The weekly Retail Tech Roundup compiles technology news across the supply chain, manufacturing, retail, e-commerce, logistics and fulfillment sectors.
Neiman Marcus is planning nearly $500 million in investments over the next three years to support its “integrated luxury retail” strategy.
The first acquisition of what the retailer calls “several future digital investments” is Stylyze, a machine learning software-as-a-service platform offering product attribution data and curated content to power relevant shopping experiences across the customer journey. Stylyze’s Stylist AI generates coordinating looks and collections, per SKU, so that associates can capitalize on opportunities to upsell the customer with more relevant assortments from top to bottom.
Neiman Marcus did not reveal the terms of the deal.
“Over the past year, we’ve been strengthening the foundation of our business. We knew the rebound was coming, and we’ve been experiencing the return of luxury as it accelerates. NMG is perfectly positioned to capture the growing interest of luxury customers as we develop essential digital capabilities that ensure we drive profitable and sustainable growth,” said Geoffroy van Raemdonck, CEO of Neiman Marcus Group (NMG). “By acquiring Stylyze, we will be able to advance our strategy of integrated luxury, building long-term relationships with our luxury customers that create emotional value and high lifetime value potential. This allows us to deepen our relationship with our customers through the use of technology.”
NMG said it has already implemented technology and digital solutions from more than 25 companies such as “buy now, pay later” platform Affirm to enhance and elevate the luxury customer experience. The luxury retailer will continue exploring opportunities to further its integrated luxury retail focus through acquisitions, partnerships, and building out digital capabilities internally.
Neiman began its strategic partnership with Stylyze in 2018, with the platform’s services and capabilities operating as a component of the company’s remote-selling platform and clienteling tool, Connect.
Sales associates in Neiman Marcus stores use Connect to engage digitally with their clients, with more than 5 million engagement sessions and “hundreds of thousands of orders” placed on the platform.
While Stylyze’s technology currently supports Connect, the company plans to explore integrating its functionality into additional Neiman Marcus digital tools, including e-commerce, mobile apps, messaging channels like text message, chat, and phone calls, and other engagement channels.
Boohoo Group has selected Bloomreach Engagement, the customer data and experience platform (CDXP) from Bloomreach, to unify data from all customer touchpoints and drive personalized customer experiences at scale for its brand portfolio.
Bloomreach’s AI-powered CDXP gives Boohoo Group a single customer view across its 13 online brands, including Boohoo, PrettyLittleThing and the recently acquired Debenhams. Powered by this data, Bloomreach Engagement will allow Boohoo to build personalized customer journeys across all channels, enhancing the customer experience and driving real results.
Boohoo selected the Engagement pillar, which offers a CDP in addition to email campaigns, mobile push notifications, app tracking, SMS and more, after the solution showcased that it could enhance customer communications and personalize the shopper journey.
“We were impressed with Bloomreach’s technology and retail experience,” said Sophie Rustill, senior retention manager, Boohoo. “We’re looking forward to working with Bloomreach to further enhance our relationships with customers whilst growing the business.”
The solution provider has benefitted from its recent acquisition of Exponea, which provided a CDP and marketing automation capabilities that could be integrated with Bloomreach’s e-commerce search and content services. While the AI-driven Discovery search and merchandising platform and headless Content CMS platform were already components of Bloomreach’s commerce experience solutions, Engagement is a direct result of the Exponea deal.
Bloomreach serves more than 700 global brands including Neiman Marcus, Puma, Torrid and Marks & Spencer, and powers more than $250 billion in commerce annually.
Hero, a virtual shopping technology that lets online shoppers connect with in-store associates, has launched Stories for all retail audience. The feature is a full-scale version of its Shoppable Stories first deployed in November 2020 to select partners, and is designed to simplify the creation of shoppable, short-form “one-to-many” videos that can bring products to life.
These videos can be added to relevant product pages to showcase new collections, demonstrate products from the store and highlight bestsellers. Store associates essentially become creators when using the Stories feature, with stores becoming their “studio” for their product.
Early adopters have already found that shoppers who view stories are up to 52 percent less likely to abandon the website, 5x more likely to return, and visit 2.5x more product pages, Hero said. U.K.-based designer apparel brand Ted Baker, footwear and apparel retailer Size? and sustainable apparel brand Faherty are among the users.
Store associates and product experts can shoot Stories using the Hero app, tag videos with the relevant SKUs, and share their creation for review. Stories can then be approved and will contextually appear on product pages to convert shoppers. Head office teams can track sales, engagement and the overall impact of each video.
During the development of the feature, Hero surveyed 1,500 U.S. consumers about their feelings on online shopping experiences, and concluded that shoppers miss seeing products in real life. Sixty-four percent stated that not being able to see products up-close, like they would in-store, is their least favorite thing about online shopping.
