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Retail Tech: JD.com Shows Off Robotic Retail, Carter’s Deploys RFID in 750 Stores

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

RFID

Carter’s/Nedap Retail

Carter’s, a seller of apparel and related products exclusively for babies and young children, completed its rollout of Nedap Retail’s Nedap iD Cloud platform for its U.S. store RFID technology needs in August 2021. The retailer wants to leverage RFID to improve overall inventory accuracy in an effort to improve omnichannel sales growth, increase sell-throughs and operational efficiencies.

Nedap iD Cloud is an enterprise platform designed to gather all Electronic Product Code inventory data and its item lifespan history into one place to create “perfect” inventory visibility throughout retail supply chains with the use of RFID technology. In knowing which products flow through the supply chain, retailers can ultimately keep prices and costs low and deal with less markdowns, less waste and higher profitability, according to the company.

Additionally, the increased inventory visibility provides the foundation for omnichannel concepts such as BOPIS and ship-from-store.

“With RFID, we can offer a broader assortment of inventory available to our customers opting for in-store or curbside pickup. In addition to improving the customer experience, better inventory management through RFID is an important tool to deliver increased profitability in our retail business”, said Andrew Tashiro, senior director of omnichannel at Carter’s.

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Tashiro said the ability to still host data in the U.S. and to be supported locally was essential for the deployment, even though Nedap operates out of the Netherlands. Having customized support from the Nedap team enabled the retailer to deploy the solution to more than 750 stores in three months. Working with a support team that took the time to develop a deep understanding of Carter’s unique needs and goals was critical.

“Ultimately, the scalability of the platform which allowed us to easily connect existing systems and quickly access accurate inventory data drove the decision to choose Nedap iD Cloud”, said Tashiro.

SML/Sumzed AB

RFID technology and solutions company SML has acquired Sweden-based retail customer experience platform provider Sumzed AB for an undisclosed sum. The deal expands SML RFID’s retail execution platform, Clarity, and further grows the organization’s footprint in Northern Europe.

Sumzed now joins the company as part of SML Intelligent Inventory Solutions business led by Dean Frew, chief technology officer and senior vice president of RFID Solutions at SML Group. The addition of Sumzed’s technology will enable SML RFID to expand its solution offering to the organization’s global customer base.

Sumzed’s cloud-based platform combines content management software, hardware, and event-driven integration in an effort to improve the effectiveness of existing store labor in order to elevate the in-store customer experience. Sumzed provides both non-RFID and RFID-enabled solutions, including Price Checker, Point of Information, Fitting Room Support, Call for Assistance and Digital Signage.

Robotics

JD.com/Ochama

On Jan. 10, Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com opened two “robotic shops” under the new brand name Ochama in the Netherlands, with more locations to follow soon. The shops are designed to combine the BOPIS concept, where robots would prepare the parcels for in-store pickup, with a home delivery service.

The first two Ochama shops are in Leiden and Rotterdam, with two more to open in Amsterdam and Utrecht.

This marks the first time that JD.com has opened a physical retail store in Europe. The e-commerce giant also claims that Ochama, which combines the Chinese terms for “omnichannel” and “amazing,” is the first retailer in the Netherlands that offers both food and non-food items in one shopping app.

“With rich experience in retail and cutting-edge logistics technologies that the company has accumulated over the years, we aspire to create an unprecedented shopping format for customers in Europe with better price and service,” said Pass Lei, general manager of Ochama, JD Worldwide in a statement.

Shoppers can order products online via the Ochama app, which includes products ranging from fashion, home furnishings, household appliances, beauty, maternal and child products, and fresh and packaged food.

The automated warehouse within the shop includes a fleet of robots such as AGV (automated ground vehicles), robotic arms and other technologies that engage in picking, sorting, and transferring the merchandise. By scanning the app’s QR code at the check-out, shoppers will watch as their orders are carried to them by the conveyer belt, as part of a cashierless shopping trip.

