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Retail Tech: Project44 Raises $80M, Inspectorio Releases DocFlow, CLO/Coloro Collab

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

Supply chain management

Project44

Supply chain visibility platform Project44 raised $80 million in a funding round led by sustainable investment management firm Generation Investment Management and privately held investment company A.P. Moller Holding.

The round now values Project44 at $2.7 billion, up 12 percent since it raised a $440 million Series F in January. The company says the additional funding will help it measure and mitigate supply chain emissions across all modes of transportation.

Project44’s more than 1,200 customers can use the software to better plan on-time delivery of shipments, proactively address supply chain disruptions and move goods more efficiently. With its recent growth and financial performance, project44 says is on track to profitability without needing to raise additional capital.

So far in 2022, Project44 has booked $44 million in annual recurring revenue (ARR), bringing the total booked ARR to $134 million, posting 70 percent year-over-year growth on net revenue retention of 127 percent. This year alone, 358 new customers including Foot Locker, Energizer, Anheuser-Busch InBev Europe and Veyer have signed with project44. However, in July Project44 laid off 63 employees, or 5 percent of staff.

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The company recently rolled out Movement by Project44, an advanced visibility platform designed to let shippers, freight forwarders, carriers and logistics professionals manage exceptions, streamline shipment operations, automate manual processes and collaborate to resolve customer issues from a single platform.

With Movement, Project44 says shippers can increase lead time reliability and improve on-time delivery to cut costs and improve customer satisfaction. Logistics professionals can use Movement to improve data accuracy and increase productivity to grow revenue. Movement enables carriers to drive digital adoption, increase data accuracy and improve efficiency through automation to become more competitive. Additionally, drivers can use the platform to reduce check calls and dwell times, providing real-time visibility and potentially securing more profitable loads while gaining advantages as a preferred carrier.

Project44 wants to measure the carbon footprint of supply chains, which account for 60 percent of global emissions, according to a United Nations Global Compact (UNGC)-Accenture CEO study. In reporting parlance, most supply chain emissions fall under Scope 3: indirect emissions from activities and assets not owned or controlled by the company. Only 16 percent of companies currently measure their Scope 3 emissions at an advanced level, according to Accenture.  

This additional funding will enable Project44 to build a system to measure Scope 3 supply chain emissions across all regions and modes of transportation. Emissions visibility will also prepare Project44’s customers to meet new carbon reporting requirements under International Maritime Organization (IMO) 2023 and the European Union’s proposed corporate sustainability reporting directive (CSRD), which calls for companies to measure and report Scope 3 emissions.

Project44 tracks more than 1 billion shipments per year. Over 220,000 ocean, FTL, rail, last mile, air and LTL carriers have agreed to Project44’s terms & conditions and are transmitting data on behalf of the company’s paying customers. This year, Project44 invested in and opened new offices in Japan, New Zealand and Australia, creating even more opportunity for network growth.

Logistics giant CMA CGM also joined the round along with previous investors Goldman Sachs Asset Management, TPG, Emergence Capital, Chicago Ventures, Sapphire, 8VC, Sozo Ventures and Omidyar Technology Ventures.

Inspectorio

Inspectorio, a cloud-based AI-powered SaaS solution for supply chain organizations, has released a document management solution, DocuFlow. DocuFlow is built to allow supply chain partners to automate and streamline document management workflows, collaborate with users both inside and outside the boundaries of an organization, and ensure proper document control.

Inspectorio DocuFlow eliminates paper processes, in an effort to improve efficiency, and enable easier collaboration worldwide. DocuFlow also supports regulatory compliance through strict controls of document versioning, approval, sharing and storage. Inspectorio’s new document management platform streamlines the management of business-critical documents, automating the creation and review process, including tracking who has approved paperwork and ensuring the right documents are shared with the right people at the right time.

As compliance requirements increase, document control becomes a more high-risk focal point for supply chains. Inspectorio cited data that 92 percent of executives risk losing documents in their email, and 83 percent of employees must recreate documents that go missing in their company’s network.  

DocuFlow is built to address these inefficiencies by reducing manual work and streamlining document management workflows, automating the creation, review, and approval of documents, and tracking the document’s chain of custody. This can help companies abide by compliance requirements, ensuring all document workflows are executed according to schedule and governed properly.