Additionally, the study found that when asked what kind of video content would give them the most confidence to buy, 68 percent of shoppers stated that short videos about products they were already considering would win.
The other major conclusion was that shoppers trust product experts much more than influencers when analyzing products. Seventy-two percent of shoppers said that either a product expert, associate or friend would be most likely to influence their decision to buy a product, with only 9 percent saying an influencer would be most likely to influence their decision.
Salesfloor, a mobile clienteling and virtual selling platform for store associates, completed its Series B fundraising round with a $27 million investment by Level Equity.
The company will use the new funds to develop new platform features, expand to international markets and grow the team across all departments.
Global retailers including Saks Fifth Avenue, buybuy Baby, Holt Renfrew, Bloomingdale’s, Chico’s and Peruvian Connection all use the Salesfloor platform to bridge the gap between online shoppers and in-store associates, resulting in a 10x lift in sales conversion rates and 50 percent increase in average order values, the company said.
As of the first quarter of 2021, Salesfloor doubled revenue and grew its customer base 67 percent year over year. More than 50,000 store associates globally use the Salesfloor platform.
In 2020, digital clienteling and virtual selling interactions on the Salesfloor platform, including chat, text messaging, email and social media, were up 310 percent versus the year prior, according to Ben Rodier, co-founder and chief client officer at Salesfloor.
In the first quarter, platform transaction volumes surpassed $2 billion in less than one-third of the time for the first $1 billion in transaction volumes, Rodier said.
Much of the takeoff occurred due to the Covid-19 pandemic, when shoppers couldn’t enter stores that had been shuttered because of lockdowns. Last summer, Salesfloor launched a product bundle to help retailers through the crisis, adding features such as live voice and video chat, event management and all-in-one appointment management to its clienteling suite.
Bringg, a delivery, logistics and fulfillment cloud platform provider, has closed a $100 million Series E investment led by Insight Partners, for a valuation of $1 billion.
The funding will be used to scale Bringg’s platform through mergers and acquisitions and by growing its ecosystem of strategic and technology partners. Demand for Bringg’s platform over the Covid-19 pandemic has skyrocketed, the company said, with 180 percent year-over-year new customer growth.
Bringg’s modular platform lets retailers of all sizes choose from logistics and fulfillment options including last-mile delivery or buy online, pick up in-store, to ensure they get goods from their warehouse to the consumer by partnering with local logistics providers. The platform includes real-time tracking to help retailers understand where and how much stock exists, as well as intelligent routing to optimize the path from seller to buyer.
Walmart is one of Bringg’s largest clients, serving as the launch partner for the retailer’s “Spark” last-mile delivery service that launched in 2018. But many smaller companies that are looking for options to integrate existing infrastructure including both logistics software and networks of delivery people also look to Brinng to help build out their delivery ecosystem. At the height of the crisis, Bringg launched BringgNow, aimed at helping small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) launch and scale delivery operations.
The round comes two months after the company launched the BringgGreen Sustainability Tech Practice, which includes solutions focused on green fleet selection, carbon reporting, transparent internal and external sustainability communications and business innovation. The Practice offers green product features including routing that optimizes for lower fuel consumption, eco-friendly fleet selection for retailers prioritizing green vehicles, order batching to decrease routes driven and 3D load optimization to ensure that delivery vehicles carry to full capacity.
Additional investors include Cambridge Capital, GLP, Harlap, Next 47, Pereg Ventures, Salesforce Ventures and Viola Growth. Bringg had previously raised approximately $85 million.
Digital supply chain
Logility is now making its comprehensive suite of solutions available through Microsoft Azure. Now, Azure customers can gain access to the Logility Digital Supply Chain Platform, which can enable organizations to leverage new opportunities, respond to changing market dynamics and more profitably manage their complex global businesses.
The Logility Digital Supply Chain Platform leverages a blend of artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced analytics in an effort to automate planning, accelerate cycle times, increase precision, improve operating performance, break down business silos and deliver greater visibility.
Logility’s SaaS-based platform works across sales and operations planning (S&OP) and integrated business planning (IBP) processes; demand, inventory and replenishment planning; global sourcing; quality and compliance management; product life cycle management; supply and inventory optimization; manufacturing planning and scheduling; retail merchandise planning, assortment and allocation.
In gaining a cloud partner like Microsoft Azure, Logility looks to accelerate its customers’ ability to scale quickly and respond to changes globally.
Further, Logility aims to provide a high performing, secure and reliable environment for customers to access its extensive supply chain knowledge and experience.
