The weekly Retail Tech Roundup compiles technology news across the supply chain, manufacturing, retail, e-commerce, logistics and fulfillment sectors.
Obsess, an experiential e-commerce platform that enables brands to create interactive, shoppable online virtual stores and showrooms, announced Tuesday that it has closed a $10 million Series A funding round, bringing its total funding to $13.4 million. The new round was led by Jump Capital, with participation from the Venture Reality Fund and WXR Fund.
Obsess will use the new investment to accelerate its global expansion and product development efforts and to continue expanding beyond fashion and beauty into additional retail verticals such as home, entertainment and consumer packaged goods.
Leading brands are partnering with Obsess to offer customers an immersive way to discover, shop and experience their products online. Coach, Tommy Hilfiger, skin care brand Dermalogica, beauty brand Charlotte Tilbury, American Girl, Mary Kay and Nayomi are among the companies working with Obsess to increase their brand equity while reaching new consumer and wholesale audiences through highly engaging, interactive online experiences.
“We worked with Obsess to create an immersive virtual showroom that is a 3D re-creation of our Fifth Avenue flagship store,” Giovanni Zaccariello, senior vice president of global visual experience at Coach, said in a statement. “The digital showroom enables wholesale buyers to experience our new collections each season without having to fly in to see products in person, reducing the carbon footprint of our business and speeding the buying process. We also use our virtual showroom to share our visual merchandising guidelines with our global teams in rich detail.”
Obsess uses virtual and augmented-reality technologies to create immersive digital flagship and popup store experiences for consumers and to digitize brands’ showrooms for wholesale buyers. These photorealistic online stores are designed to drive discovery, engagement, click-through, session duration, average order value and conversion for leading retailers and brands. The platform enables brands to engage new customer audiences worldwide without needing to establish a brick-and-mortar presence in international markets.
Roughly three-quarters of Obsess’s client partners are using the company’s technology to expand their global operation, the company says.
MySize Inc. is developing an AI-driven sizing solution specifically for secondhand apparel retailers. The platform is designed to help online shoppers find their correct size in pre-owned apparel, and is intended to provide a full end-to-end solution for merchants to cut down on return rates.
The platform provider cited data from the ThredUp 2021 Resale Report, noting that the pre-owned apparel market in the U.S. is estimated to be worth $80 billion by 2029. With this in mind, while many secondhand garment retailers offer items from a wide variety of brands that use different measurements and sizing charts, many customers can be left in the dark when it comes to a single table they can reference to find their size.
Additionally, the company says that vintage items are often based on sizing models which are no longer relevant in the fashion industry today. For example, a customer buying a size 8 from 20 years ago could receive an item that’s sized differently than a modern-day size 8. MySize said that since 40 percent of online apparel is returned, according to Happy Returns, with poor fit cited as the most common reason, as per Narvar, wrongly sized items could cost retailers billions.
MySize says users of its app, which leverages sensors already built into customers’ smartphones, can obtain accurate clothing sizes in any brand’s apparel via its patented algorithm, an approach designed to safeguard user privacy. While browsing secondhand clothing online, customers will be able to find out which size of an item is the ideal fit for them from the comfort of their homes.
The launch comes after the company expanded its platform in May so that consumers could shop retailers’ websites with personal measurements directly from the MySize app. MySize provides sizing information for more than 120 retailers and offers recommendations directly on the retailers’ sites when directed from the MySize app.
MySize is a partner of top brands and e-commerce platforms including Shopify, WooCommerce, Lightspeed, Magento and more.
Buy now, pay later
Afterpay unveiled that its “buy now, pay later” payments platform is now available to select app customers at major U.S. merchants, including Amazon, Macy’s, Nike, Nordstrom, Nordstrom Rack, Target and Victoria’s Secret.
Available only through the Afterpay app, select customers can shop at merchants by choosing their favorite brand in the Afterpay Shop Directory and paying with the platform. This new expansion is designed to give Afterpay’s sellers new shopper leads. On a monthly basis, Afterpay sends approximately 31 million leads on average to its merchant customers from its Shop Directory.
Customers on the app would get the same benefits of using Afterpay, including the ability to pay over time without having to pay interest or finance charges.
When select app customers use Afterpay, the installment payments platform creates a “virtual card” within the user’s digital wallet that is used for a one-time purchase. The payment details are automatically populated at checkout, ensuring a seamless checkout experience.
The majority of Afterpay customers start their shopping journey on the Shop Directory in its app, the company said.
With the new partnership, shoppers also can now pay over time at retailers such as Sephora, Kroger, Dell, CVS and Walgreens via the Shop Directory.