Ochama’s chief operation officer Mark den Butter noted that by fully tapping the robotics technologies within the store, the shops could bring down the prices by an extra 10 percent.

People can visit the store’s showroom to experience Ochama’s product assortments, or they can also choose the next-day home delivery service option online.

“Dutch people are passionate for innovation and a green environment, and Ochama’s shopping format is designed to contribute to both aspects,” said den Butter. “There will be no queue and fewer traffic jams to do the chores as they can go for convenience, benefits and everything in one stop at Ochama.

Logistics

KlearNow

KlearNow, a “logistics as a service” (LaaS) platform, raised $50 million in new capital led by private equity group Kayne Partners Fund. The platform will use the Series B round to aggressively accelerate its technology development and deployment, geographical expansion, and talent investments, according to founder and CEO Sam Tyagi.

The AI-powered platform, founded in 2018, is geared to help provide real-time cargo visibility to the customs clearance and drayage processes, particularly as worldwide supply chain disruptions that have left businesses grappling with delays and shortages.

According to a company statement, investors were drawn to KlearNow’s platform due to its ability to ease import/export burdens. The solution does this by digitizing and streamlining paper-based logistics processes, therefore reducing manual entry times and human errors. The platform takes this data to power its customs clearance marketplace, enabling customs brokers and transporters improve end-to-end visibility, collaboration and cost savings for its importers, exporters and freight forwarders.

Since its $16 million Series A funding round led by GreatPoint Ventures in January 2020, KlearNow says it has increased its customer base tenfold and its monthly revenue run rate by more than 50 times.

During this time, the U.S.-based company has expanded into Canada, and launched its U.K. service in January 2021 to support U.K. and E.U. businesses operating in the post-Brexit landscape.

KlearNow recently added a drayage marketplace to its LaaS platform to support drayage companies facing planning and scheduling challenges and importers demanding extended visibility. With both customs clearance and drayage marketplaces, KlearNow wants to provide a single view of multi-leg shipments from port of lading to the warehouse.

The round will also include continued participation from existing investors including GreatPoint Ventures, Argean Capital and Autotech Ventures, plus new investment from Activate Capital.

AJC Logistics

AJC Logistics has launched a new global brand, AJC Freight Solutions, designed to consolidate all domestic freight and international shipping services to streamline operations, improve customer service, simplify processes and provide a singular focus for transportation and logistics customers.

AJC Freight Solutions provides trucking services across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Internationally, as well as full ocean shipping services to and from the U.S. via more than 60 global ports.

Trucking services include expertise in refrigerated and dry van freight, drayage and intermodal, expedited freight, flatbed transportation and drop trailer logistics.

International shippers can use AJC Freight Solutions experience and global relationships to handle everything from booking cargo to and from the U.S. via global ports, extensive brokerage services and specific expertise in Latin America.

In addition to AJC Freight Solutions, other brands within AJC Logistics include Eagle Logistics Systems, which providing freight to and from Puerto Rico via a state-of-the-art warehouse in Jacksonville, Fla., as well as SeaWide Express, which handles freight of all kinds to and from Alaska, Hawaii and Guam.

While the AJC Freight Solutions brand is new, it comes from 50 years worth of logistics expertise stemming from the parent company of AJC Logistics. AJC Group was founded in 1972 and is a multi-billion-dollar company supplying food to more than 130 countries across the globe.

AJC Freight Solutions is led by Chris Swartz, vice president of the AJC Group and managing director, AJC Logistics; Randolph Page, general manager, USEC Jones Act and NVOCC; and Dave Wire, general manager, Trucking. Together this management team brings more than 95 years of collective industry experience. Long-term team members and existing relationships with shippers and carriers will continue to solve logistics and transportation issues for AJC Freight Solutions customers.