DocuFlow joins a product portfolio featuring Inspectorio Sight, Inspectorio Rise and Inspectorio Tracking which together can provide organizations a holistic view into supply chain performance. Inspectorio Sight empowers retailers, brands, suppliers, and manufacturers to optimize their quality management operations, Inspectorio Rise enables users to manage supply chain audit, compliance, and sustainability activities from a central console, and Inspectorio Tracking provides production monitoring and supply chain visibility. 

3D design

CLO Virtual Fashion/Coloro

CLO Virtual Fashion announced that it has partnered with Coloro, a provider of a unique 1.6 million color system, including a library of 3,500 colors for footwear and apparel paired with color intelligence solutions.

The goal of this partnership is to build a fully integrated, intelligent design platform, marrying Coloro palettes with CLO Virtual Fahion’s 3D fashion design software CLO. This partnership allows designers to develop and perfect their creative ideas before they go into production, reducing sample production, shipment and material waste.

Connecting CLO’s 3D platform and applications with Coloro’s Color System and applications represents the pairing of a high level of creative intelligence and color intelligence in the market, enabling both parties to jointly complete, extend and improve the digital workflow and value chain in fashion, according to Detlev Pross, Coloro’s chief strategy officer.

By integrating CLO software and Coloro’s color design and knowledge platforms, users can create and alter garments with an accurate representation of their color palette. By joining forces, Coloro and CLO Virtual Fashion offer a fully integrated color and 3D design application, making it easier to fine-tune both the color and fit of designs before going into production.

Coloro developed a system designed to reflect human color vision and build an extensive knowledge base of analyzing color in the context of feasibility, dye-ability and sustainability for different materials and processes. The company offers physical and digital products, drawing from an extensive library of more than 3,500 contemporary colors and expert advisory services.

And for CLO, the company continues to digitally merge, consolidate and converge all components related to digital garments through its 3D Cloth Simulation Algorithm.

Delivery

ShopRunner

ShopRunner, a subsidiary of FedEx, announced the launch of a new mobile application designed to provide consumers with a simple, streamlined experience throughout the entire shopping journey from discovery to tracking. 

The ShopRunner app helps cut through online shopping experiences that consumers encounter regularly and provides a single destination to discover, order, track, and return with ease.

ShopRunner, which offers free two-day shipping and free returns, also refreshed its brand and launched a new campaign to inspire consumers to “Shop Boldly.” ShopRunner’s new look and feel reflects the platform’s focus on simplifying shopping experiences and putting confidence back in how people shop online. Since combining the ShopRunner platform with FedEx’s network and services, the company has increased its member base while extending its reach to new merchants and consumers.

The ShopRunner app is designed to alleviate what can be an often cumbersome e-commerce shopping experience. Through its mobile app, ShopRunner said it’s changing the way people navigate online shopping. With a single mobile entryway, each member’s feed can be optimized through their browsing and purchase history to discover new brands and connect with their favorites. Members can purchase, ship, track and return items in an easy, safe and secure experience through an intuitive interface.

Members can also gain benefits including free two-day shipping, free returns, member-exclusive discounts, and seamless checkout. ShopRunner’s data-driven marketing and omnichannel enablement capabilities can also help merchants acquire high-value customers and accelerate their digital innovation by using ShopRunner’s e-commerce platform.

Additionally, members will have a single destination to discover, track, and return goods, including access to diverse brands and retailers across beauty, fashion, electronics, home and more. The app includes dynamic customer support content tailored to where an order is on its journey, as well as an optimized feed so members can explore new brands and goods inspired by their stored purchase and browsing history.

Cross-border commerce

ESW/Mamenta

E-commerce technology providers ESW and Mamenta integrated their solutions to better connect brands’ data and inventory positions across global marketplaces.

Moreover, apparel, beauty, luxury and technology brands using ESW’s solutions will gain access to the Mamenta network of more than 600 online marketplaces in 70 countries, which are supported by more than 75 distribution centers. The integration enables brands using ESW to expand revenue by accelerating cross-border commerce into new markets, test a product’s viability in markets under consideration, or both.