Afterpay also announced that it has expanded Pulse Rewards, its loyalty program that recognizes members for paying on time.
Under the new Pulse Rewards, Afterpay customers unlock benefits through a points system aimed at making the experience more inclusive, rewarding and fun. Additionally, a newly designed Pulse Rewards dashboard within the app can help customers track their payment stats, and allows them to choose when, where and how to use their rewards.
Now, all Afterpay customers can join the program in the app and immediately earn points to unlock rewards. The program also recognizes and includes previous Afterpay activity to reward customers for their past on-time payments.
Under Pulse Rewards, every eligible on-time payment earns 10 points. The more points earned, the more customers can access higher tiers and more rewards including gift cards from top brands available for purchase, as well as exclusive offers and promotions from top merchants, which at launch include fashion brands including Steve Madden, Vince and Rebecca Taylor.
Red Wing Shoes/Tecsys
Global boot designer, manufacturer and brand Red Wing Shoes has implemented order management software from supply chain solution provider Tecsys to power its omnichannel distribution operations and enable unified commerce.
The Tecsys platform will serve as a central cog in the retailer’s order fulfillment capabilities, the companies said, so that the brand can orchestrate incoming orders from front-end systems and offer customers a streamlined cross-channel experience.
Red Wing Shoes brands are distributed to more than 110 countries in more than 525 Red Wing retail stores, third-party partners and owned e-commerce platforms. Previously, Red Wing Shoes relied on multiple siloed buying channels that could limit the company’s ability to provide seamless shopping experiences between channels.
With Tecsys’ order management system Red Wing Shoes aims to connect those channels and develop its omnichannel commerce strategy to ensure positive customer experiences however and wherever customers shop.
“We turned to Tecsys to help us modernize our omnichannel infrastructure, and the results have been very positive,” says Dennis Keane, chief information officer at Red Wing Shoes in a statement. “From selection through to implementation and execution, the Tecsys team helped us chart a course for more resilient and more profitable retail fulfillment operations. Not only does the Tecsys platform enable us to fulfill orders more economically through consolidation and dynamic routing, but we are also able to cater to a new segment of digital consumer by providing more channels, more flexibility and better access to inventory. We are agile in our online order fulfillment capabilities, and we know that we are in good hands with the team at Tecsys.”
Tecsys’ retail supply chain platform is designed to connect fulfillment silos, enabling retailers to pick, pack and ship orders through data-driven algorithms, factoring in fulfillment flexibility, inventory availability, intelligent order orchestration and routing, and cost to fulfill.
As Red Wing Shoes continues to calibrate for post-pandemic commerce, the brand hopes to gain flexibility to adapt to dramatic shifts in buying patterns and fulfillment expectations.
Red Wing Shoes has likewise implemented a B2B2C process, in which the retailer will function as a logistical intermediary in facilitating the end-to-end buying journey. This fulfillment channel can provide customers of both Red Wing Shoes and its subsidiary brands with a digital shopping experience through multiple avenues, allowing the retailer to digitally extend access to its products without traditional retail infrastructure requirements.
SimplyRFID’s Wave has launched a new marker tag feature to provide business owners with more data into the items they have in stock and total number remaining. This insight is designed to shorten the time spent looking for a specific SKU and allow employees to assist more customers.
The marker tag is a unique additional grouping indicator for the tags in the inventory, designed for marking specific areas inside a massive location. For example, a warehouse may have different markers assigned for each rack within the facility. A scan of a CS108 handheld sled reader will update scanned items in the inventory page and automatically associate each to the nearest marker tag.
“The marker tag feature brings together the functionality of RFID and the benefits of automation you can achieve with RFID,” said Akash Bajaj, owner of Advance Apparel in a statement. “With marker tags, we have been able to inventory our 10,000 square foot warehouse in a matter of minutes.”
Using Wave, users can manage inventory in multiple locations by scanning the boxes as they are in transit, which automatically tracks the stock movement. Users can open the Wave mobile app and pinpoint the precise location of a specific box, SimplyRFID said.
Semblance World, a new virtual platform that aims to reimagine digital experiences for brands and consumers across luxury fashion, has received a “MegaGrant” from video game and software developer Epic Games.
The financial support will be used to facilitate the second phase of development of the Semblance World platform.
Powered by Epic Games’ Unreal Engine, an open and advanced real-time 3D creation platform that creates gamified experiences, Semblance World is built to empower luxury brands in an age of digitization, allowing them to create limited-time events, VIP experiences, fashion shows, gamified touch points, rentable virtual runways and showrooms, sustainable 3D digital model collections and educational tools that can extend their reach and provide access to valuable market data.
