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Retail Tech: Backbone PLM Unveils Shopify App, Tive Secures $54 Million in Funding

The weekly Retail Tech Roundup compiles technology news across the supply chain, manufacturing, retail, e-commerce, logistics and fulfillment sectors.

Product development

Backbone PLM

Backbone PLM has unveiled a new version of its cloud-based product development software to meet the needs of emergent DTC fashion and apparel brands. The platform is available on the Shopify app store.

Backbone Lite is built to provide the tools needed to professionalize the product development process, increase speed to market and empower creativity, allowing designers to focus on constructing products that will grow their business.

The software functions similarly to Backbone PLM, in that it includes all the features needed to create tech packs, including a centralized, cloud-based platform for product and component data.

By leveraging the dynamic data within the app, Backbone says customers can reduce manual data entry by 40 percent, retaining up-to-date product details for team members to share in real time.

When users send product details to factories for production, tech packs can be created in minutes rather than hours. That could mean enormous time and cost savings for brands that spend significant design time compiling tech packs manually using Excel and Adobe Illustrator.

Fashion and apparel brands may turn to traditional PLM software to scale product output and manage an influx of new styles without a chaotic system of spreadsheets. While legacy PLM platforms are often known for requiring long training periods that hinder product growth, Backbone’s system is designed to allow customers to transition intuitively and work as a team to implement changes quickly.

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Backbone Lite is available through the Shopify app store for $99 per user per month.

Product drops

EQL

EQL, a startup that helps brands launch and manage hype drops, has raised $25 million AUD ($18.7 million) in funding.

With support from global software investor Insight Partners and Australian investor AirTree Ventures, the new funds will fuel the company’s growth as it builds its global sales and customer teams, and further develops its infrastructure and AI capabilities.

Already live in nine markets, EQL calls itself the “first and fairest hype commerce platform.” The platform is designed to allow retailers to address problems universally felt within high heat product launches such as e-commerce sites and payments pages crashing, or backlash sparked by scammers and bots clearing out stock.

Early adopters such as Foot Locker and Crocs use the platform to manage their limited release product launches. EQL enables them to get their products like scarce Jordans and highly sought-after Crocs collabs into the hands of real fans.

To date, EQL has supported more than 1,000 launches, connecting millions of hopeful fans with products they love. The funding includes support from investors who are market leaders in digital commerce, platforms and fan engagement including Guillaume Pousaz’s Zinal Growth, Harry Stebbings’ investment fund, 20VC; Sam Kroonenburg, founder of A Cloud Guru; and the family office of Michael Rubin, CEO of Fanatics.

“EQL started from a shared passion for fairness. As avid sneaker fans, we were sick of missing out while others scored in droves,” said Andrew Lipp, CEO and co-founder of EQL. “When we decided to build the platform, our focus was on creating more fairness. This is still our truth today. As we’ve grown, we’ve always focused on how we can give fans better access to the products they love.”

By using EQL, brands can gain control of their limited release product drops and ideally support more meaningful interactions with fans.

While initially focused on pain points in the sneaker space, EQL now also supports luxury brands across apparel, alcohol and accessories, and plans to soon expand into gaming, ticketing and the digital collectives space.

EQL is currently live in the U.S., the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Spain, Singapore, France, Netherlands, Macau and Hong Kong.

Customer experience

CommerceHub

E-commerce technology platform CommerceHub has introduced its new Commerce Suite and Delivery Suite solutions, which are designed to enable retailer and brand clients to accelerate growth and deliver exceptional customer experiences while simplifying operations.

In an era when consumer demands have increased, CommerceHub wants to ensure via the new product launches that retailers can have the products they want, always in stock, and be able to deliver them faster and for free.

The Commerce Suite evolves CommerceHub’s drop ship network to add marketplace and product content services. The Delivery Suite brings together multiple point solutions into a single package to help address the end-to-end needs of managing the increasing complexity of last mile delivery.

