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Retail Tech: Amazon Acquires Veeqo, New MakerSights Platform, Dollar General Pilots BNPL

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

Fulfillment

Amazon/Veeqo

Amazon acquired U.K.-based e-commerce fulfillment software provider Veeqo for an undisclosed sum in November 2021, adding to the online giant’s arsenal of inventory and fulfillment tools designed to aid sellers on its marketplace. Similar to its acquisition of Selz in January 2021, Amazon didn’t immediately publicize the deal, instead letting Veeqo break the news.

“We’re excited Veeqo has joined Amazon,” an Amazon spokesperson confirmed to Sourcing Journal. “Veeqo is an innovative company that helps sellers manage their multi-channel business and provides an outstanding experience to shoppers. We plan to continue investing in new features and improvements to help Veeqo serve sellers globally from its home in Wales, facilitate growth for sellers’ multi-channel businesses, and enhance the experience of their customers.”

The tech titan wants to boost benefits for Amazon sellers (particularly multi-channel businesses) while complementing its existing offering to sellers, with some already using Veeqo through its integration with Amazon Selling Partner APIs.

Amazon says it currently has nearly 2 million SMBs selling through its third-party marketplace, which accounts for more than 50 percent of products sold on Amazon’s platform.

Founded in 2013, Veeqo provides software solutions to multi-channel e-commerce sellers, supporting 21 sales channels including Amazon, eBay and Shopify. Key product features include multi-channel inventory management, complete order management, shipping software and report and forecasting tools. The business generates revenues via a three-tiered subscription model, which varies based on the number of users and features enabled.

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Most of Veeqo’s 70 employees are based in the company’s headquarters in Wales and will remain there following the acquisition.

Product development

MakerSights

MakerSights, a retail product decision platform, has released Line Efficiency, a new analytics feature designed to illustrate the incremental appeal for each product within an assortment.

Line Efficiency is built to provide insight into a product’s unique audience that merchandisers need to make informed decisions.  These decisions can entail which items to adopt or drop, determine the optimal balance of product newness and carryover, as well as identify channel-specific and region-specific products.

The new MakerSights platform’s launch comes as retailers have a conundrum on their hands. One one hand, adopting more products into an assortment may increase appeal across the market, but it can also boost costs, erode margin and lead to large quantities of unsold merchandise. Conversely, dropping products may help improve margins by eliminating overhead costs, but forgoing the wrong products will shrink the number of consumers a brand will reach and limit creative expression.

With Line Efficiency, merchandisers have an opportunity to increase SKU productivity and craft a cohesive line that reaches the maximum number of customers with the minimum number of products, while reducing overproduction of unnecessary or unwanted products.

MakerSights' Line Efficiency Platform
MakerSights’ Line Efficiency Platform MakerSights

“The new Line Efficiency feature in MakerSights gives us the insights we need to deliver the right mix of products and get the most mileage out of every SKU,” said Rothy’s director of strategic insights, Charu Subramanian, in a statement. “The new feature allows us unprecedented insight into which products will likely be a hit, and which styles our community may not be ready for yet. This has given me more confidence in the styles and colorways we bring to market.”

Derived from a methodology originally developed for media planning known as Total Unduplicated Reach and Frequency or “TURF,” Line Efficiency provides an objective assessment of an assortment, line, or entire category based on product-specific feedback from target consumers.

Line Efficiency can help product, merchandising and go-to-market teams screen for cannibalization between products and identify the bold colorways or styles with significant demand from important subsets of consumers; or determine which products can be cut to reduce overhead and which ones should be added to maximize reach, profitability, and SKU productivity.

Additionally, the solution is geared to deliver assortments that widen a brand’s exposure to the market, while reflecting the brand and protecting or improving profit margins. Brands also can use the platform in efforts to reduce overproduction of merchandise with limited customer demand. This can potentially minimize the volume of unsold merchandise that is either incinerated or sent directly to landfills at the end of each season.

“Line Efficiency has transformed how we make critical decisions about assortments,” said Lisa Best, vice president of merchandising at Herschel Supply Co. in a statement. “Deciding what gets adopted or dropped is tough when relying on intuition and high versus low historical performance. Each product plays a specific role in an assortment, and with MakerSights’ Line Efficiency we are able to take a more nuanced and strategic approach to decisions than simply ‘cutting the long tail.’ We can now quickly identify potential cannibalization between products, spot experimental colorways or styles that will help us tap into our bolder consumers, and deliver an assortment that aligns with what our customers have indicated they want to see and buy.”

