Ashley KlepachProduct Marketing Manager, FourKites

As the holiday season is quickly approaching for retailers, two key challenges come to mind: preventing stockouts and reducing disruption. According to a recent McKinsey study, the US food retail industry loses an estimated 2-3% of sales every year due to stockouts and unavailable inventory. And in a recent FourKites retail survey with Retail Dive, nearly half (47%) of supply chain executives cited supply disruption as their most pressing challenge, while 42% cited product availability as their largest challenge.

So how can retailers avoid stockouts and prevent disruptions for international shipments when shipping internationally? We looked at four ways to reduce these challenges.

True End-to-End & Multimodal Visibility

In a post-COVID world, retailers are not relying on one type of mode to transport their products. Especially in international shipping, multimodal shipping is necessary to transport goods from one area of the globe to another. But with disruption on the rise and increasing demands for all supply chain stakeholders, manual track-and-trace for these shipments is no longer an option; shippers need to understand where their containers are every step of the way and when transfers occur from ocean to rail to over the road.

Shippers should look for solutions that provide multimodal tracking, especially with automated transfers for true end-to-end tracking. The most sophisticated providers build these solutions with retailers in mind and create capabilities for purchase order and SKU-level tracking. This level of visibility can provide actionable insights when it comes to tracking your cargo and answering the age-old supply chain question, Where is my container? ​​With real-time visibility solutions, like those from FourKites, retailers can streamline their operations with more efficient inventory planning and reduced transportation and operating costs.

Document Visibility

A key aspect of international shipping is document management. On average, 9-12 documents are required to complete an ocean shipment. The documents required can depend on the country of origin, the country of destination, the type of product and more. In a recent FourKites survey, 60% of respondents were looking to improve their document management operations. Incomplete or incorrect documentation can cause containers to get stuck at ports and not clear customs, which can result in delays, increased stockouts, lost revenue, and increased demurrage and detention fees for retailers.

The premier ocean visibility solutions provide document visibility for international shipping, allowing shippers to have a digital hub for all their critical documents in a single platform. 

Exception Management

With disruptions and numerous delays transporting goods across the globe, exception management becomes especially critical for retailers preparing for the holiday season. The last thing that retailers will want is stockouts as the inventory demands become higher. This is why exception management notifications and alerting is so critical; by understanding which shipments are delayed in real-time and proactively prioritizing these shipments to get back on track, shippers can save in transportation costs, stockouts and customer satisfaction. Leveraging visibility providers, like FourKites’ alerts and notifications will allow you to do this quickly and easily.

Deep Dive with PO- and SKU-level Data

These days, tracking shipments isn’t limited to the load level; in fact, retailers are able to gain comprehensive visibility, down to the PO and SKU level of their shipments. For instance, FourKites’ order visibility allows shippers to track multimodal shipments by PO, even if they are split across multiple carriers. This optimizes forecasting for on-time delivery across suppliers and enables real-time visibility on orders in transit. By getting granular in this way, retailers are able to gain greater agility than ever for smarter supply optimization at a critical time of year.

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Ocean disruptions are certainly not going away anytime soon. The best way to mitigate the impacts of those disruptions, especially for retailers looking to best serve their customers and retain a competitive advantage leading up to the upcoming holiday season, is to leverage real-time supply chain visibility solutions that give them digitization, collaboration and true end-to-end visibility across modes. In this way, they will maximize efficiencies, reduce delays and gain the business agility that we all need during these tumultuous times.

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