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Retail Tech: Klarna Adds Virtual Shopping, Instacart IPO Afoot, Loop x Happy Returns

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

Delivery

Instacart

Instacart has confidentially submitted a draft registration statement on Form S-1 with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the SEC) that would potentially open the door for the company to go public this year.

The delivery giant was valued at $39 billion in March last year when it raised $265 million. One year later, the company said it was cutting its valuation by almost 40 percent to about $24 billion, to reflect this year’s tech stock selloff.

Instacart, already the largest third-party grocery delivery provider in the U.S. before the Covid-19 pandemic, gained significant traction as more people turned to online shopping for groceries and other merchandise.

But as more people became comfortable to return to stores, Instacart’s sales have since slumped. According to data published earlier this month by Bloomberg Second Measure, Instacart’s sales declined 4 percent during the first quarter of 2022 compared with the same period last year.

The grocery e-commerce company is also seeing average quarterly sales per customer decline. Shoppers spent an average of $576 on Instacart’s platform during the first quarter of the year, down 9 percent from the comparable quarter, the research shows.

Instacart’s IPO push comes shortly after the company unveiled its own new software suite for supermarkets, along with a fulfillment service called Carrot Warehouses, which is intended to help grocers offer 15-minute delivery via dedicated “nano facilities.”

As part of the launch, Instacart is also debuting Carrot Insights, which is built to give retailers near real-time visibility into their operations. With metrics measured like item popularity, item correlation, order sizes, delivery times, delivery ratings and gross merchandise value (GMV), Carrot Insights is designed to help retailers optimize operations and provide better customer experiences.

Instacart Platform

Instacart Platform

The registration statement is expected to become effective after the SEC completes its review process, subject to market and other conditions. The confidential filing also prevents competing companies from seeing Instacart’s financial information as regulators review it.

Buy now, pay later

Square/Afterpay

Months after Square acquired Afterpay for $29 billion, the payments giant has further integrated buy now, pay later (BNPL) functionality to its millions of in-person sellers in the United States and Australia.

Three months after first bringing Afterpay into the Square ecosystem with e-commerce integration, Square and Afterpay moved to enable sellers using any Square point of sale software—Square Point of Sale, Square for Retail, Square Appointments, or Square for Restaurants—to now offer Afterpay online and in person.

To use Afterpay in person, buyers tap to pay using a mobile wallet loaded with their virtual Afterpay card, and pay over four interest-free installments. Square sellers receive their full earnings from each sale immediately.

In their first quarter together, a combined Square and Afterpay has already benefited sellers using Square Online. For example, across both the U.S. and Australia, average transaction size with Afterpay is three times greater than non-BNPL purchases.

Globally, the companies observed a 180 percent increase in new consumers leveraging Afterpay through Square sellers between February and March 2022.

In the U.S., retail businesses that offered Afterpay as a payments option on their website are seeing a meaningful lift in overall online sales, with men’s and women’s clothing stores growing 17 percent; specialized apparel and accessories up 15 percent; pet stores up 13 percent; sporting goods stores up 12 percent; and jewelry and watch shops up 10 percent.

Across both countries, beauty and personal care businesses saw significant upticks in online sales, registering a 26 percent increase in Australia and a 16 percent increase in the U.S.

This growth extends to in-person commerce; during the beta period, average order value for in-person Afterpay purchases more than doubled in Australia, while in the U,S. orders averaged a 50 percent increase.

“More than ever, shoppers expect to be able to make purchases with their preferred method of payment,” said Leslie Babineaux, owner of Fort Worth, Texas-based A Touch of Chic Boutique. “Square has made it straightforward for a business of my size to offer Afterpay, with no additional work required on our end. Our customers are thrilled that they can use BNPL when they come in store, and in a short amount of time, we’ve already seen that shoppers spend nearly double the amount with us when purchasing with Afterpay.”

To further sales growth, Square sellers will be discoverable in Afterpay’s Shop Directory, a marketplace available both online and from the Afterpay app that showcases sellers offering the BNPL platform. Shop Directory supplies hundreds of millions of leads per year to sellers and gives buyers the ability to search for Square sellers near them making it easier to shop and support local small businesses.

Square sellers can enable Afterpay and try BNPL at promotional rates until Sept. 10. Automatic enablement will roll out to eligible Square sellers over the following weeks, and Afterpay can be toggled on or off via sellers’ Square Dashboard at any time.

