The weekly Retail Tech Roundup compiles technology news across the supply chain, manufacturing, retail, e-commerce, logistics and fulfillment sectors.
Express has launched Express Community Commerce, a social commerce experience aimed at fashion lovers who want to offer style advice and inspiration, while selling Express products directly to their network.
The program brings together a network of entrepreneurial style experts called Express Style Editors through coaching, education, mentorship and meetups.
Consumers can apply to be an Express Style Editor, creating their own digital storefronts that they can promote and link to from their own social media accounts.
Style Editors access an exclusive app that will also help them build content around the Express products they are promoting. They’re able to sell and earn commission on specially designed seasonal collections.
“We continue to advance the EXPRESSway Forward strategy, and Community Commerce is the next significant step in our transformation,” said Tim Baxter, CEO of Express. “Building upon the strong performance of our influencer marketing programs, along with our brand purpose which is to create confidence and inspire self-expression, Community Commerce will be a powerful and innovative way for customers to engage with Express.”
Currently in its pilot phase, Express Community Commerce will roll out nationwide this fall in an effort to increase digital revenue while acquiring and engaging new customers.
In the company’s June earnings call, Express revealed that the focus of brand awareness influencer activations in the first quarter had paid off, with sales driven by influencer marketing increasing 30 percent. The loyalty program also relaunched in the first quarter, adding 162 percent more new members.
Fintech giant Klarna has acquired APPRL, a SaaS platform designed to allow content creators and retailers to collaborate and bring immersive and informative shoppable content to global consumers.
Stockholm-based APPRL is the latest addition to Klarna’s growing roster of retailer marketing services powering merchant growth through the content that helps consumers to shop smarter through inspiration, reviews, customer service or product and price comparison.
Klarna’s retailer support offering now includes a comparison shopping service, an AI-driven styling engine and content creation platform, and the recently acquired Hero, which connects online shoppers with in-store product experts via conversational commerce. Together, these platform services can help consumers make informed decisions about purchasing the products they want from the retailers they love and at the best price.
APPRL aims to allow Klarna’s retailer partners to connect directly to relevant content creators to create social shopping content and track campaign results through the “buy now, pay later” platform.
Social commerce is expected to account for $84 billion of U.S. retail sales by 2024, according to Business Insider and TechNavio data. Klarna also cited eMarketer in noting that by 2022, 28 percent of the entire U.S. population are expected to shop across social channels.
OpsVeda, an operational intelligence and analytics software provider, has launched applications designed to address supply chain shortages and other chain-related needs and issues in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The shortages and bottlenecks, which have included massive port congestion and Covid outbreaks, have cascaded multiple tiers of the supply chain, affecting companies across all industries. With that in mind, OpsVeda sought to deliver a “firefighting” platform to help company target their specific issues them.
The applications have been built with OpsVeda’s Juni App engine, which can also be leveraged in self-service mode, to build new solutions. OpsVeda said the applications can plug into a customer’s existing framework in under 10 days.
With the engine, firms can analyze supply delays, prioritize allocations, expedite decisions and mitigate revenue risk problems with out-of-the-box solutions, the company said.
The OpsVeda Juni App engine includes a variety of applications that help manage delayed shipments, prioritize inbound containers and manage revenue risk. The apps rely on core engine capabilities such as rapid data discovery, visualization, scenario simulation, exception identification, alerting and bot automation.
Founded in 2010, OpsVeda has offices in San Jose, Calif., Greensboro, N.C., and Bengaluru, India.
Wiliot, a Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled product tracking startup that has developed what it calls a “self-powered, stamp-sized computer” in an effort to change the relationship between manufacturers and their products, has received $200 million in a Series C funding round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2i.
The self-proclaimed “Sensing as a Service company” has created a platform built on Wiliot IoT Pixels and the Wiliot Cloud. Wiliot IoT Pixels are tiny self-powered tags that attach to any product or packaging to sense a range of physical and environment data that is then fed into the Wiliot Cloud, where machine learning algorithms translate data into insights for businesses across a range of industries. The Wiliot Cloud keeps data secure, private, and authentic.
Wiliot uses AI to read and translate different signals on the object attached to the tag. The tags serve as “printable computers” the size and thinness of postage stamps that run on ambient power, meaning radio waves, already in the air. The tags contain RAM, ROM, sensors, Bluetooth, an ARM CPU, memory and secure communications capabilities.
Tagging helps supply chain stakeholders know the status or whereabouts of their products. Effectively, products that were offline during their manufacturing, shipping and consumption journeys can now be tracked entirely online.
Wiliot will use the latest round of capital to grow its team and scale its channels for the launch of its upcoming “version 2” product, as it pivots to the SaaS model.
Apparel brands, consumer-packaged goods, pharmaceuticals and furniture companies have been working with Wiliot to add their sensing capabilities, intelligence and connectivity.
