Shipping 101
Importing From China: How To Find The Best Freight Forwarder

Importing From China: How To Find The Best Freight Forwarder

Finding the right freight forwarder for your business can significantly improve your shipping costs, the safety of your products, and delivery speed. In this article, we will aim to answer the question of finding the best freight forwarder as comprehensively as possible, and provide you with a clear course of action.

6 mins read, 15 April 2021

Chapter 1: Should You Use Your Factory’s Freight Forwarder?

This is what businesses often do. And it's often a mistake! At least without checking if there are better options.

Most factories/suppliers in China will have a freight forwarding partner that they work with.

It makes things easier for both businesses, and it is also more convenient for the customers (you). So it is a win-win-win situation.

However, it is not as convenient for the customer as it seems. Here are some tips on why that holds true.

Tip #1 - They Will Charge Higher Rates

Importing from China or any other foreign country presents a geographical and language barrier.

You probably can’t speak Mandarin, and you don’t live in China. So it is really hard to know what options are available to you, and how to create key partnerships.

Since you already trust your supplier, it is convenient to accept their freight forwarder recommendation, because it would be difficult for you to find alternatives on your own.

They are of course aware of your position, and take advantage by increasing their rates accordingly.

Tip #2 - Working With Other Freight Forwarders Won’t Be Harder

Working with your factory’s freight partner will be smooth sailing, because they already know all of the operational processes of your factory, and can coordinate with them well, right?

Yes, certainly. But that doesn’t mean other freight forwarders won’t be able to rise to the occasion as well or will make unnecessary mistakes.

In general, freight forwarding and manufacturing are as close-knit as any two industries can be.

They already have a well-known set of standards and procedures for collaboration set in place.

So if this is a big reason for apprehension in you, you can rest assured that any reputable freight forwarder will be able to coordinate with your factory and move your products efficiently.

Tip #3 - The Benefits Outweigh The Downsides

Spending time to find the best freight forwarder for your business is definitely worth it.

The benefits are innumerable.

Benefit 1: You can save up to 40% on your shipping costs.

Like in any industry, some freight providers overcharge.

Spending the time to find a freight partner with fair prices will be well worth your time.

Benefit 2: You will reduce your rate of lost/damaged goods.

 Some freight forwarders have a bigger problem with this than they should.

 If you can relate, start looking for someone else, because frequently being delivered incomplete or damaged shipments isn’t the standard!

Benefit 3: You will improve your delivery times. 

You saw how much the Alibaba shipping estimates were pushed back because of the Evergreen Suez Canal incident. 

Here's a quick tip to potentially avoid this problem: look for a freight provider that has multiple carrier contracts and can ship via multiple routes.

This way, if one route is affected, another should be available to take its place.

An online freight marketplace such as Bookairfreight would be ideal, because we partner with tens of different freight forwarders and always have multiple options to choose from.

Benefit 4: You will enjoy many value-added services.

Some modern freight forwarders now offer a multitude of value-added services to the customer, at little to no extra cost.

Examples of benefits include:

• Free insurance

• Late delivery compensation

• Assistance with shipping documentation, customs clearance and taxes & duties

• Modern shipment booking & management software (no more emails)

• Professional customer service

At Bookairfreight, we offer all of these and more. Regardless of who you end up working with, it would be a huge mistake to not ask about these!

Chapter 2: Key Things To Consider When Comparing Freight Forwarders

This part involves doing some research to find a few good forwarders to compare between.

Google will serve you just fine for this purpose.

Once you have a few options, compare them by the following key criteria.

#1 - Price

No matter what anyone says, price is still king.

You’ll want to request a quote from each forwarder with the same shipment requirements, and compare the results.

Make sure to ask for a breakdown of the quote, so that each charge is accounted for.

Extra tip! Check whether the quotations include taxes and duties or not. Some forwarders will include these charges in their quotes, others not. So remember to take this into account when choosing a quote.

In general, you can expect to see great differences between the quotes.