MakerSights also recently released Snap & Comment, a feature geared at allowing product, merchant and go-to-market teams to take a snapshot of a visualization, add insights gleaned from the data directly to the image, and save it to the Shared Learnings tab within the workspace.

Snap & Comment can help brands better manage and share key consumer insights in a central location, with the ideal to create a single source of truth that can be referenced when making key decisions about the assortment.

By documenting major findings, teammates, stakeholders and cross-functional team members can quickly digest the learnings and prioritize outstanding questions for discussion or determine appropriate next steps, which greatly accelerates the merchandising process.

Online storefronts

Ted Baker/BigCommerce

Ted Baker, the U.K.-based lifestyle apparel brand, is now leveraging e-commerce platform provider BigCommerce and its multi-storefront (MSF) headless solution to operate multiple storefronts and build its partner network.

BigCommerce worked with e-commerce consultancy Wunderman Thompson Commerce to integrate Bloomreach’s content management solution, and its search and merchandising solution, Bloomreach Discovery, into the Ted Baker store to drive more impactful, relevant shopping experiences for Ted Baker customers.

With its new multi-storefront headless platform, Ted Baker will manage its global online presence from a single store and streamline day-to-day back-end employee operations, while offering customer experiences tailored to the needs of each market.

The retailer’s 12 regional storefronts will be fully localized. Shoppers will be able to browse in English, French, German and Spanish and make purchases using their preferred currency including pounds, dollars and euros.

“Central to Ted Baker’s future-looking growth strategy is adopting a digital-first approach that supports our endeavor to offer a premier shopping experience for our customers and build brand awareness beyond Europe,” Ted Baker chief information officer Leon Shepherd said in a statement. “With its scalable yet robust platform, BigCommerce and its supporting partners created a custom-made solution that simplifies backend complexities, showcases our high-end product offering and enhances the customer journey as we continue to expand into new markets.”

Wunderman Thompson Commerce further integrated BigCommerce and Bloomreach with Ted Baker’s back-office systems for product data, order processing and in-store omnichannel functionality.

BigCommerce’s in-built integrations to payments platforms like Adyen, Klarna, PayPal and Avalara can provide Ted Baker with global payment and tax coverage. The retailer also has future plans to integrate to Fluent Commerce’s SaaS order management system.

The luxury fashion retailer’s new website launch comes amid continued e-commerce acceleration. In the U.K., e-commerce sales are projected to reach $199 billion in 2022 with online sales currently accounting for 26.9 percent of overall retail, according to the country’s Office for National Statistics.

Ted Baker joins a growing line of fashion brands that includes Rivet and Hide, La Perla, Grenson, Olive Clothing, Badgley Mischka, Peter Christian, Bohemian Traders and Closet London all using BigCommerce’s Open SaaS platform to power their online businesses.

Payments/buy now, pay later

Dollar General/Sezzle

Dollar General launched a buy now, pay later test program with Sezzle, the exclusive Spendwell banking platform and new FIS Worldpay card reward points payment options.

Dollar General is launching the Sezzle partnership at more than 1,700 stores in Texas. The DG Buy Now Pay Later program will provide customers with zero-interest payments on purchases, allowing them to pay for their purchases in four installments. Additionally, customers will get flexibility when purchasing items at Dollar General stores or for in-store pickup on the DG App or online. When customers apply via the DG App, they receive an instant response detailing their spending limit. Dollar General will evaluate the DG Buy Now Pay Later powered by Sezzle test to assess expansion opportunities.

“Today’s announcement highlights Dollar General’s focus on supporting our customers and communities by extending financial service accessibility and payment options,” said Emily Taylor, Dollar General’s executive vice president and chief merchandising officer, in a statement. “In keeping with our purpose-driven mission of serving others, we continually search for additional services and flexible solutions to help make our customers’ lives easier.”

Through a partnership with InComm Payments, and issued by MetaBank, the Spendwell Bank Account is now available at Dollar General’s more than 18,000 stores, as well as through a dedicated online platform and mobile banking app.

Spendwell is designed to provide customers with two financial account options including one with no monthly fees and another that allows customers to earn 1 percent unlimited cash back to be redeemed on purchases at Dollar General. Both account options include an accompanying Visa debit card, which can be used everywhere Visa debit cards are accepted, and Spendwell app-access to manage everyday expenses, pay bills and more.

Dollar General also is piloting another added payment option with FIS Premium Payback, a real-time rewards redemption network. With the pilot network, customers will have an option to redeem eligible credit and debit card rewards points toward their Dollar General purchase. Currently available at all of its stores, customers with eligible FIS bank debit and credit cards may redeem 1,000 credit card points for $5 toward their purchase of $5.01 or more.

