Small Businesses Struggle with Import Overhead

A new survey shows that 42.4% of business owners spend more than 2 hours (or an estimated $100 of labor) on managing each individual shipment.

When it comes handling the expanding import business, small companies are having a tough time. It turns out that many, almost 50% are not using technology to keep up with the increase of imports, which last year measured 6.7%, the fastest rate of growth in more than 7 years. Half of the businesses are still using spreadsheets to handle logistics according to Freightos.

“Ask any freight forwarder or business owner, and they’ll agree - international freight, particularly for small and midsize businesses, is long overdue for an upgrade,” said Dr. Zvi Schreiber, Freightos CEO.“These survey results put real data to the all-too-frustrating obsolescence of the technology used to manage international shipments, and provide valuable insight into the motives behind the rapid growth in logistics technology investments.” 

The survey, conducted in Q4 2017, was jointly carried out with Google Surveys based on a representative sample of more than 500 midsize businesses in the United States that are shipping goods around the world.

Here are some key findings:  

  • 42.4% of business owners spend more than 2 hours (or an estimated $100 of labor) on managing each individual shipment 
  • 10% of small business owners reported more than 75% of shipments arrive late
  • Only 11.7% of large importers feel their freight providers are technologically advanced
  • Of companies that import only 4-10 shipments year, almost half still spend over $10,000 per month on international freight

The survey asked specific questions as well.

On average how much time do you spend managing an individual freight shipment (getting quotes, booking, following up/tracking)?

  • 11.8% spend more than 5 hours. 42.4% of business owners spend more than 2 hours on managing each individual shipment 
  • Over 60% of midsize importers (10-50 annual imports) spend 2+ hours managing each shipment, wasting anywhere from 20 hours to 500 hours a year managing shipments
  • Among companies that import over 100 times a year, 37% spend more than two hours managing each individual shipment; 12% spend over ten hours.

 What percent of your international freight shipments arrive on-time?

  • 29.7% of business owners admit that less than half of their shipments arrive on time
  • Only 34.7% report timeliness in the top 25th percentile. 65% of small business owners say that only ¾ of their international freight shipments arrive on time. 10% of small business owners only receive 1 in 4 shipments on time.
  • Across the board, only 35% of importers say that goods arrive on-time 75% of the time or more
  • 65% of companies that import goods suffer from delays at least 25% of the time they ship goods
  • For 30% of small (4-50/year) importers report that half or more of their shipments are late

Compared to other service providers, how technologically advanced is your international freight provider?

  • Larger importers clearly have access to more sophisticated technology. About 25% of large importers (100+/year) say their forwarders are more advanced than other service providers, while only 7% of small importers say the same.
  • Only 11.7% of large importers feel their freight providers are technologically advanced.

What software do you use for international supply chain management?

By far, the most common technology solution used to manage shipments is…Spreadsheets, an option used by 47% of all importers and over half of small importers.

Other findings include:

  • For companies that import only 4-10/year (aka micros), almost half still spend over $10/K month on international freight
  • 18.4% of business owners have no visibility of their shipments
  • 83% of importers report that they do not have full visibility into the location of their shipment during the import process
Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.