Semblance World co-founders Badrriya Henry and Roberta Annan said “The Epic MegaGrant will go a long way to support the long-term goals of Semblance World. We hope to provide the fashion industry with immersive and dynamic solutions as we build a more sustainable ecosystem for all.”
In addition to the broader fashion industry, Semblance World also hopes to increase opportunities for brands from emerging regions to showcase their talent and work on the world’s stage, empowering young creators to learn Unreal Engine and develop immensely valuable real-time skills.
Epic MegaGrants is a $100 million program set up by Epic Games to globally accelerate the work of teams and individuals working with Unreal Engine, 3D graphic tools and open-source software.
ShipBob, a cloud-based logistics platform designed to help small- and mid-sized companies fulfill more orders, secured $200 million in funding, valuing the company at more than $1 billion.
The company said it grew “profitably” to close out 2020, and will use the investment to bring the ShipBob solution to more customers, expand its software platform, scale its global fulfillment network and bolster its omnichannel commerce capabilities.
ShipBob expects to open 10 more facilities across North America and Europe this year.
Bain Capital Ventures, which led ShipBob’s Series B round in June 2017, led the Series E financing, with participation from prior investors including SoftBank, Menlo Ventures, Hyde Park Venture Partners, Hyde Park Angels and Silicon Valley Bank.
ShipBob integrates with e-commerce platforms and marketplaces like Amazon, Walmart, Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, Wix, Square and Squarespace, enabling online merchants to handle shipping to their customers without having to handle fulfillment themselves. Returns management, inventory management, financing tools and other solutions can also be activated in ShipBob’s apps marketplace to provide brands with a single solution to manage their broader business needs.
The company’s fulfillment technology stack included merchant-facing software and a warehouse management system (WMS). ShipBob’s WMS is used within all of their fulfillment centers across the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia, which can shorten the time to stand up new facilities to weeks instead of quarters.
In September 2020, ShipBob raised $68 million in a Series D round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2. Since then, ShipBob has more than doubled its fulfillment center network, growing from 10 to 24 facilities, including its first facilities in both the U.K. and Australia.
ShipBob’s app store now has over 40 integrations, including new 2021 partnerships like Walmart as its two-day delivery partner, Shopify Plus as its only certified global fulfillment partner and Pachama, which allows ShipBob customers to offset emissions and be carbon-neutral on all shipments.
U.K.-based fashion marketplace Secret Sales has secured 10 million euros ($11.9 million) in Series A funding, which it says it will use to expand its home operation and launch in six new markets in 2021.
With the investment, Secret Sales hopes to bring “hundreds” of more brands and retailers onboard to drive both domestic and international growth. The investment will also enable Secret Sales to improve data mining capabilities to optimize user experiences on the platform in an effort to boost sales and customer engagement.
The investment round was led by private equity investor Perwyn Growth Capital and supported by e-commerce investment specialist Belerion Capital, which was an early investor in Asos, The Hut Group and Boohoo.
The company said the investment brings it one step closer to its goal of becoming “the largest non-full price online marketplace for fashion and beauty worldwide.”
It comes amid a strong period of growth for Secret Sales since it was acquired in March 2020 by retail entrepreneurs Chris Griffin and Matt Purt and transformed from a flash sales website to an e-commerce marketplace.
The company’s revenue has grown by 4,000 percent since then and it now showcases more than 700 brands on its platform. Dolce & Gabbana, Versace 19v69, G-Star Raw, Superdry, Ted Baker and Jigsaw are among brands featured on the platform alongside premium retailers including Yoox Net-a-Porter, Harvey Nichols, JD Sports Group and high street jewelry business F Hinds.
“Our Series A funding round from experienced investors validates the significant opportunity for Secret Sales’ business model worldwide, and will allow us to meet increasing demand from brands and retailers looking for an upmarket, profitable and sustainable way to sell non-full-price inventory,” said Griffin, the CEO of Secret Sales, in a statement. “Following an exceptional first year, we are now ready to accelerate domestic and international operations, spearheading a new era for the discount sector.”
Product data management
E-commerce platform provider Ultra Commerce has acquired Vesta eCommerce, a global software business providing product data management solutions for retailers, for an undisclosed sum.
With the acquisition, Ultra Commerce looks to give e-commerce retailers a leg up on one of the major challenges they often handle—manually managing product data. Without automation, quantity and assortment of product data can be limited within an online store.
Vesta is designed to help organizations scale their online sales by automating the ongoing collection and cleansing of product data from vendors. This ideally enables internal teams to spend more time selling and less time stocking their digital shelves.
The Ultra Commerce platform already includes features such as core commerce, an order management system, product information management, a content management system and a marketplace.