Commerce Suite is the company’s unified solution for drop ship and marketplace, where one connection can give retailers and suppliers access to both business models.

CommerceHub understands that drop ship and marketplace models are closely related and to better meet customer needs, it is now offering both in one solution with a single connection to an integrated commerce network. With the combined offering, businesses can avoid the limitations of point products, and instead rely on a solution designed to rapidly scale growth.

With Commerce Suite, users can fluidly shift assortment categories and items between business models to adapt to changing demand and market trends, enabling faster growth. They can also maintain control over their brand and customer experience with curated, invite-only marketplace sellers.

Additionally, they can simplify operations and reduce cost by leveraging the same systems and processes for drop ship and marketplace. The new product onboarding and discovery capabilities enable users to search for new products and partners that fit specific criteria, quickly experiment with new assortment options within their store and reduce item setup time from weeks to days with new advanced catalogue services.

The Commerce Suite is available as an upgrade to all current and new CommerceHub retail customers without requiring additional licensing fees and helps avoid time-consuming IT projects.

On the other hand, Delivery Suite provides integrated delivery management designed to improve conversion with more accurate delivery promises to customers, whether fulfilling from your inventory or directly from the vendor.

The platform also can reduce costs with enterprise-grade rate shopping, so brands can balance contracts and constraints for last-mile delivery partners. Additionally, brands can generate delivery labels with the platform to help ensure supplier compliance.

CommerceHub also said that Delivery Suite can create unified visibility for all first- and third-party orders in a single view, while anticipating disruptions and proactively alerting customers with predicted-to-miss capabilities.

Added benefits include improving customer satisfaction with branded order tracking and proactive notifications and support for all parcel and LTL shipments and carriers.

Supply chain visibility

Tive

Tive, a supply chain and logistics visibility technology company, has closed a $54 million Series B funding round led by AXA Venture Partners, with participation from Sorenson Capital, Qualcomm Ventures, Fifth Wall, SJF Ventures and Floating Point Ventures as well as the existing investors RRE Ventures, Two Sigma Ventures, NextView Ventures, Hyperplane Ventures, Broom Ventures and Supply Chain Ventures.

In 2021, Tive grew its revenue by over 300 percent, acquired more than 200 new customers and expanded its global footprint. This latest investment will fuel Tive’s rapidly growing international presence, with the expansion of global sales and marketing initiatives.

In addition, the round will accelerate the development and introduction of next-generation solutions, services and help the solution provider bring actionable supply chain intelligence and 24/7 monitoring to the market. Tive already offers multi-sensor trackers and live 24/7 shipment monitoring service.

As a provider of supply chain tracking technology, Tive has delivered real-time shipment visibility in more than 200 countries, and says it has helped save thousands of shipments from being delayed, damaged, spoiled or rejected.

In 2019, Tive founded the Open Visibility Network (OVN) to ensure its vision of a world where everything and everyone is connected becomes a reality. The OVN makes shipment-level data and insights available to mutual customers and is open to all leading technology-enabled stakeholders. Current OVN members and partners include Project44, FourKites, TransVoyant, FarEye, Marine Traffic, Everstream Analytics and many more.

Sustainability

Smarter Sorting

Smarter Sorting, a company that helps retailers and consumer brands meet regulatory, governance and environmental standards to deliver on the promise of sustainability, has raised $25 million in a funding round led by G2 Venture Partners along with other existing investors.

The company also promoted CPG industry expert and entrepreneur Jacqueline Claudia as its new CEO. Claudia replaces former CEO, Chris Ripley.

The investment is geared to help Smarter Sorting accelerate its technology roadmap, scale its business operations and better serve its growing list of 24 national supermarkets, warehouse clubs and big-box retail customers, including Costco, Wegmans and Albertsons Companies, and more than 1,600 consumer brands.