According to ESW’s recent Global Voices Q2 2022 survey of 14,000 shoppers, approximately 30 percent of consumers across all demographics purchase apparel, luxury or beauty products across borders because they are unable to find what they are looking for in their home country.

Mamenta’s Global Trade Platform is built to link disparate infrastructures with centralized marketplace listing management, inventory and supply chain transparency, and messaging between sellers and marketplaces. Its unified sales and performance data delivers critical intelligence across global commerce markets.

Livestreaming

Firework

Firework, a video commerce solution, released an in-video checkout solution offering single-click purchase functionality in the company’s shoppable and livestream videos.

The innovation speaks to the rise in consumer preferences for engaging video content and low-friction, e-commerce experiences while satisfying an increasingly critical need for brands to re-engage consumers on their owned and operated digital properties.

Many brands are increasingly in search of new revenue channels and strategies to combat falling conversion rates. As of August 2022, average conversion rates across all e-commerce businesses sat at just 1.62 percent—down 0.3 percentage points from July and 0.06 percentage points from the same time last year, according to data from drop shipping company Oberlo.

And citing Baymard Institute data, Firework said that the average e-commerce website could realize a 35 percent increase in conversion rates simply by improving checkout. With In-Video Checkout, brands could not just unlock new revenue channels in the form of livestreaming and short-form, shoppable video, but also combat waning conversion rates by streamlining and simplifying the purchase experience.

Firework recently issued a limited, beta release to direct-to-consumer women’s skincare brand, Angela Caglia and all-natural foods brand, Spread The Love Foods. 

The In-Video Checkout feature can be implemented across any and all livestream and short-form Firework video modules—on both users’ own digital properties and in off-site, programmatic ads. In-Video Checkout customers only need to fill in their billing information once (with their first purchase), after which their name, email address, and shipping location are securely stored for future use—allowing returning customers to complete the entire online checkout experience with a single click, inside the video module. Customers can also apply coupons and promo codes, and select from multiple payment options without ever exiting the short video or livestream experience.

In addition to the right tools and technologies, Firework has complemented its technological capabilities with a suite of end-to-end creative services. Firework Creative Services is a team of industry experts dedicated to helping brands become fluent in the language of livestream shopping and shoppable video. Firework Creative Services helps brands with a wide variety of both fully managed and consultative support, including creative and content strategy, activation training, casting, creative development and ongoing optimization strategies and full video production.

Checkout

Tags Commerce

Tags Commerce, a company that generates instant checkouts, or “tags” that are designed to turn all online and offline media into checkout points, has come out of stealth mode with $3.5 million in pre-seed funding.

Formerly known as Boost, Tags lets transactions take place where and when purchase intent is highest. Tags has worked with customers like the Los Angeles Lakers, Foot Locker, Roc Nation, Parade, Young & Reckless and influencers Kall Me Kris, Guap and others.

When a buyer activates a tag, they experience a pre-loaded shopping cart with one-click functionality, eliminating several traditional purchasing steps. Each tag is encoded like a transactional barcode and comes in different formats to support all media types.

QR tags can be used for instant purchasing at physical locations, on products for repurchasing or on print materials, such as magazines or brochures. Link tags can be used on social media as link stickers or as bio links. Text tags are fitting for live shopping, podcasts and other types of conversational commerce. Tap tags allow consumers to engage via websites, AR, VR or the metaverse.

The tags generate organic traffic and instant conversions without the need for advertising spend. The company says the tags average 64 percent order conversion rates as they complete a transaction instantly, rather than sending buyers to a landing page or website.

Consumers who activate a tag experience a pre-loaded cart with a single tap-to-buy functionality. There are no websites or landing pages to visit and no apps to download, and consumers don’t have to log into a specific retail or brand account to purchase a product.

Consumers who do not complete their transaction can choose to save it for later, and they can also generate tags for the products they love to share and earn commissions as affiliates.

Affiliates can benefit as well, as they are able to share omnichannel tags in an effort to drive conversions and get paid commissions. Creators and influencers can curate products from across the web and add them to their own “Dropshop” pages, where their audience can buy directly instead of having to go to the brand site.

The startup is also in the process of closing its seed round with $3.5 million raised to date with key investors, such as XRC Labs, Gaingels, Not Boring, Tiny Capital, Vibe Capital, Unpopular Ventures and others.