Klarna

Klarna has launched its Virtual Shopping offering, stemming from last year’s reported $160 million acquisition of social shopping platform Hero. Virtual Shopping by Klarna allows consumers to browse and buy online, connecting them directly with in-store experts through live chats and video calls to receive product advice and inspiration.

For retailers, Virtual Shopping helps in-store teams bring their expertise beyond the walls of physical stores to millions of shoppers online. By using the new merchant-facing Klarna Store App, in-store teams can share photos and videos of items and demo products live directly from the store floor, from home, or even from emerging dark store concepts. This in turn can drive brand engagement and loyalty while reducing return rates.

According to recent findings from Klarna’s Shopping Pulse Report, which collected insights from 11,740 shoppers during the 2022 first quarter, consumers favor shopping in physical stores because of the social interaction and level of customer service they offer. Consumers today are looking for the same level of assistance when shopping online, with over three-quarters (78 percent) of U.S. shoppers believing that online retailers need to invest in new technology to create more personalized services (45 percent) and product recommendations (40 percent).

Klarna’s Virtual Shopping tools are already live today with over 300 brands, including Levi’s, Hugo Boss, and Herman Miller. Consumers can shop across sneakers to sofas without ever stepping foot in a store, but still receive guidance from in-store teams to help them in their purchasing decisions.

Through live video and messaging, consumers can view photos and videos of items up close and watch live product demos directly from the store floor, demonstrating examples such as how a piece of clothing fits off the rack to the color of a cosmetic product or the size of a piece of furniture.

Klarna is now making Virtual Shopping available to partnered retailers worldwide. By giving consumers greater confidence in their purchasing decision, the service improves performance for merchants, with consumers up to 21 times more likely to make a purchase after speaking with an in-store expert online compared to when left unassisted, the companies said.

Shoppers connect with an in-store expert when they click the Virtual Shopping icon on integrated stores from the retailer’s websites. Once connected, they can chat, receive photos and videos, follow product recommendations and even have a two-way video chat, recreating the experience they would receive in-store.

Retailers integrated with Klarna can add Virtual Shopping to their online stores. Once enabled, they can gain insights into shopper interactions and sales, enabling them to improve overall performance. To connect with online shoppers, in-store experts can now use the new, merchant-facing Klarna Store App for iOS and Android. Once connected, they can begin engaging with consumers by text, chat and video, making it easy to provide personalized recommendations, schedule in-store appointments, and stay in touch.

Klarna’s Virtual Shopping offering is live today in 18 markets, including the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, France, Poland, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Sweden. The offering will extend to additional markets in 2022.

Splitit

Splitit unveiled a new way to drive installment payments through its merchant-branded Installments-as-a-Service platform. Instead of originating new loans, Splitit taps existing consumer credit on payment cards to simplify the checkout experience embedded into the existing payment flow.

The Installments-as-a-Service platform is designed to mitigate challenges throughout the payments process, such as losing control of consumer relationships, poor checkout conversion due to consumer friction and low credit approval rates and heightened regulatory scrutiny.

Splitit’s white-label installment plugin enables merchants to nurture and retain their customers, driving loyalty and promoting brand consistency on their terms. Any consumer with the available balance on their credit card is automatically pre-qualified to use Splitit. There’s no application, interest or hidden fees and no changes to their credit report, the payments provider says.

A single global API embeds into existing acquirers and the current checkout flow, allowing merchants to use the same payment processor they currently use. Whether the merchant is looking for a local or global solution, setup can be done in days or weeks.

OCM (On Campus Marketing), a business that powers e-commerce for more than 900 college campuses and 1,500 campus organizations, unveiled the company is implementing Splitit’s installment solution in the third quarter. By embedding the capability within the existing purchase flow, but could achieve four times greater conversion, 30 percent higher average order value, and grow to over 50 percent of the company’s checkout, the company said.

Supply chain

Fashinza

Fashinza, an AI-driven B2B marketplace and real-time global supply chain platform for fashion brands and retailers, has announced a Series B funding round totaling $100 million that includes equity and debt financing.

The platform provider is using the new funds to invest in supply chain technology and expand its presence globally. This includes monetizing fintech offerings, expanding into raw material procurement and creating a sustainable (i.e. net positive) supply chain by 2030 and Industry 4.0 solutions for SMB manufacturers.