Wiliot-enabled products and packaging can sense temperature, fill level, motion, location changes, humidity and proximity. Wiliot IoT Pixels can help brands better understand inventory levels throughout their retail channels.
SoftBank joins existing investors including 83North, Amazon Web Services, Avery Dennison, Grove Ventures, M Ventures, the corporate VC of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, Maersk Growth, Norwest Venture Partners, NTT DOCOMO Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures LLC, Samsung Venture Investment Corp., Vintage Investment Partners, and Verizon Ventures.
As part of the investment, Amit Lubovsky, investor for SoftBank Investment Advisers, will join Wiliot’s board of directors.
Go Instore, a video-first retail technology platform, has launched ShopStream. The livestream shopping technology aims to help retailers to reach a broad digital audience, coupled with Go Instore’s already included one-to-one video chat technology.
With ShopStream, retailers can host livestream events with product experts or celebrity spokespeople to reach a wider array of customers. Consumers can join the stream and interact with other shoppers and moderators through the chat function, all on a dedicated product page.
ShopStream said it differs from other livestream solutions by allowing customers to still receive the one-to-one experience during the events. Shoppers can click a link within the stream to be transported to a one-to-one session with a local store agent for additional support and to make a purchase.
Go Instore’s one-to-one video technology has been adopted by some of the world’s biggest brands in the U.K., Europe and Asia, such as Samsung, HP, DeBeers and Signet Jewelers.
The company says its video chat and livestream offerings can increase conversion rates for a retailer’s e-commerce operations. While typical online conversions range from 3 percent to 5 percent, livestreaming offers a 10 percent conversion rate and one-to-one video chat can increase conversions up to 20 percent to 30 percent, which is closer to in-store conversion rates.
Mizuno USA is partnering with Searchspring, integrating the platform’s search and merchandising capabilities as the sports footwear, apparel and equipment seller seeks to build on its e-commerce growth strategy and enhance the brand’s consumer experience.
The retailer is looking to bolster its presence as some of its athletes, which include beach volleyball player April Ross and swimmers Blake Pieroni and Erika Brown, currently compete in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“As we have further expanded and continue to grow our global multi-sport catalogue, it is necessary to deliver further personalization across various digital touchpoints, but also leverage data to enhance our consumer’s omnichannel experience,” said Amarena Diaz, director of digital marketing and e-commerce, Mizuno USA. “Upon adding various new sport categories in the U.S., Searchspring enables us to empower merchandising campaigns, optimize product data to drive search results, and personalize content related to our core-sport demographics and their search journeys.”
The brand will work with Searchspring’s customer success team to maximize business goals, optimize site search and create strategic e-commerce campaigns using features such as Site Search, Merchandising and Navigation. After a six-month review process with five different search and data companies, Mizuno selected Searchspring for its search capabilities, user experience and white-glove service offerings.
Mizuno will use Searchspring’s e-commerce toolkit to continue to offer personalized and targeted results that could further enable consumer discovery and drive traffic across its product catalogue.
The business will also leverage Searchspring’s proprietary search algorithm to power search relevancy, use reporting and insights to inform future product decisions, and deploy merchandising to elevate the best products to the top of the results.
Mizuno USA has continued to expand its product catalogue in the U.S. by launching footwear releases including Wave Rider 25, Sky 5 and Inspire 17, as well as multi-products across categories such as swimming, tennis and training. Additionally, the company has furthered collaboration with professional athletes including mixed martial artist Ronda Rousey, and Major League Baseball’s Fernando Tatis Jr. and Austin Riley.
The brand manufactures and distributes apparel and footwear for the U.S. golf, baseball, softball, running, tennis, swim, training, soccer, and volleyball equipment.
Queenly, a resale marketplace and search engine for formalwear, has raised $6.3 million in funding led by Andreessen Horowitz, bringing its total funding to date to $7.1 million.
The machine learning-driven search engine combines computer vision technology and small business sales and data analytic tools to deliver a personalized, resale marketplace experience.
Queenly pegs the formalwear market in North America at $15 billion, with “prom season” alone driving $4 billion every year. The marketplace enables consumers to list their used dresses, whether it be from weddings, proms or pageants, on the platform to sell at a discounted price to others.
The platform categorizes dresses through its computer vision and machine learning system, built in-house by co-founder Kathy Zhou, who also engineered and launched the company’s iOS and Android apps and website. Queenly has grown to over 125,000 users, more than 60,000 unique dresses listed on the platform and a total inventory value of $15 million.
Zhou and co-founder Trisha Bantigue, both of whom have national and international pageant experience, have developed search capabilities meant to be more inclusive of size and skin color than competitors like retail stores and Poshmark.
The recent funding from Andreessen Horowitz will help Queenly grow its team to keep up with demand and efficiently scale operations and engineering.