Trinity Logistics

Trinity Logistics, a third-party logistics firm and the freight brokerage division of Burris Logistics, has acquired Team Eagle Logistics for an undisclosed sum. The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Team Eagle Logistics will become Trinity’s seventh Regional Service Center, further expanding the company’s footprint to the West Coast, positioning for better service and carrier relationships in the region

Team Eagle will adopt the Trinity Logistics name and brand.

Team Eagle Logistics was founded in 2014 with the mission to build and maintain lasting, intimate business relationships through industry leading levels of service and communication. Since inception, Team Eagle has grown to revenues of $53 million annually. By joining up with Trinity Logistics, they want to continue offering relationship-based service and expand freight and technology offerings to their customers and carriers as Trinity’s Scottsdale RSC.

Trinity Logistics has been in the freight brokerage business for more than 40 years was acquired by Burris Logistics in 2019. Trinity offers truckload, less-than-truckload, intermodal, expedited, drayage, international, warehousing and technology solutions to businesses of all sizes. The Team Eagle acquisition is designed to bring Trinity greater “coast-to-coast” capabilities and enhances the overall experience for shipper and carrier customers in the region.

Predictive analytics

First Insight

First Insight, a provider of the Next-Gen Experience Management (XM) technology platform designed to help brands make data-driven product decisions, has extended its partnerships with brands including Caleres, Kohl’s, Rockport, Rue21 and Zippo.

The company marries predictive analytics with the data made available by listening directly to their partners’ consumers, stakeholders and suppliers.

First Insight’s Next-Gen XM technology platform’s capabilities are built to improve the customer, product, brand, and employee experience. Businesses that harness insights across these four pillars can improve decision-making across merchandising strategy, assortments, pricing, reputation, and sustainability, all of which can increase a brand’s bottom line.

Through consistent investment in engineering and R&D, First Insight launched major new capabilities in October and December 2021 including Customer Driven Assortment Analysis and new capabilities for marketing and segmentation.

The recent product launches, along with First Insight’s Risk Alert offering, are built to support users’ sustainability and ESG initiatives by enabling sustainable operations that reduce environmental impact and avoid the launch of offensive messaging or offerings that would damage revenues and brand reputation.

“Caleres is committed to bringing maximum value to our customers and our retail partners,” said Keith Duplain, president – St. Louis branded portfolio at Caleres. “Since 2015, First Insight has provided our functional teams and brands with actionable consumer insights in this ever-changing retail environment, and now informs our strategic pricing initiatives that are business-critical in this dynamic market.”

The Rockport Company has expanded its use of First Insight across the Reef and Rockport brands.

“First Insight is an invaluable tool enabling us to expand the REEF brand into new channels with customer-informed confidence,” said Jeff Gushard, head of strategy at The Rockport Company. “Our Rockport brand team leverages First Insight across the entire development cycle, from understanding our customers’ ‘new normal’ of footwear coming out of the pandemic to informing our sell-in to our retail partners with predictive insight into what will resonate with their customer base. We continue to find new ways to drive brand value from the insights we gain from the First Insight platform.”

Visual search

Swap.com/Find.Fashion

Online consignment and thrift shop Swap.com has unveiled an AI-powered mobile shopping experience that delivers visual search from Find.Fashion. The technology is built to combine data with emotion recognition to make it easier to search items online.

Find.Fashion is designed to make search more efficient by prioritizing emotion within the user’s actions instead of relying on text-based entries or historical data that may be skewed by changes in tastes and seasons. This new technology seeks to prevent shoppers from having to verbally describe what they want by employing visual search capabilities that the company says sometimes can deliver as much as a 4x higher likelihood of being found.

“Some shoppers aren’t sure exactly what they want, they just know Swap is a good place to find it at a great value,” said Antonio Gallizio, board member and chief commercial officer at Swap.com. “Adding Find.Fashion visual search makes it easier to find what they want in that moment, and it makes the shopping experience easier, faster and more engaging. We know this because buyers that use the search walk away happier with their purchases and find more products on our site that they inevitably buy.”