Retailers and brands need answers on how to handle millions of products from cosmetics, cleaning products and deodorant to dietary supplements, pills and paint, making the Smarter Sorting platform more relevant in assisting with these unknowns. For example, the solution can help companies discover whether a product is flammable or corrosive, and whether it has to be treated as regulated waste, or instead donated or recycled.

Smarter Sorting uses data science to give retailers and brands instant and accurate answers on how to better make, market and move consumer products. Decisions come from its Product Intelligence Platform and a comprehensive set of physical attributes, chemical composition and classification rules, that includes over 456 billion data points, on millions of regulated consumer products.

By mapping product data to regulatory and handling data, the platform aims to help customers reduce their environmental impact, remain compliant and avoid fines.

Claudia first joined the team in 2020 as the company’s chief revenue officer, coming from sustainable consumer products company, LoveTheWild. In the role, she leads an executive leadership team that is 50 percent female and a company with 43 percent of senior leader positions occupied by women.

To date, Smarter Sorting says it has helped customers divert tens of thousands of tons of waste from the landfill, treat thousands of pounds of hazardous waste safely, recycle thousands more pounds of consumer products, as well as salvage hundreds of thousands of pounds of products for reuse.

Retail consulting

IRI/NPD Group

Information Resources, Inc. (IRI), a solutions and services provider for consumer, retail and media companies is merging with The NPD Group, a global provider of market information and advisory services in more than 20 industries, to form one full company.

The combination will create a global technology, analytics and data provider aimed at offering clients a view of total retail purchasing and consumption trends powered by advanced, predictive analytics on the IRI Liquid Data technology platform.

The transaction, which is subject to customary closing conditions, is expected to close in the second half of 2022.  Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

By bringing together complementary leading data assets across a range of industries on the data visualization platform, the combined business will empower brands and retailers to collaborate, better service their customers, respond to trends and leverage more powerful insights to drive growth.

NPD provides market information and advisory services for general merchandise, including softlines, technology and retail, as well as food service and food consumption. This will be combined with IRI’s market measurement, supply chain and media optimization solutions, technology platform, retail relationships and data assets for the CPG industry, which encompasses the grocery, convenience and over-the-counter healthcare categories.

“This combination is a win for IRI, NPD, our clients and our teams as we bring together two industry leaders to offer a total store view. We look forward to joining forces with the NPD team, which brings expertise in parts of the store that IRI does not cover today,” said Kirk Perry, president and CEO of IRI. “As the global retail landscape continues to evolve, IRI and NPD will have innovative technology, analytics, data resources, talent and geographic reach to best support the growth of the world’s leading brands and retailers. Our combined organization will be well-positioned for continued innovation and success, backed by the expertise and resources of our new majority investor, Hellman & Friedman (H&F), alongside our long-term partners at Vestar Capital and New Mountain Capital.”

NPD CEO Karyn Schoenbart added, “We are excited about the prospect of combining our companies to give clients the tools and information they need to succeed amid changing consumer behavior. Both NPD and IRI share similar client-focused, innovative and collaborative cultures, making this combination a natural fit.”

H&F, a premier global private equity firm, will acquire a majority stake in IRI and merge IRI with H&F portfolio company NPD. H&F will lead an ownership group consisting of existing long-term IRI investors Vestar Capital Partners and New Mountain Capital (NMC), which will both retain significant investments in the combined company.

Following the close of the transaction, H&F, Vestar and NMC will each have representation on the combined company’s board of directors. Kirk Perry will become CEO of the combined company and serve on the board. NPD executive chairman Tod Johnson will be chairman of the combined company’s board, and Schoenbart also will join the board. Jeff Ansell, current chairman of IRI’s board, will continue on the combined company’s board as well. Johnson and Schoenbart will continue to lead NPD until closing and will remain investors in the combined company.

Freight management

Parade/Truckstop.com

Parade, a software offering truckload capacity management has integrated with Truckstop.com to enable freight brokers and third-party logistics providers (3PLs) to add instant load bookings with Truckstop.com’s freight marketplace.