Now, with Vesta under its wing, Ultra Commerce wants to guarantee customers consistent, accurate and up-to-date product data through all online selling channels, while also expanding their product range without limits to drive top-line revenue growth.
In conjunction with the acquisition, Ultra Commerce completed a capital raise, with cornerstone investment from a key institutional fund and a strategic investor. This funding will be used to accelerate customer and revenue growth, with additional investment in sales and marketing as well as product development.
Berkshire Grey, a provider of AI-enabled robotic solutions designed to automate supply chain processes, launched Intelligent Enterprise Robotic (IER) picking and mobility solutions that incorporate mobile robots.
This new generation of mobile robots are designed to offer increased fulfillment throughput at a lower cost point to enable shorter delivery times and support a larger number of SKUs.
Unlike fixed conveyor belts and early generation mobile robots, Berkshire Grey’s intelligent fleets harness AI to orchestrate “tens to thousands” of mobile robots to pick, organize and deliver items for a wide variety of customer and store orders.
The new launch is designed to help businesses as they aim to overcome complex logistical hurdles, now fulfilling orders in a variety of ways including curbside pickup, buy online, pickup in store, and same- or next-day delivery. As a result, fulfillment leaders seek to handle a wider variety of SKUs with increased throughput using a variety of constructs including back-of-store, small scale distribution centers, and full-scale distribution centers.
“Rapid delivery for virtually any product is now table stakes for fulfillment and the market has not offered powerful solutions to enable most businesses to meet this need,” says Kevin Prouty, vice president at IDC. “Companies like Berkshire Grey that have deep IP can have a large advantage in orchestrating tens to thousands of mobile robots, to pick millions of SKUs, and enable a company to significantly accelerate throughput at an attractive capital expenditure. Innovations like these help companies to meet increasing consumer expectations and to do so in a competitive fashion.”
The AI-based orchestration software is build to enable many robots to work together in a performant fashion, where robots improve and learn over time, and where the activities carried out by different robots and modules are coordinated.
With the newest generation of mobile robots incorporated in these solutions, Berkshire Grey’s intelligent fleets can perform multiple functions. For one, users can integrate robotic picking with mobile robots to increase automation levels and fulfillment speeds.
The robots are designed to transform any facility into a high throughput fulfillment system with minimal disruption to existing operations. Facilities can deploy the new robot systems in both existing and new fulfillment centers in one-third of the time of legacy systems, Berkshire Grey said.
The company also said the bots can handle greater SKU coverage than legacy systems, including heavier items, non-conveyables, and challenging items like shrink-wrapped packages.
Additionally, the Intelligent Enterprise Robotic (IER) solutions can dually use storage locations as robot highways and handle diverse SKUs directly, meaning the new robots can rotate and adjust positions, pass under shelves and conveyor belts, and function without a tray or tote containers.
Berkshire Grey’s automated solutions are dynamically reconfigurable and available via Robots-as-a-Service (RaaS) implementation models. RaaS allows customers to accelerate adoption of game-changing automation technology without upfront capital expenditures.
As previously announced, on Feb. 24, Berkshire Grey entered into a definitive agreement with Revolution Acceleration Acquisition Corp (RAAC) that is expected to result in Berkshire Grey becoming a publicly listed company early in the third quarter of 2021, subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions, including approval by the stockholders of RAAC.
Tapcart, a mobile app developer platform aimed at making it easier for online merchants to set up their mobile businesses, has secured a $50 million round of Series B funding led by Left Lane Capital. Shopify is also among the round’s participants.
The Tapcart platform itself offers a drag-and-drop builder built to allow merchants to create a mobile app for their existing Shopify store using tools to design their layout, customize the product detail pages, integrate checkout options, include product reviews, and even optionally add other branded content, like blogs, look books, videos (including live video) and more.
Shopify Plus brands including Fashion Nova, Chubbies, Urban Planet and Culture Kings use the Tapcart platform.
The merchant’s inventory, products and collections can be synced directly from Shopify to the app in real time in an effort to keep them up to date. Tapcart leverages all of Shopify’s APIs and SDKs to create a native application that works with Shopify’s existing data structures.
The funding will allow the platform to hire another 200 people over the next 24 months, up from the 70 it has currently. The company is furthering toward global expansion, looking to push into markets like Europe and Australia.
During the past 12 months, over $1.2 billion in merchant sales have flowed through Tapcart’s platform. In 2020, Tapcart’s recurring revenue increased by 3x, as mobile apps grew even faster during the pandemic, which had increased consumer mobile screen time by 20 percent year over year from 2019.
Other investors in the round include SignalFire, Greycroft, Act One Ventures and Amplify LA.
In total, Tapcart has raised more than $65 million.