Shop Lit Live
Shop Lit Live, a social media-powered shopping app, has developed new features within its platform. With its livestream shopping capabilities, the app aims to provide consumers with an online shopping experience that showcases the modern way of discovering and buying new products.
By combining the aspects from both online and offline shopping, Shop Lit Live enables consumers to shop from home, but still enjoy the social interactions and real-time information flow that used to be available only in-person.
Every step of the process, from product discovery to checkout, is native within the app in an effort to minimize all friction points and increase sales conversion.
The platform partners with a curated group of experts and creators who can provide authentic feedback and insight on each product featured throughout the livestreams in a personal peer-to-peer manner. The audience can ask questions, co-stream with the creators and share feedback with others in the community to make for an engaging shopping experience.
LVMH and Google Cloud are joining forces to develop new cloud-based artificial intelligence (AI) solutions and empower the fashion house’s Maisons to create new, personalized customer experiences that foster long-term growth.
The collaboration between LVMH and Google Cloud will assist the luxury company’s human talent by providing new AI and machine learning technologies that are designed to improve business operations by enhancing demand forecasting and inventory optimization, but also are geared to elevate customer experiences through personalization—while meeting LVMH’s strictest privacy and security requirements.
As AI will increasingly touch every part of the value chain at LVMH, from product development to supply chain, to the interfaces with employees, partners, and customers, LVMH will leverage Google Cloud’s cloud technology and AI/ML tools to enable the development of new business use cases at scale.
Google Cloud will support LVMH in enhancing its culture of innovation, including the creation of dedicated, inclusive upskilling and certification programs for Maisons’ teams. The companies will explore co-innovation opportunities and launch a Data and AI Academy in Paris to accelerate their expertise and innovation in these fields.
As part of the partnership, LVMH will also use Google Cloud to modernize components of its IT infrastructure.
“This new, unprecedented and significant partnership with Google Cloud is the reflection of our high ambitions in this area. By combining our best-in-class approaches in our respective industries, it will take us a step forward in the use of data and AI,” said Toni Belloni, group managing director of LVMH. “For us, privacy, personalization, and luxury are synonymous, and that will always remain true. The new opportunities offered to our customers are exactly what our talented teams are working for at LVMH: a unique and unforgettable experience.”
Urban Outfitters, Inc. is rolling out Qlik Sense Enterprise SaaS to enhance in-store reporting capabilities, expanding access to near real-time data for store managers and associates in 650+ store locations.
The lifestyle apparel retailer, which operates under various brands including Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, BHLDN, Free People, FP Movement, Terrain and Menus & Venues, is currently rolling out in-store analytics with Qlik across all its U.S. locations, with plans to continue the full roll out to its EMEA stores through June.
With the cloud analytics capabilities, Urban Outfitters, Inc. aims to democratize in-store decision-making, giving employees wider access to an array of dashboards and reports updated with fresh data every two minutes.
The initiative will also consolidate three previously separate reporting locations into one central Qlik hub, creating efficiencies designed to return time to employees so they can focus on increasing customer engagement and satisfaction.
“Our data strategy is centered on maximizing the efficiencies and scalability of the cloud, and whenever possible creating cloud to cloud synergies,” said John Devine, chief information officer of Urban Outfitters, Inc. “We already benefit from Qlik Data Integration feeding our Snowflake cloud data warehouse. With Qlik sitting on top of Snowflake, we can confidently scale access to more near real-time data for in-store employees. This will help improve store performance wherever our associates are in the world, while reducing the stress and costs associated with managing our on-premise data sources.”
Qlik said it is giving “hundreds of associates” access to relevant data that was normally only available to store managers, helping Urban Outfitters, Inc. move towards a fully data-driven culture. Through one central Qlik location, every employee in each store can get data on aspects of the individual store’s KPIs, including inventory receipts, store conversions, exceptions analysis and top 50 sales by store, and opt to act on those insights immediately.
Urban Outfitters, Inc. also wanted to create reports with the platform. Qlik said that one such report is showcasing “last last year” analysis, since data from 2020 isn’t reflective of current market conditions. As associates become more comfortable with data, and have new ideas for data insights and exploration, the Urban Outfitters, Inc. team can develop and provide new Qlik apps to the entire global store employee ecosystem. Enabling store managers and associates to share unique views into current data in one location will help align individual store strategies for maximum flexibility and customized market conditions.
Ruby Has Fulfillment
E-commerce fulfillment company Ruby Has Fulfillment has partnered with the DTC apparel and consumer products division of sports brand Overtime, which has a community of more than 50 million social media followers that generates 1.5 billion video views each month.
Overtime recently raised $80 million in Series C funding, and now plans to further fuel its fast-growing e-commerce business and deepen its connection with young consumers alongside the launch of its Overtime Elite (OTE) basketball league this September.
