European shoppers who order something from e-commerce platforms like Alibaba would never know it, but the parcels’ journey from Asia to their doorstep relies on a well-oiled machine in which Landmark Global, part of the bpost group, plays a key role. Jan Huisman, senior vice-president Asia, takes us behind the scenes.
Many Chinese and Asian transport firms rely on Landmark Global to deliver up to 3 million parcels to European shoppers every week. “We help our Chinese clients and logistic service providers get their goods to European shoppers in a quick, smooth and cost-effective way,” explains Jan Huisman, senior vice-president Asia at Landmark Global, a bpost group subsidiary.
Small country, big reach
Huisman notes that Landmark Global has a vast European and global reach both for postal and regular parcels. “Why is that important? Because it allows us to function as a one-stop shop for the consolidating transport firms and e-commerce platforms working out of Asia,” Huisman explains.
“Instead of sending, say, 100 bags to the Czech Republic, Estonia and Sweden, ‘consolidators’ based in Asia can send those 300 bags to Belgium, and we’ll handle the distribution to all those countries and in this way reduce transit times. This isn’t just a more efficient solution; it’s also why we’re able to offer our clients very competitive rates.”
Landmark Global and the China-based cargo transport companies work closely together to ensure a smooth and fast delivery to the European end consumer. “Chinese transport firms consolidate all the items bought by European customers on e-commerce platforms like eBay, Wish, Ali Express and Amazon in their warehouses. They then scan, sort and deposit the parcels into mailbags and put them onto planes and trains to Liège or Brussels, where our sorting centers are,” Huisman explains.
Thanks to its strategic location, the airport of Liège, a city located 100 kilometers to the south of Brussels, has become a central transport hub in the journey parcels make from China and other Asian countries into Europe. “Liège is positioned really centrally in Europe. From there, you can easily get to the continent’s biggest economies – Germany, the UK, France, the Netherlands and Italy,” Huisman explains. “It already was one of the leading cargo airports and the corona pandemic has further boosted its appeal. It’s now the sixth-biggest cargo airport in Europe.”
That’s because much like it did everything else, corona has turned the world of international cargo transport upside down. As one European country after another went into lockdown, commercial air traffic also ground to halt. The result? “Air freight prices increased five, six, sevenfold overnight,” Huisman explains.
A corona pivot
Thanks to the company’s quick thinking and quick action within the group, Landmark Global was able to present Asian transport firms with an alternative – a cargo train traffic route that winds all the way from China, through Kazakhstan and Poland to, finally, Belgium. Any bumps – and you can take that quite literally – were sorted along the way.
“Because the width of the rail tracks is different in China and Eastern Europe than in Western Europa, the trains can’t just ride through in one go. That means the containers – and just one of these holds up to 10,000 parcels – have to be transferred to different trains in Poland. From there, they continue on to Duisburg, Tilburg or Liège, depending on the train company chosen by our clients, and then onto our sorting centers, where the ‘traditional’, pre-corona delivery route resumes.”
Landmark Global’s nimble and fast adjustment to the realities of international transport post-corona is reflected in the figures. “In the past, the ratio air to rail freight was 80-20 for Landmark Global. Now, it’s the opposite. And when I talk to my Asian clients, they all tell me that they can see themselves continuing to rely on trains in a B2C context in some capacity. So, I do think rail freight is here to stay.”
Building mutual trust
Like in any sound business relation, relationship-building has proved crucial to the intense collaboration between Landmark Global and Asian cargo transport specialists. “That might sound like a bit of a no-brainer, but it really is important in China. As soon as the borders reopen, we will cultivate our relationships with our clients the way we did before the corona pandemic broke out – so holding meetings with them during the day and going out for a bite or drink in the evening. That’s how you build mutual trust and loyalty,” Huisman says. “Relationship-building really is key in this business.”
That client-centric attitude extends to everything Landmark Global does, Huisman adds. “Our whole operation in Asia – we have offices in Hong Kong, Singapore and Beijing – is focused on being able to quickly respond to questions from or difficulties experienced by clients. Because there’s truly nothing worse than not being able to get an answer to your question.”
To facilitate communication with Chinese clients, Landmark Global staff have also started using the popular messaging app WeChat. “This allows Landmark Global employees to stay in touch with clients wherever and whenever it is required,” Huisman says.
The number of parcels ordered by European shoppers on Asia-based e-commerce platforms has steadily increased in recent years. According to Huisman, any previous reluctance on the part of European shoppers to buy from an e-commerce platform based on the other side of the world has completely disappeared. “We’re increasingly seeing European shoppers ordering items from Asian platforms. My prediction is that the stream of parcels from China to Europe will only grow in the coming years.”
Are you looking for a partner who can deliver your parcels in Europe and beyond? Thanks to our vast network, we can offer reduced transit times at competitive rates. Get in touch to learn what Landmark Global can do for your business.