If 2-3 companies quote the same reasonable amount (e.g. you have 3 quotes of ~$1000), you can assume that that is the actual price range.

If the quotes you receive are too different from each other and you can't determine the actual price range, I suggest you search for more forwarders to request a quote from.

#2 - Ease Of Collaboration

This is a bigger problem than it should be, and I am sure you can relate.

The industry in general hasn’t yet evolved to the level of technological advancement and customer service/support we expect from modern companies.

There are exceptions, however, and that’s what you should be looking for – the exceptions.

Instead of a 3-day waiting time for a quote, there are now options for getting quotes instantly.

Instead of difficult and inefficient communication due to language barriers, there is now professional support.

Instead of tracking your shipments and communicating via email, there are now cloud-based user dashboards that completely automate your shipping processes.

#3 - Shipping Routes & Method Of Transportation

Can the freight forwarder ship the goods from China to your specific country?

Can they deliver the goods directly to your warehouse/address (door-to-door)?

Can they ship to an FBA warehouse, if that is what you require?

These are all important questions you need to clarify with your freight forwarder.

#4 - Shipment Safety

Here you need to enquire about the forwarder’s methods and procedures for guaranteeing shipment safety.

Mistakes do happen and packages do get lost or damaged with every forwarder. But this should be a very rare occurrence, not a habit.

The biggest action you can take here is to make sure that all of your shipments are ensured.

Some freight forwarders, including us here at Bookairfreight, offer free insurance (in our case up to $10,000) on every single shipment.

In the rare case of something happening to your goods, you will be fully reimbursed.

Chapter 3: Best Option – Use An Online Freight Forwarding Marketplace

The benefit of using a marketplace as opposed to working with an individual freight forwarder is the availability of options.

Here at Bookairfreight we have over 50+ top tier freight forwarders in our global network, which means we have a wide variety of options you can choose from to better suit your needs.

Marketplaces are also at a lower risk of being completely affected by incidents causing certain routes to be blocked (e.g. Suez Canal incident), because they’re not dependent on a single shipping route.

Other benefits include:

• Generally lower rates due to larger shipment volumes.

• Better customer support due to the nature of the business. Customer service is at the core of a marketplace model.

• More resources and tools you can use. Calculators, trackers, documentation, apps, etc.

• Value-added services, including assistance with documentation, labeling, packaging, customs clearance, free insurance, and more.

Marketplace Suggestions Based On Business Size

Different online freight forwarding marketplaces are custom-tailored to different customer needs.

Large Businesses

If you’re a large business or corporation, our recommendation is Flexport.

They’re the market leader for this customer segment, and they have the necessary resources required to take on large-scale operations.

Their offering includes:

• Logistics Services (Ocean & Air & Freight)

• Supply Chain Services (Order Management)

• Trade Services (Customs Brokerage)

Definitely check them out if you are in this segment. 

For medium-sized and smaller businesses, Flexport becomes less-than-optimal due to their complex processes suited for corporations.

Small And Medium-Sized Businesses

If your company is an SME, you need have a specific set of needs.

You need a partner that makes things as easy as possible for you, because time is valuable in a small team.

At the same time, you need good rates in order to be cost-efficient, and smooth communication with your provider.

At Bookairfreight, our services are custom-tailored to the specific needs of e-commerce SMEs and Amazon Merchants who source their products from China.

By using Bookairfreight you will have access to the cheapest rates on the market, and save a ton of time on shipping operations because we take care of everything!

You can get an instant quote (as well as manage all your shipments) on our platform! 👈

Wrapping Things Up

We hope this guide provided you with some useful information on how to move forward.

It will take time to find the right freight partner for your business, but the investment will definitely be worth it in the end.

Best of luck, and feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or concerns that weren't addressed.

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Cristian Ungureanu

Logistics nerd and resident marketing guy of Bookairfreight. I love writing content that simplifies old-fashioned industry processes and provides solid, accurate information you can base your decisions on. Outside of logistics, I enjoy nature, hanging out with friends, electronic music and spirituality.

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