Over the past 12 months, Fashinza grew the business 10 times over, crossing $150 million in annualized gross merchandise value (GMV) run rate. The company also reduced minimum order quantities to as low as 50 and reduced design to delivery turnaround times by 50 percent in a single year.

Fashinza works with more than 250 manufacturers that currently serve 200+ brands across six countries, including the U.S., Canada, UAE, and India.

Fanshinza’s technology aims to reduce waste across the entire production process and bring social transparency into the supply chain. The company aims to scale its environmentally friendly practices and materials to make costs comparable to their unsustainable counterparts.

In addition to solving complex supply chain issues, Fashinza’s marketplace model also includes logistics, fintech, and payment support.

The round is led by Prosus Ventures (f.k.a. Naspers Ventures) and Westbridge along with participation from existing investors Accel, Elevation, and ADQ. The round also saw participation from angel investors Naval Ravikant, Jeff Fagnan, Jake Zeller, Nivi, and Nitesh Banta.

Fulfillment

The ZigZag Stripe/OPEX

Online women’s apparel boutique The ZigZag Stripe has selected the Infinity Automated Store and Retrieval System (ASRS), a new warehouse automation solution developed by next-generation warehouse automation provider OPEX Corporation, to increase efficiency and meet increasing order fulfillment needs.

Infinity ASRS is a goods-to-person (G2P) solution that provides storage density, configurability and flexibility to meet pressing warehouse automation challenges for companies handling micro-fulfillment, omni-channel distribution, store replenishment and e-commerce.

“We are moving to a larger warehouse to meet growing demand,” said Joel Hall, chief financial officer of Texas-based The ZigZag Stripe. “To best compete with other online clothing retailers, we chose the Infinity system to help us maintain efficiency while maximizing space and maintaining labor hours.”

The ZigZag Stripe uses Shopify to sell, ship and process payments. With the denser storage and higher throughput of the Infinity system, alongside the e-commerce giant Shopify, The ZigZag Stripe aspires to operate as a third-party logistics (3PL) provider, outsourcing elements of its distribution, warehousing and fulfillment operations in the future.

OPEX’s proprietary Cortex software platform integrates with Shopify, enabling the Infinity G2P solution maximum flexibility and scalability in both throughput and storage.

“As we grow and scale, warehouse automation allows us to meet customer demands, keep employees happy, and keep growing so we can give back to causes that are important to us,” said Leslie Hall, The ZigZag Stripe CEO. “We operate in a world where people want their orders very quickly. When we get our product out faster to our customers, we see a direct correlation in sales. The OPEX Infinity warehouse automation technology helps us stay relevant and better compete with much larger retailers.”

Returns

Loop/Happy Returns

Loop Returns, an exchange-first returns platform for Shopify brands, has partnered with another company aimed at easing the returns process for shoppers, Happy Returns by PayPal. This new integration will enable Loop merchants to offer box-free, label-free return drop-offs at more than 5,000 locations across the U.S. By aggregating and shipping returns in reusable totes, participating merchants can reduce costs and improve their sustainability initiatives.

Shopify brands use Loop’s platform to promote exchanges and retain revenue. Loop works with a plethora of reverse logistics providers such as Happy Returns to give merchants a variety of options for returns, including home pickup, the ability to donate items and item consolidation.

“Loop has been always been a trusted partner because they continue to invest in building a great post-purchase customer experience,” said Benny Joseph, chief technology officer of Allbirds, one of the merchants to pilot the integration. “This new capability further removes friction from the online buying experience and is a win-win for both our customers and our mission to be the most sustainable brand on the planet.”

RFID/IoT

Avery Dennison/Wiliot

Avery Dennison Corporation, a provider of RFID and digital ID solutions, and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions provider Wiliot, have entered a strategic partnership dedicated to scaling the IoT to the next level, and creating a new era of IoT that benefits people and the planet.

Avery Dennison will leverage its R&D capabilities and scale to design and manufacture second-generation Wiliot tags, which are stamp-sized computers powered by Bluetooth that can attach to any product or packaging. The tags can embed the product with intelligence and connectivity to create more agile, profitable and sustainable supply chains.

In addition, Avery Dennison will integrate Wiliot sensing services with its Atma.io connected product cloud, enabling tag sensing information to be added to the end-to-end item-level data of a connected product. Both companies share a vision for the future of the IoT where almost everything is connected to the internet; not just phones, computers and homes, but also food, medicine, clothing and nearly everything else. With an ambition to help to eliminate waste and provide unparalleled transparency and consumer connection.