Through this integration, the Truckstop.com team can provide mutual broker customers greater options to move freight, while aiming to eliminate time-consuming negotiations and concerns of working with an unknown carrier.

Parade’s platform coupled with the Truckstop.com integration is designed to enable freight brokers to better re-utilize carriers, compete more effectively and handle current trucking demand across North America. With these capabilities in tow, brokers seek to find the right truck at the best price at the right time.

Parade customers increased digital transactions by more than 500 percent last year, the company said.

This integration builds off the Compliance-as-a-Service (CaaS) solutions already provided to Parade customers by Truckstop.com that allows brokers to quickly determine if a carrier meets their safety, industry, and financial requirements from within Parade’s interface.

Customer journey

Namogoo

Namogoo, a customer experience technology provider, has launched Customer Journey OS, a software platform designed to enable e-commerce teams to maximize their business potential by delivering “hyper-meaningful” journeys. These journeys are based on shoppers’ real-time needs and orchestrate all digital services running on the customer journey to work together in order to reach their goals.

Customer Journey OS is automatically pre-populated with data points useful for e-commerce teams, in an effort to simplify the process of gathering, cleansing, integrating and standardizing disparate data streams and enabling them to execute the perfect online journey.

The operating system aims to bring an entirely new approach to helping e-commerce companies craft the customer journey. The platform begins by automatically populating non-personally identifiable information (PII) and intent data about the visitor, which is becoming increasingly important in delivering personalized journeys given the challenges surrounding global privacy regulations.

It then syncs and standardizes all of the site’s data, integrations and tools, so they can be easily accessed and explored immediately. Next, Namogoo’s AI is built to work in real time to identify inefficiencies or areas for improvement to take immediate action on these insights. For example, it could discover that there is a strong correlation between shoppers with low CPU power and high checkout abandonment, indicating to the marketer that they should disable rich media for those shoppers, instantly improving their experience and decreasing checkout abandonment. Brands can then create and activate aligned segments across their existing tools, to act where and when it matters.

Leveraging Namogoo’s experience working with over 1,000 e-commerce brands, Customer Journey OS also utilizes its vast network of over 1 billion unique visitors to provide insights based on industry benchmarks in real time.

Customer Journey OS can be a critical tool for SMB and mid-market e-commerce companies as they attempt to scale their businesses, enabling brands to immediately take action on their shoppers’ needs at the most critical times via the tools already at their disposal. Unlike other tools, Customer Journey OS takes the manual labor out of setting up and maintaining robust infrastructures.

Payments

Adyen

Fintech and payments platform Adyen is working with Apple to offer Tap to Pay on iPhone for its U.S. customers later this year. The solution allows Adyen’s U.S. customers to use their iPhones to accept contactless payments, without the need to purchase or manage additional hardware or payment terminals.

Adyen is working with enterprise customers and commerce platforms, such as Lightspeed Commerce and NewStore, to bring the feature to even more businesses. With Adyen’s support, NewStore will pilot the new capability with its customer Vince.

Using an iPhone XS or later and a supporting iOS app, Tap to Pay on iPhone enables businesses to accept contactless payments using their iPhone, including payments via Apple Pay, contactless credit or debit cards, or other digital wallets. Tap to Pay on iPhone can be beneficial f mobile payment solution for business customers who like to be at the forefront of innovation and that want more flexible checkout experiences for their shoppers or for businesses that are on the go, like delivery services.

Kamran Zaki, chief operating officer at Adyen, said it made sense to offer Tap to Pay on iPhone to the company’s customers, particularly as businesses increasingly equip their employees with iPhones. With that in mind, this product offering is ultimately designed to further streamline the checkout processes for shoppers.

Tap to Pay on iPhone, is broadening Adyen’s in-person payments offering, ranging from physical terminals to virtual ones, to enable customers to choose the payment solution that best fits their business needs. Tap to Pay on iPhone will work with contactless credit and debit cards from various payment networks.