Online consignment and thrift shop Swap.com has unveiled an AI-powered mobile shopping experience that delivers visual search from Find.Fashion.

Omnichannel

NewStore

Omnichannel cloud platform NewStore has launched native-application powered NewStore Consumer Apps enabling retailers to create branded mobile experiences that unify their online channels with their physical stores.

This offering extends the company’s existing strategy of turning brick-and-mortar shopping into an app-powered, digitally connected retail experience.

The expanded functionality within the NewStore Omnichannel Platform is a result of the company’s recent acquisition of Highstreet Mobile, a consumer app provider for fashion and lifestyle brands. Effective immediately, Highstreet will operate under the NewStore brand. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

The NewStore solution was built to include point-of-sale, order management, inventory management, clienteling and now native consumer app functionalities. The platform can be adopted all at once or modularly, depending on the brand’s omnichannel maturity. Today, NewStore powers more than 50 retail brands globally, including recent additions such as G-Star Raw, Scotch & Soda, Vince, Moose Knuckles, Tom Tailor, Wolford and Boardriders.

Roxy will be the first retailer from the Boardriders portfolio of brands to deploy a NewStore Consumer App.

“I joined Boardriders as the global CIO to oversee and manage all aspects of the companies’ global footprint of wholesale, ecommerce, and retail operations. A key strategic component of this is the digital transformation of the brands’ retail operations, and adding a consumer app is a natural extension of our omnichannel journey, which includes a multi-brand loyalty program with NewStore,” said David Berry, chief information officer for Boardriders. “We were drawn to the new offering because NewStore makes it easy for existing customers like us to deploy a rich consumer app that integrates out-of-the-box with the rest of the platform’s features.”

Retailers can create the custom app experiences through content management system NewStore Studio.

NewStore says the Consumer Apps can triple the standard engagement rates and and double conversion rates.

The Consumer Apps integrate with brands’ physical stores and e-commerce platforms. For example, the Store Mode feature automatically adapts the app UX to provide in-store services. Additionally, a direct link between the NewStore Consumer App and NewStore Associate App is was built to create a seamless experience for both the shopper and the brand. NewStore also leverages App Clips to create in-store experiences that don’t require consumers to download the full version of an app.

As with the overall NewStore platform, NewStore Consumer Apps are delivered as a service with continuous app updates every few weeks.

Cross-border commerce

Digital River/VTEX

Digital River, a company that provides services and APIs to help brands scale globally, has partnered with e-commerce platform Vtex. This partnership is designed to simplify and take the risk out of cross-border sales for mid-market and enterprise-level companies.

As part of the collaboration, Vtex adds Digital River’s Global Seller Services of payments, taxes, compliance, fraud and logistics into its e-commerce platform in an effort to free brands from managing multiple vendor relationships at once to power their online operation.

Vtex’s microservices-based architecture, which includes native marketplace and order management capabilities, combined with Digital River’s business and development tools, is designed to enable clients to future-proof their businesses for global expansion with flexibility and speed to market.

Digital River’s Global Seller Services are designed to help companies of all sizes grow their revenue by offering shoppers a localized buying experience, and are compatible in more than 175 countries worldwide. The technology provider is a partner of more than 2,100 global brands across the Americas, Europe and Asia. On the other end, the Brazil-based Vtex works with more than 2,000 customers that operate more than 2,500 active online stores across 32 countries.

Marketplaces

BeyondStyle

The founders of mobile fashion e-commerce platform BorderX Lab have introduced a global marketplace for luxury, sustainable and outlet shopping via an interactive discovery app, BeyondStyle. The platform launched online in January at Beyondstyle.us.

BeyondStyle offers three separate destinations designed to combine shopping your favorite runway designer, outlet mall and vintage stores all in one place.