The partnership will help scale the manufacturing capacity of Wiliot tags, and will leverage Avery Dennison’s market development, innovation and ROI expertise to drive value and enable the company to deliver on large projects to some of the world’s largest retail, food and beverage and pharmaceutical brands.

Walmart/SES-imagotag

SES-imagotag, a global provider of digital solutions for physical retail, will expand its strategic relationship with Walmart to digitize the shelf-edge. This expansion comes as the result of a successful pilot in Arkansas.

The pilot successfully implemented key technological advances to optimize associate productivity and customer experience and will now be expanded to a much larger set of locations across the country.

Walmart will utilize the full Vusion OS platform and Vusion IoT Cloud platform, allowing the company to scale to hundreds of millions of cloud-connected IoT devices. It will also implement SES-imagotag IoT Radio Protocol to seamlessly integrate with existing Wi-Fi unlocking a simple and fast roll-out while also delivering the highest standards in IoT security.

“As we continue to innovate, it is important that we develop strategic relationships to make sure we are staying out in front of the latest technology. With SES imagotag’s digital solutions, we will be able to offer best-in-class technology to improve our customer experience. We are encouraged by what we’ve seen so far in this pilot and we’re excited to bring the next evolution of digital shelf display to more stores in 2022,” said John Crecelius, senior vice president, merchant transformation, next generation and last mile delivery product, Walmart U.S.

SES-imagotag has also put sustainability at the core of its corporate and product strategy with the recent launch of the VUSIONe program, in alignment with the objectives of Walmart’s sustainability program Gigaton. VUSIONe encompasses 30 years of experience in IOT and sets the highest sustainability standards within the ESL industry. Walmart will immediately benefit from the optimized energy management solutions, increased usage of recyclable material, reduced packaging and leaner supply chain and logistics proposed by SES-imagotag and its partners.

Fraud protection 

Riskified

Riskified, a risk management platform driving frictionless e-commerce experiences, announced that several new online retailers joined the platform from categories including luxury fashion, fast fashion, and diversified omnichannel retailing. It said it signed one of the world’s largest online fashion retailers, which had a presence in over 150 countries, which the company believes expands the already large upsell opportunity in its existing customer base.

The fraud protection platform also touted the strong execution of its “land and expand” strategy that it believes drives gross merchandise value (GMV) gains and long-term gross margin expansion as customer engagements grow and mature. Several large existing customers expanded their contractual relationships by submitting additional order populations through its platform, Riskified said.

Overall, first-quarter revenue increased 15 percent to $58.8 million, while increasing GMV 20 percent to $22.7 million. For the year ending Dec. 31, 2022, Riskified continues to expect revenue between $254 million and $257 million, with  adjusted EBITDA losses coming in between $69 million and $66 million.

Hiring/retention 

Mathison

Mathison, an end-to-end diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) hiring and retention platform, has closed its $25 million Series A round, led by F-Prime Capital, with participation from Bain Capital Ventures, SemperVirens, ANIMO Ventures, GTM Fund, Gaingels and JP Morgan.

The new funding will be used to continue to build out the company’s data and analytics capabilities, scale its go-to-market team and increase collective impact with employers. As part of the round, John Lin of F-Prime Capital joins the board.

According to a study conducted by Deloitte, 69 percent of executives say diversity is their most important priority right now, 93 percent of employers lack a robust diversity hiring solution, 76 percent haven’t set diversity goals and nearly half of those who have goals are not yet confident they will achieve them.

Mathison has built a DEI Operating System to give employers a single place to manage their: DEI measurement, benchmarking and reporting; diversity sourcing to expand the hiring pipeline; and DEI training and tools to shift behavior and reduce bias. The platform is designed to integrate into employers’ existing systems. Mathison features DEI tools that can be implemented into every employee’s daily workflow and a comprehensive dashboard of DEI metrics for leaders.

Mathison has made a measurable collective impact, sourcing over 50,000 underrepresented candidates for employers, supporting the development of hundreds of new equitable talent policies across over 30 industries, and engaging more than 10,000 employees in DEI training to date.

Mathison uses its own product for DEI and includes 50 percent women, 72 percent working parents and 50 percent people of color on its management team.

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