“Tags is pioneering a new category in the future of commerce,” says XRC Labs general partner Al Sambar. “We welcomed them into our Opportunity Fund earlier this year, and we believe they’re the missing link between advertising spend and monetization for retailers and brands.”

Omnichannel fulfillment/logistics

Ryder/Dotcom Distribution

Ryder System, a provider of supply chain, dedicated transportation, and fleet management solutions, has acquired Dotcom Distribution, a provider of omnichannel fulfillment and distribution services for high-growth retail and e-commerce brands specializing in health, beauty and cosmetics, and fashion and apparel.

Terms of the transaction have not been disclosed.

With the acquisition, Ryder continues to expand its online fulfillment network with the opportunity to add more consumer brand names and increase its national footprint with the addition of a 400,000-square-foot multi-client fulfillment facility in Edison, N.J. Additionally, Dotcom Distribution’s leadership team, including founder and CEO Maria Haggerty, and the company’s operations team, totaling approximately 100 full-time employees, will join Ryder.

Earlier this year, Ryder announced the acquisition of another e-commerce and omnichannel fulfillment provider, Whiplash. The company had provided fulfillment solutions to more than 250 digitally native brands and omnichannel retailers, backed by an e-commerce technology and operating platform.

Ryder’s e-commerce and omnichannel fulfillment solution now delivers to 100 percent of the U.S. within two days and 60 percent of the U.S. within one day.

For the Dotcom Distribution transaction, Wofford Advisors LLC acted as strategic advisor and Gunster acted as legal counsel for Ryder. G2 Capital Advisors acted as exclusive financial advisor and Stradley Ronon served as legal counsel to Dotcom Distribution.

Echo Global Logistics/Fastmore Logistics

Echo Global Logistics, Inc., a provider of technology-enabled transportation and supply chain management services, has acquired transportation broker Fastmore Logistics for an undisclosed sum.

Fastmore’s knowledge and core competency in selling domestic non-asset-based transportation services to international freight forwarders will complement Echo’s current business.

While Fastmore’s domestic operations are akin to Echo’s current portfolio of business, the acquisition provides Echo with a point of entry into an expansive network of expedited brokerage for the international freight forwarding market leveraging multiple equipment types, including cargo vans, straight trucks and full truckload.

Headquartered in Chicago with more than 30 offices around the U.S., Echo offers freight brokerage and managed transportation solutions for all major modes, including truckload, partial truckload, LTL, intermodal, and expedited. Echo maintains a proprietary, web-based technology platform that compiles and analyzes data from its network of over 50,000 transportation providers to serve 35,000 clients across a wide range of industries and simplify the critical tasks involved in transportation management.

Customer experience

Cotopaxi/Forethought

Outdoor adventure gear and apparel brand and B Corp Cotopaxi has partnered with Forethought, an AI platform designed for customer service teams. Forethought helps Cotopaxi’s customer support organization create best-in-class user experiences as it implements the AI products Solve and Assist.

As a growing company, Cotopaxi foresees an increase in the breadth and volume of support ticket requests. Assist, which is expected to be live in November 2022, will allow Cotopaxi to leverage Forethought’s AI-powered agent assistant to increase the efficiency of its concentrated support team without compromising productivity. Forethought can be used to surface relevant knowledge articles, past cases, macros and notes into support agents’ help desk.

Additionally, Cotopaxi will take full advantage of the Solve platform, which is designed to go beyond chatbot capabilities, Forethought said. Customers should experience faster results with this integration across multiple web pages as the feature can interpret their exact need, using data and custom workflows to find the best answer and take action. By reducing back and forth between agents and customers to resolve cases and deflecting simple questions such as “where’s my order?” Cotopaxi expects to respond to more cases faster.

“Forethought’s technology will better assist our customers by empowering them to find answers, whether that’s on the website, in the help center or on our PDPs,” said Ren Barrus, director of customer experience at Cotopaxi. “Utilizing these products benefits not only our customers but our internal team as well.”

Cotopaxi creates outdoor products, apparel and experiences that inspire adventure, help alleviate poverty, and move people to do good. The brand’s social impact strategy focuses on global poverty and employs responsible sourcing and manufacturing practices through supply chains.