Airline Cargo

Four strategic considerations and four critical features to drive digital air cargo sales and distribution success


As cargo airlines accelerate and expand their digital transformation programs to improve how they manage their business, the same trend is beginning to permeate across the wider ecosystem. On the sales and distribution front, airlines know that relying on legacy forms of communicating with freight forwarders and digital marketplaces is unsustainable. 

Existing industry standards don't enable seamless integration, real-time exchanges, and richer interactions between value chain stakeholders. They're a limitation to growth, efficiency, productivity, and seamless customer experiences. Forwarders also realize this and are ramping up investments to digitize their partnerships with their largest airline customers. Likewise for digital marketplaces that have accelerated the need for airlines and forwarders to revamp their tech stacks. Instant availability and access to rates, capacity, booking confirmations, and shipment status updates, to name but a few, are critical in today's online world.

Four strategic considerations for a successful sales and distribution strategy

It's clear that the way airlines interact with forwarders and digital marketplaces needs to change. Beyond investing in the systems within the four walls of each party, there's a vital connectivity bridge that's missing to take the cargo sales and distribution experience to the next level. As the underlying technology between the three parties evolves, airlines will be able to unlock new business benefits if they adopt a long-term and holistic mindset. Four strategic considerations to take into account for a successful sales and distribution strategy include:

  1. Implementation costs and timeframes
    Reducing development, testing, and go-live costs and effort with each partner is critical to accelerating digitization. Lengthy implementation cycles for each individual partnership increase investment efforts and costs, and dilute the speed and scalability of integrations across the partner ecosystem.
  2. Agility
    Technology evolves rapidly and air cargo is increasingly becoming a digital business. To keep up with industry dynamics, airlines must be able to quickly roll-out critical features, innovative products, and platform enhancements and upgrades. Getting bogged down by hard and complex system level dependencies only drives competitive disadvantage in a rapidly changing environment.
  3. Feedback loops
    As digitization accelerates and the number of airline partnerships with forwarders and marketplaces grows, the ability to continuously monitor sales performance metrics at the channel and partner levels is critical. This feedback loop is vital for sales executives to proactively detect when business performance isn't meeting expectations and the context behind it.
  4. Effective controls
    Building system level integrations with external partners also comes with performance degradation risks due to sudden transaction spikes or redundant requests hitting the core cargo management system. Direct system level integrations also increase the risk of sensitive data being accessed by external partners beyond what they are permitted and needs to be addressed early on.

Four critical features for air cargo sales and distribution success

Next-gen air cargo solutions that are quick to deploy can help airlines overcome their partnership challenges with forwarders and marketplaces through seamless, real-time, and richer connectivity and information exchanges. Four critical features to look out for include:

  1. Scalable integrations 
    Deploy once, reuse as many times as required. Using a purpose-built and product-based solution with pre-configured integration capabilities allows airlines to quickly scale their partnerships with forwarders and marketplaces. The ability to redeploy functionality through a community platform generates a network effect and is faster, simpler, and cheaper to implement. 
  2. Decoupling
    Decoupling an airline's core cargo system from external systems integrations reduces operational risks and accelerates partner onboarding. A system agnostic platform that sits between the airline and partner core systems and that can independently manage rich data transactions enables airlines to quickly roll-out core system changes and enhancements with no impact on external partners.
  3. Data-driven insights
    The ability to segment and analyze accurate and comprehensive business, customer, and market data drives competitive advantage. Imagine the conversations airline sales executives could have with forwarders and marketplaces if they had in-depth insights on conversion, revenue, and booking volumes segmented by geography, product, and partner! Business intelligence drives better management decisions.
  4. Configurable business rules
    Defining business rules at a partner level allows airlines to control partner access to business inventory and information, and manage traffic to ensure core system performance and availability at all times. Increased predictability and real-time management of transaction volumes also helps airlines efficiently scale infrastructure according to changing business needs.

Enabling deeper, value-driven partnership

As airlines accelerate and expand their digital transformation programs, systems connectivity with freight forwarders and digital marketplaces will underpin business success. Seamless partner integration, real-time interactions, and richer information exchanges across the value chain are what´s missing to drive efficiency and take air cargo sales and distribution partnerships to the next level. But the good news is that a scalable platform that can do just that exists, today.

Author Info 

Ajith Pancily Poothiyot forms part of the Product Management & Strategy vertical at IBS Software and heads Special Initiatives for Cargo & Logistics Solutions. In his current role, Ajith spends most of his time building platforms that enhance partnerships and collaboration in the air cargo supply chain. He comes with 11+ years of experience in product strategy, product management, thought leadership, and corporate planning.
Ajith holds a Masters in Management from IIM Udaipur and a Bachelors in Electrical & Electronics Engineering from NIT Calicut, India 

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