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Ashley Klepach FourKites headshotAshley KlepachProduct Marketing Manager, FourKites

“If you are a retailer and not using visibility, you are behind,” said Philippe Salles, VP of Ocean Strategic Solutions, in FourKites’ latest webinar: Perfect your Back-to-School Strategy with End-to-End Ocean Visibility. Salles was joined by Mark Delaney, VP of Industry Solutions at FourKites, and host Sarah Barnes-Humphrey as they discussed the key challenges retailers face for the back-to-school season.


The challenges discussed include dealing with ocean freight chaos, using data for actionable insights and how end-to-end visibility is the key to preventing product stockouts. Here are the best practices for retailers to not be left behind for this back-to-school season:

Not all visibility is created equal

According to Salles, just because a retailer implements a visibility solution does not mean it will provide the necessary granularity. Some visibility providers only offer tracking for one mode or don’t provide connections for the multimodal journey. It is especially important for retailers to have more sophisticated end-to-end solutions that have visibility down to the PO and SKU level — helping them know exactly what inventory is making it to store shelves on time, especially for promotions like back-to-school. When it comes to delayed or late product, sophisticated visibility solutions, such as FourKites, allow for the most accurate ETAs, which allow retailers to optimize their labor and operations planning.

Product out-of-stocks go beyond empty store shelves

While not having product on store shelves is a dire situation for back-to-school, the risks of out-of-stock items can go beyond the season. In the webinar, Delaney discusses the “Amazon Effect” – how customers’ expectations have never been higher. Going along with high expectations is decreased customer loyalty, especially when consistent out-of-stocks occur. “If a customer goes to your store and your product is out-of-stock, they will go elsewhere to get it. There is no such thing as customer loyalty anymore.” To combat the risk of unsatisfied customers, retailers using ocean visibility can proactively track items to ensure loyalty is not decreased further.

Ocean visibility isn’t just about track-and-trace

Ocean visibility can serve more needs than basic track-and-trace. Sophisticated ocean visibility provides an end-to-end solution — not just port-to-port but door-to-door, connecting each leg of a multimodal journey. This insight allows retailers to proactively mitigate delayed products. For example, Salles discussed the ability to manage ocean freight exceptions within FourKites’ visibility platform –- retailers can correct, adjust and prioritize containers that are delayed or will be late, as long as it is five days prior to the vessel arrival. This can mean the difference between having product on store shelves in time for the back-to-school promotions.

More data isn’t always better

Just because retailers have more data than they did pre-pandemic does not mean they are in a better position, says Delaney. It is more important that retailers use supply chain data in an actionable way. Perhaps the most immediate opportunity for retailers is using historical visibility data to see how particular carriers, lanes or ports have performed and to optimize their supply chain based on this performance.

As Barnes-Humphrey said, “You need to be adaptable and you need to be comfortable with being a little bit uncomfortable. Change is happening faster, and it’s not going to slow down. We have to adapt in a smart way – we need to use technology, data and visibility.”

To watch the full webinar, Perfect your Back-to-School Strategy with End-to-End Ocean Visibility, click here.

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