Q&A with Adrien Thominet CEO, ECS Group

Published: Monday, June 10, 2019

At ECS Group, we have made significant investments and we have now created a range of products designed to boost our clients’ performance and maximize their revenue.

e-Commerce worldwide sales in 2018 grew by 18% to US$2.86 trillion with North America posting the highest growth at 15% to over US$500 million with transactions significantly done on mobile phones, studies showed.

The era of the so-called “New Retail” which integrates shopping online and offline that involves air freight, logistics and data, across a single-value chain is a phenomenon that directly impacts how airlines, freight forwarders, financial tech and the air cargo sectors do their business.

With more retailers shifting to the Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) instead of having customers download the traditional app to promote their products, e-Commerce is projected to grow even more. A

PWA is a new software development that combines regular web pages or websites with mobile apps. These hybrid PWA sites are said to be 10x faster than mobile apps and allow push notifications with AI assisting customers to vividly view what they are buying with some even having virtual reality options for select products, thus, enhancing online sales.

Air Cargo Update talks to Adrien Thominet, the CEO of ECS Group, the largest integrated GSS A worldwide, with more than 1,000 strong employees across its 69 offices in 47 countries dealing with dozens of airlines.

An economics graduate with broad international experience, the Paris-based Thominet shares his insights on e-Commerce in the air cargo industry in this Q&A.

How is eCommerce changing the air freight industry for the better as far as the GSSA industry is concerned?

It’s a crucial challenge and one that is very relevant today. For a well-structured GSSA such as ourselves, it’s a real opportunity to bring added value. Well-organized teams, a truly connected network and, of course, investments in the appropriate technological resources (developing business intelligence tools and robots) mean we can play our part in the rise of e-commerce.

At ECS Group, we have made significant investments and we have now created a range of products designed to boost our clients’ performance and maximize their revenue.

Furthermore, air freight is more expensive than other methods of transport (10 times more costly on average than sea transport) but its key asset is its faster speed. And today, companies need this quicker pace, this responsiveness, in order to remain competitive. This means that e – commerce brings three improvement focuses to the air freight industry:

  • A faster logistics chain, and above all, last mile delivery;
  • Traceability, which is a new aspect;
  • The ability to make use of logistics solutions almost anywhere in the world (ordering products from and having them delivered to anywhere in the world)

In terms of volumes, how much percentage of cargo did ECS handle in 2018 involving e-Commerce?

Around 15% at the moment, but this figure looks set to grow rapidly as e-commerce is driving us to faster roll-out. E-commerce accentuates time-related challenges, and although time constraints are already central to our work as a GSSA, the growth of e-commerce makes time a crucial factor beyond the ‘borders of e-commerce’.

Which countries are you seeing steady rise on e – Commerce?

The countries where we have seen the greatest growth in e-Commerce are, for exports, the USA and China, and across Asia in general. But more broadly, this phenomenon is truly global, and countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Brazil are not far behind.

At ECS Group, we are perfectly capable of managing this fast-paced roll-out thanks to our strong global network. Our local ‘heroes’ are an essential asset: thanks to their knowledge and expertise, they are able to meet all of our clients’ needs and requirements, and help to move our industry and our processes forward.

In your opinion, what can the air cargo industry do in general to protect the interest of stakeholders in this burgeoning e – Commerce industry?

The air freight industry as a whole has to work together and create the innovative solutions of the future. Of course , this requires digital transformation, changes to our ways of working, and efforts to capitalize on the younger generations who are accustomed to new products and new ways of consuming. This is what we at ECS Group are doing through #NexGenLeaders.

But in our view, it also requires us to boost our visibility and highlight our distribution solutions (last mile delivery, for example), as well as simplifying/standardizing customs tariffs, which are a major obstacle in some regions.

Amazon has leased planes to deliver goods bought from its online stores. Do you think it’s best for some other online stores to align themselves with specific air freight carriers for e – Commerce purposes?

Amazon is not the only stakeholder in this field – Alibaba is also an important player. It is clear that we are faced with a new business model and that other major groups will follow this model if it is seen to be viable in the long-term.

This solution seems profitable at the moment because Amazon is only using it for its domestic requirements, and thus, isn’t faced with customs-related issues. However, when it comes to international flows, the same profitability can no longer be achieved. This difficulty is one that will be faced by other online stores that are interested in adopting a similar model.

As a GSSA, it is up to us to develop new services to meet new needs – and to create new needs. At ECS Group, we believe that a diverse and complementary range of solutions and business activities is the way forward. As such, while e-commerce helps to support the dynamic nature of our industry, it is only one of its components.