The platform’s three channels include: B Lux, which features luxury fashion and beauty brands including Prada, Burberry, Alexander McQueen, Gucci, Saint Laurent among others; B Outlet, which is designed to offer top deals from outlet stores from the U.S., Europe and Australia including Nordstrom Rack, Saks Off Fifth, Yoox, Zappos and more; and B Eco, a comprehensive selection of sustainable brands and green products that put the planet over profit, from Patagonia to Stella McCartney.

The platform’s three channels include: B Lux, B Eco and B Outlet.

The company has partnered with close to 6,000 fashion, beauty, streetwear and sneaker brands to develop the app for today’s modern consumer, whether they are searching for the aspirational, affordable, or sustainable fashion, the company said.

Unlike similar apps traditionally targeting Gen Z, BeyondStyle targets an audience ranging all the way from 25 to 60, which not only has more disposable income but often accesses social media platforms like Facebook.

With the platform, users can browse their favorite styles, “B-Love” them as favorite products and share them with their friends. Additionally, BeyondStyle recommends similar products based on which products are favorited.

Co-founded by former Google engineer Dr. Albert Xuehua Shen, who serves as CEO, alongside two other Google employees, BeyondStyle is headquartered in Silicon Valley.

Unified commerce/POS

Aquazzura/Cegid

Aquazzura, an Italian luxury footwear brand with 11 stores located in Italy, France, the U.K. and the U.S., has selected the Cegid Retail unified commerce and POS platform to manage its stores in Italy and worldwide.

To support its brick-and-mortar growth, Aquazurra required a global software partner with solid expertise in luxury retail, as well as in regulatory and tax compliance, and an ability to standardize the customer experience across different stores and channels.

Aquazzura has since saved on maintenance costs, due to having a system that automatically updates its own software on its own.

The platform has enabled more personalized in-store experiences including in-store appointments, and its inventory visibility capabilities have enabled the retailer’s store staff to immediately reserve the desired product and send it directly to the customer.

Aquazzura also will provide sales associates with mobile devices with the aim of helping customers find the most suitable product, while following a sales process adapted to each store, region and country.

Using Cegid, the retailer is currently working on developing such fulfillment options as click and reserve in-store, click and collect, ship from store and return in-store.

Digital transformation

OSF Digital/FitForCommerce

OSF Digital, a provider of digital transformation services, has acquired global commerce strategy consultancy FitForCommerce for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition is designed to support OSF’s growth and path to full-service enablement for digital transformation.

With this acquisition, OSF Digital will continue to develop its global commerce strategy and commerce and performance consulting arm in an effort to help clients with their customer strategy and growth acceleration, according to CEO Gerry Szatvanyi.

As part of its offering, OSF aims to identify clients’ unique requirements and launch innovative solutions dedicated to specific markets and industry verticals. The company has been a 10-year Salesforce partner, and as such assists clients on how to use the CRM platform’s various features, including its Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, B2B and B2C Commerce Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Analytics Cloud and Experience Cloud.

The integrated OSF and FitForCommerce team will offer clients transformation services, from strategy and business planning to technology road mapping, through to implementation and ongoing support. This union is designed to provide clients with more extensive thought leadership resources to help guide them through their digital transformation journeys.

FitForCommerce, publishers of the Omnichannel Retail Index, has clients including brands, retailers, B2B manufacturers, distributors, grocers, and consumer goods companies. Customers include Journeys, Wolverine, Merrell, Sperry, the Qurate Retail-owned home and lifestyle company Cornerstone Brands, outdoor furniture seller Frontgate, among others.

OSF Digital has over 1,500 employees and 40 offices worldwide. Its customers include some of the world’s biggest brands: L’Oréal, Burton Snowboards, Ubisoft, e.l.f. Cosmetics, Stonewall Kitchen, Lush Handmade Cosmetics and more.

The digital transformation services provider has been on a frenetic pace when it comes to making deals to expand. In the second half of 2021, OSF Digital acquired four Salesforce consultancies: Adept Group, Relation1, Werise, and Paladin Group. This consolidation complements the three acquisitions OSF made in 2020.