Abu Dhabi! The lights, the architecture, the people! And conferences!

I recently returned from a wonderful time at IATA’s World Cargo Symposium in Abu Dhabi. The conference was dedicated to bringing together key stakeholders from the entire air cargo supply chain. The conference included more than 1,000 cargo leaders and more than 40 exhibitors. Topics included disruptions within the air cargo industry including technological, economic, and regulatory.

The conversations and panels across the conference pivoted to a key need in the industry: frictionless commerce. Air cargo companies, much like other industries, are looking to make the B2B buying experience easier. In order to grow their business, they understand that the process of interacting with customers, selling services, and tracking those services need to be seamless and very much mirror B2C commerce. At the core of this, air cargo companies are looking for key technology investments, like analytics and other digital capabilities, to propel them into a modern commerce world.

No one understands this dynamic more than the participants of IATA FACE (Future Air Cargo Executives). I had the opportunity to attend the FACES track and hear about today’s challenges across the entire air cargo industry. I left feeling quite optimistic about the industry, as many young professionals are banding together to come up with tactical solutions to advance the industry.

After FACES, PROS sponsored a half-day track and a panel titled “Fighting Back to Profitability: Improving and Sustaining Financial Health.” During this time, I had the opportunity to learn firsthand from air cargo companies how they are looking to combat financial turbulence. Xianqin (Lisa) Wallace, Senior Vice President Revenue Management and Network Planning at MABKargo spoke about how she is championing the company’s move from traditional commerce to modern commerce, where frictionless and transparent pricing and quoting is key. At the core of her message was the importance of staying ahead of the digitalization curve to stay viable and profitable.

The shipment of goods through air is vital to the world economy as the total value of goods is equal to about $6.8 trillion. The digital transformation in air cargo will bring innovative changes in 2017 and beyond. According to IATA Senior Economist George Anjaparidze, the industry has seen stale to stagnant growth in the last 4 years but he is cautiously optimistic that there will be some growth in 2017. Air shippers may find this environment to be very challenging, but understanding the importance of modern commerce powered by dynamic pricing science will be essential for these carriers to maintain profitability. The PROS cargo team and I were incredibly glad to attend the World Cargo Symposium and look forward to continuing to be a part of the conversation.