While the last few years have created many changes and challenges in our industry, a constant has continued to be the top importers and exporters in the US. One thing remains the same: the folks at the top drive change in the industry.

Charlie Taylor, VP Sales, MatchBack Systems

Industry experts talk about “normalizing” to 2019 or “pre-covid” levels of import and export volumes. It doesn’t matter which constituent in the industry you are talking to, which tradeshow you are at, or what podcast you are listening to, we are there. In 2019 we all went into “crisis” mode in our day-to-day interactions, managing transportation partner changes on an hourly basis. After five years of pulling our hair out on a regular basis, the normal is now crisis mode. The question is…has this made the industry better, worse, or just simply different? Here are a few thoughts to consider for 2024:

Crisis Management - The New Normal

The last five years have shown how antiquated our industry has been from a technology, visibility, and customer experience perspective. We don’t have to look far for examples of changing arrival schedules, ships at anchor for days, containers sitting for days or weeks at a time, lack of trucks and chassis capacity, and on and on. Importers and exporters of all sizes and scopes had to revert to relationships with their vendor partners to service their customers. There is still value in doing business with people you trust and who value your business and your customers. This year will bring a continued focus of knowing who you are doing business with, and who can provide value to the end customer, and who can respond at the pace of the new normal.

Technology – The Secret Sauce

The need for real time visibility and access to information is real. You don’t have to throw a rock very far to find a new tech solution to some problem in the industry, or some global tech giant buying their way to solutions. Private equity investment has slowed down in the tech space (although there is hope that we see some more action in the back half of 2024). The leading importers and exporters in the US have technology solutions at play, but it continues to be fragmented at best. Many companies are looking to niche providers to “fill in the gaps” of the large TMS platforms. There is still a valid build vs. buy discussion in the market. The pressures of revenue growth, personnel cutbacks, and supply chain disruption will all have an impact on IT spending. This year will continue to bring new tech players to the table, the question is who will provide the value and “fill the gaps” for the import and export leaders.

Sustainability – Everyone’s Doing It!

Sustainability and ESG goals are at the forefront of every company plan, regardless of size and scope. The largest and most impactful importers and exporters have very public Sustainability Reports you can review to see what and how they measure their impact. More and more these companies are requiring their transportation vendors to report on their own sustainability initiatives, and how these or how their operations will impact the inquiring party. Companies with global footprints, especially those headquartered in Europe or doing a substantial amount of business in Europe, have a head start on companies focused solely on selling or servicing North America. That is changing with state specific legislation (California as an example) now putting pressure on companies to report on Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions. There are still substantial gaps in how to tie all the sustainability reporting together, but 2024 will prove to be a year for major interest and investment on solutions in this space.

These are just a few topics that the industry giants will face in 2024. The many global pressures over the last five years have conditioned all industries that we rely on daily to be vigilant in staying ahead of the “crisis”. While there continues to be global volatility, our top importers, and exporters, (as well as ocean carriers, NVOCC’s, rail providers, truckers/dray providers, and anyone else supporting the supply chain) will continue as they are the well trained athletes in our industry. If you want to see what 2024 and 2025 have in store, watch what the impact players do in relationship/vendor management, sustainability, and technology investments.