Ruby Has Fulfillment has distribution center locations in New York, New Jersey, California, Nevada, Kentucky and Ontario, Canada. The company says it allows retailers and brands to ship faster and reduce freight costs by up to 45 percent.
“Overtime’s apparel is bold, approachable and highly connected through our content to what our audience loves,” said Tyler Rutstein, vice president and general merchandise manager at Overtime. “We’ve been empowering young athletes both digitally and through our lifestyle and apparel offerings. We are thrilled to work with Ruby Has as our fulfillment provider to bring these products to sports enthusiasts everywhere.”
The brand spans multiple verticals including basketball, football, soccer, gaming, sneakers, and business units including content, e-commerce and owned leagues.
Ruby Has also can fulfill a consulting role for Overtime, in that it launched client and partner advisory councils in November 2020 designed to listen to clients closely and to fold more valuable input into their go-forward technologies and services.
Fitness community and apparel brand Gymshark is expanding its partnership with Radial, a network of fulfillment centers, flexible transportation services and omnichannel technologies, as it seeks to scale its fulfillment capabilities across North America.
Adding on to established operations currently running in Mississauga, Canada, the first U.S. center will open July 2021 in Rialto, Calif. Two East Coast U.S. centers following later in the year to support the peak holiday rush.
Gymshark has seen tremendous growth in its direct-to-consumer (DTC) business and expects to see high double-digit growth in the U.S. in the coming years.
With this growth anticipated, the opening of these new fulfillment sites is designed will help Gymshark maintain a competitive edge in the market. Specifically, Gymshark will have increased inventory availability for online orders and the ability to reach the majority of U.S. customers within three days as well as improve the overall return process.
During all of 2020, Radial processed approximately 950,000 units for Gymshark from its Mississauga location, with more than 360,000 units shipped during the holiday peak season.
“Gymshark’s top priority is our customer and ensuring that they have an exceptional experience from their first visit to our site,” said Henry Spear, general manager of North America Gymshark. “In order to deliver on this customer proposition and support our tremendous growth in the U.S., we looked to expand our distribution network in order to bring speed and ease to each order. In selecting a partner, Radial’s commitment to excellence and people-focused culture aligned closely with Gymshark’s values, making them a natural choice. We are excited to watch our partnership continue to thrive as we focus on accelerating growth of our community in the region.”
With the opening of the Rialto fulfillment center, there will be hundreds of new jobs available to residents in the surrounding area. Radial is reserving more than 780,000 square feet specifically for Gymshark operations across North America.
Gymshark will also be leveraging Radial Order Management (ROM) and transportation services to support inventory optimization, returns processing and management and customer data and analytics. With ROM, Gymshark seeks to gain greater visibility and control over inventory and streamline its North American omnichannel operations.
Proof Authentication Corporation, a technology company engineering anti-counterfeiting authentication solutions, has appointed Dan McKinnon as CEO in connection with its recently closed Series A financing.
NYC-based VCFA Group led the round to fund Proof Authentication’s buyout of DSS Digital, Inc., a provider of anti-counterfeit authentication technology and brand protection solutions, from its parent Document Security Systems, Inc. The financing will also provide growth capital to help Proof achieve its mission of engineering the world’s premier anti-counterfeiting authentication solutions.
“Long gone are the days when counterfeits were relegated to the luxury brands,” said McKinnon. “The downstream proliferation of counterfeit products is now found across all segments of consumer products, including medicine, food, toys, clothing, and more. We are seeing rapidly changing consumer behavior where customers demand to know with certainty that the items they purchase are authentic.
Prior to joining Proof, McKinnon was the head of global brand protection at athletic label New Balance.
Proof’s patented authentication solutions, which aid multiple Fortune 100 companies in their brand protection efforts, combines a non-duplicatable printed mark with a custom smartphone app. Consumers are empowered to authenticate products in real time, and brands are given a tool that supercharges their ability to enforce against counterfeits.
Shopistry, an e-commerce platform designed for fast-growing digital-first brands, closed a $2 million recent financing and launch a new solution catering to the shift to headless commerce.
The company’s hosted headless commerce solution is built to give brands the benefits of an API-based commerce approach that can be consistent across web, mobile apps and B2B sites. This way, brands ideally could quickly launch experiences optimized for scale with modern capabilities out of the box including multi-currency, multi-channel, internationalization, social selling and more.
Shopistry’s API-based approach enables integrations with providers across product management, marketing, analytics, and payments, enabling brands to operate an e-commerce presence without the need to re-platform or discard elements of their existing stack that are working for them.
The round that included U.S. and Canadian strategic angels and venture capital firms at the forefront of the shift in digital commerce including Garage Capital, Raiven Capital and Mantella Venture Partners.