarding process in action. From there, you can pretty much gauge your next, larger transaction and see whether this brings out the best value for your costs.

At this point, we’d like to clarify that a supplier and a freight forwarder are two separate entities. They can be one and the same, in some cases. But, generally, these two comprise different groups that offer different services.

We’ve covered suppliers already. Now, let’s go with freight forwarders.

Preparing Your Goods for Export

 

At this point, if you already have an agreement with a supplier, then it’s now time for you to prepare your goods for export.

The usual practice, however, is that it will be either the supplier or the freight forwarder, themselves, who will be undertaking this task. This includes packaging, document preparation, inspections, and payment, among others.

In this stage, your task is simple: read and study the papers.

Prior to shipping, your supplier and/or freight forwarder will likely present you with several documents related not only to your specific engagement with them, but also with customs. A good supplier should be there for you to guide you through this entire process. This part should not be solely dependent on you, so do not hesitate to ask for help from either your supplier and/or freight forwarder.

Now, we mention freight forwarders here, but, of course, we have yet to go over some key information as to how you should be choosing one, in the first place. Do not worry! You can go right ahead and jump down to read that information if you want. Our goal now is to explain the stages of the freight forwarding process.

Let’s move along to the next stage.

When Your Goods are in Transit

The only possible problem that you need to worry about at this stage of the process are unfortunate events. These include shipping accidents, acts of God, piracy, or basically any unforeseen event that may result in the total loss or destruction of the goods that you just bought and processed for shipping.

Though these things are less likely to happen nowadays, a little bit of peace of mind helps. One way for you to nudge that peace closer is to make sure that your goods are insured.

Your freight forwarders or suppliers are usually the ones who are responsible for providing you with coverage. But this should not always be the case. As with everything else in the entire freight forwarding process, you can pick and choose your insurance coverage or packages from other providers should you wish to do so.

Do not be afraid to ask your supplier or freight forwarder about any insurance questions or concerns that you may have during your initial meetings. Doing so not only gives you that peace of mind that you need, but it also lessens your exposure to certain risks that could very well cost you and your business severely.

From the Port to the Center

Once your goods arrive in the US, there are still a few more things that need to be done before it finally gets shipped off to an Amazon Fulfillment Center.

First, the goods need to be inspected by customs. To save yourself from some unnecessary stress, make sure that your freight forwarder or supplier has this covered. And by “covered”, we mean like even before your goods left its country of origin. The last thing you would want at this point is to have your goods held by customs for days or weeks before it is released.

Second, once the goods are cleared by customs, it now needs to be moved inland, preferably by road. Depending on your agreement with your supplier, they may help you here, but a safer bet is to rely on your freight forwarder for assistance. Chances are, they would have either their own logistics team ready and waiting for your goods when they arrive or that they have their own network of partners who are ready and willing to help you move.

Assuming that your packaging is up to the standards required by Amazon, then everything should be in order. Congratulations! You are now on your way to effectively making that next sale.

Things to Consider When Choosing the Best Freight Forwarder

 

Now that you have a general idea about freight forwarding, it’s time to go ahead and choose your freight forwarder. There are likely hundreds of freight forwarders around the world who offer their service, so choosing yours may be a matter of preference.

But before you do, make sure to first arm yourself with some useful information that must serve as a good basis for your decision.

Below are some things you need to consider when choosing your freight forwarder:

  • Transparency: As we mentioned before, freight forwarding involves several numbers that change or increase depending on several factors. A good freight forwarder should be honest and forthcoming about these numbers, from the fees to the costs, the customs duties, and all the way down to the last cent. In addition, the freight forwarder must be one that is transparent when it comes to saving on costs. If they know full well that adopting a certain packaging mechanic can help save you thousands of dollars, would they tell you or would they prefer to keep it a secret in the hopes of squeezing more payments out of you? When looking for a freight forwarder, make sure to ask this transparency question firsthand and see how they will respond.
  • Availability: When looking up freight forwarders, make sure to check if there are places or ports of destination that they do not service or, otherwise, cannot go. This goes hand in hand with transparency, as well. A professional freight forwarder should inform you about their availability or limitations of service at the outset and not a surprise later.
  • Customer Service: How good is the freight forwarder in treating their partners and customers right? Do they communicate regularly? Do they have a physical presence in both the country of origin and the destination country? Can they be reached and contacted with ease despite the differing time zones? These qualities should be a given for any freight forwarder, but make sure to double check these first when doing your research.
  • Packaging Services: Outside of the supplier, a good freight forwarder should also have a comprehensive or sophisticated packaging service available to you. As we said, each product has its own required packing specifications and a good freight forwarder should not only know all these, specifically, but should also be capable of providing them for you. For the most part, freight forwarders would only be concerned with the loading pallets, among other Amazon product requirements and specifications. Packaging would mostly be undertaken by the manufacturer or supplier. But it is fair to say that an experienced freight forwarder would be knowledgeable and caring enough to know whether your products are packaged well for export and, if not, help you get it done properly. 
  • Insurance Packages: We mentioned before the importance of having a good insurance coverage and this goes the same for when you choose your freight forwarder. Most, if not all, freight forwarders will have their own insurance contracts and packages available to you. These packages may seem complicated (and they are!), so make sure to sit down and have the freight forwarder explain them to you well.
  • Tracking: Being able to monitor your goods in real time should not be a luxury, but a standard. A good freight forwarder should be one that gives you this benefit at the outset. From the warehouse of the supplier all the way to the Amazon fulfillment center, a freight forwarder should be able to provide you access to information about the whereabouts of your goods anytime, anywhere.
  • Warehousing Services: A good freight forwarding company that is worth their salt should have their own warehousing space. Things can happen and flights or sea transportation can be cancelled unexpectedly. If that happens, you need the freight forwarder to bless you with some peace of mind that the products you already paid for are safe and secure. Security is of utmost importance here. Anyone can own and manage a warehouse. But to have it organized, secure, and easy to access is a luxury, in itself. 
  • Amazon FBA Experience: Ah, yes. Without this, then all the rest should be ignored. We are, after all, in the business of using Amazon FBA for our business needs and if a freight forwarder is one that does not have any experience or knowledge about Amazon FBA, then you are better off looking elsewhere. The good news is that there are probably more freight forwarders out there who have this experience than there are those who do not. Just make sure to be diligent in your research when determining which one holds enough Amazon FBA experience to your satisfaction.

Some Closing Thoughts

Now you know the basics of freight forwarding and how you can use it to your advantage as an Amazon seller. But be aware that this journey towards having a successful freight forwarding business had only just begun! Admittedly, this blog had only barely scratched that surface. This, of course, is as good a foundation as any.

And the good news is that you can do more!

Zonguru offers weekly live training on everything related to Amazon FBA freight forwarding and Amazon selling, in general. Attending these training sessions can not only arm you with the necessary education to stay ahead, but it will also help you manage your risks, more so in the freight forwarding business. Sign up now for a free 7-day trial! We are here to help.

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