Queenly graduated from the Y Combinator accelerator’s winter 2021 cohort. Despite the lack of in-person events, the co-founders said they generated nearly $500,000 in sales, in large part due to Zoom weddings, Twitch pageants and socially distant graduations.
Additional investors include The House Fund, Interlace Ventures, Dragon Capital, NextView Ventures, MyAsiaVC and Shakti Venture Capital.
Covariant has raised $80 million in Series C funding led by Index Ventures, bringing its total funding to $147 million within two years of its public launch.
The robotics company will use the funding to continue its investment in AI and robotics-related research and development (R&D), as well as growing its team globally.
The round comes in the wake of the company’s successful deployment of the Covariant Brain, a universal AI layer that can be added to any existing robot, enabling robots to learn new skills rather than requiring explicit programming. The Covariant Brain has been deployed across a wide range of industries including fashion, health and beauty, industrial supply, pharmaceutical, grocery, parcel and general merchandise.
Covariant said it designed the Brain to draw on its experiences across settings, verticals and continents to allow customers from diverse industries to operate robots at human-level autonomy.
With the AI layer, robots learn general abilities such as 3D perception, physical affordances of objects, few-shot learning and real-time motion planning, which enables them to learn to manipulate objects without overtly being told to do so.
According to CEO Peter Chen, the Covariant Brain powers a range of industrial robots to manage order picking, putwall and sorter induction, all designed for companies in numerous industries with drastically different types of products to move. The breadth of use demonstrates how the Covariant Brain can help different robot types to manipulate new objects they’ve never seen before in environments where they’ve never operated, Chen claims.
Covariant also added high-profile team members, including Raghavendra Prabhu as head of engineering and research, Ally Lynch as head of marketing and Sam Cauthen as head of people.
Additional participation in the round came from Amplify Partners and Radical Ventures, while Covariant also attracted new global investors, Temasek and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.
BigCommerce has acquired full-service data feed management platform Feedonomics in an asset purchase transaction of up to approximately $145 million.
Feedonomics helps mid-market and enterprise merchants improve their advertising channels and marketplaces by ingesting, unifying, enhancing and syndicating product data, and then syncing the resulting order data back into existing systems to streamline operations.
The joint functionality across BigCommerce and Feedonomics would streamline merchant integrations with more than 100 global marketplaces and advertising channels, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft Ads, Amazon, Walmart, eBay, Wish, Pinterest and Snapchat, among others.
On average, channels such as search engines, ad networks, social media sites and marketplaces represent e-commerce merchants’ largest non-direct source of sales and one of the largest spending line items they have, according to BigCommerce CEO Brent Bellm. BigCommerce merchants maximize their omnichannel sales and return on ad spend (ROAS) by connecting, transforming and enhancing their product data across hundreds of global channels, he said.
The e-commerce giant said channel ad spending is expected to surpass $41 billion by the end of 2024, representing nearly 15 percent of all digital ad spend.
Together, the companies want to help merchants connect the dots between their back-end operations and their sales, marketing and advertising channels to drive higher ROAS, higher conversion and ultimately, higher gross merchandise value.
“The efficiency with which Feedonomics accurately maps our product data to the Google schema and then extends that to other channels has driven significant business benefits for us in recent years,” said Ken Natori, president at intimates brand Natori. “Combining Feedonomics’ data feed management with the omnichannel capabilities natively available in BigCommerce creates an outsized opportunity for businesses like Natori to leverage enriched product data directly within new marketplaces, social channels and ad networks, ultimately creating a more unified shopper experience.”
BigCommerce paid approximately $80 million in cash at the deal’s closing. Up to $32.5 million will be paid at each of the first and second anniversaries of closing or if it hits certain milestones earlier
E-commerce platform Fabric has raised $100 million in Series B funding, just five months after its initial $43 million Series A funding round.
Stripes led the funding, with additional participation from B Capital Group, Greycroft and existing investors, including Norwest Venture Partners, Redpoint Ventures and Sierra Ventures.
The new round will fund Fabric’s global expansion and values the company at $850 million, according to Bloomberg, up from a $193 million valuation in February.
Fabric helps marketers and merchants turn creative commerce ideas into reality, without the need to fully rely on expensive engineering resources. An API-driven approach enables brands to modernize their legacy e-commerce platforms in weeks versus months, saving time and money.
The modular commerce platform supports scaling businesses that have outgrown the limitations of e-commerce solutions tailored for entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Fabric has achieved year-over-year revenue growth in excess of 800 percent, it said. Since the Series A funding in February, the platform has extended its modular, integrated suite of commerce APIs including product information management (PIM), order management, loyalty management and subscriptions products, giving customers the flexibility to transition onto Fabric, one or more components at a time.
Additionally, Fabric has grown employee headcount by more than 400 percent since the funding, and has earned a net customer retention rate of 230 percent.