Returns 

Narvar

Narvar is rolling out its Home Pickup service, a carrier-agnostic returns service designed to allow shoppers to schedule a courier to pick up return packages at their homes.

More than 70 retailers, including DSW and Ann Taylor, piloted the service during the 2021 holiday season and reported high customer satisfaction scores and speedier return times, the company says.

Home Pickup is built so shoppers can return items without having to leave home, ideally enabling brands to restock returned products faster. The service is currently available in 10 major metropolitan markets including New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego, Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia, with plans to expand to about 100 in the next few months.

Consumers must be located in zip codes where couriers are operating and they must also use the “By Mail” return method to schedule a pickup. Each individual package pickup is a single $7 convenience fee, in addition to any existing return fees the consumer is already paying the retailer.

Home Pickup is the newest in a suite of Narvar full-stack services seeking to make returning more convenient, and consolidate end-to-end returns management for retailers. Launched in Spring 2019, the company’s Concierge allows shoppers to pick up orders and drop off returns from participating brands at a network of more than 200,000 locations globally, including Walgreens and Simon properties. Major apparel brands leveraging the platform include Patagonia, Levi’s and LVMH. Narvar also offers boxless returns with both UPS and FedEx.

The services come as shoppers are expected to return more than $761 billion in merchandise sold in 2021, representing about 16.6 percent of total U.S. retail sales, according to National Retail Federation data.

Narvar says retailers investing in the technology have restocked returned products on shelves in six days or less, instead of up to 14. Additionally, the company says Home Pickup allows items to be returned to the warehouse 25 percent faster, enabling retailers to resell inventory and give consumers their refund or credit back more quickly. As many as 96 percent of shoppers who rated their return experience positively said they would shop with that retailer again, Narvar noted.

Digital commerce

Bloomreach

Commerce experience cloud provider Bloomreach raised $175 million in funding from Goldman Sachs Asset Management with participation from existing investors Bain Capital Ventures and Sixth Street Growth. The round more than doubled the company’s valuation to $2.2 billion.

Bloomreach helps businesses personalize customer journeys across channels using a combination of customer and product data, which allows them to offer digital experiences tailored to each individual customer, at scale.

Following the funding round, Bloomreach plans to invest in the development of personalization use cases powered by its Commerce Experience Cloud. In addition, Bloomreach will use this investment to continue expanding its go-to-market teams in order to accelerate business growth worldwide. Currently with 800 employees, the company is adding about 150 people per quarter and plans to continue that growth this year across Europe, India and the U.S.

In 2021, Bloomreach achieved 63 percent new annual recurring revenue (ARR) growth year over year to $117 million and added more than 100 new brands. Its Commerce Experience Cloud also saw substantial product growth, including the launch of its headless content platform Bloomreach Content; the release of innovative new features within its Discovery pillar; and the introduction of its Engagement pillar following the acquisition of customer data and experience platform Exponea.

Self-Checkout

Bed Bath & Beyond/NCR

Bed Bath & Beyond has successfully piloted a self-checkout trial with NCR Corporation in its remodeled New York City flagship store.

As part of its store transformation efforts, the retailer is expanding the NCR self-checkout solutions to select Bed Bath & Beyond locations nationwide. NCR will enable Bed Bath & Beyond to give customers self-service capabilities, providing additional options that could help provide a faster and more convenient shopping experience.

NCR’s self-checkout solutions also offer operational benefits like faster checkouts and other advanced capabilities on a single platform, including computer vision and shrink prevention.

“As part of our commitment to be a digital-first, omni-always retailer, we are making it easier and more convenient than ever to shop at Bed Bath & Beyond,” said John Hartmann, chief operating officer at Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. and president of Buybuy Baby, in a statement. “NCR has been an incredible partner along this journey and its self-checkout solution brings an important capability to our stores. We look forward to the continued rollout of self-checkout as part of our transformation strategy that includes technology investments to improve the customer experience.”

Virtual showroom

Babylist/Obsess

Babylist, an online marketplace and registry selling baby apparel, toys and strollers, has partnered with experiential e-commerce platform Obsess to launch the Babylist Cribs Virtual Showroom.

The virtual store experience is designed for parents-to-be, new parents and gift givers to discover, explore and engage with an array of baby products in a realistic, 3D virtual home and then easily purchase or add those items to their registry.

“The retail experience for baby products can be incredibly time-consuming and frankly overwhelming to many parents and gift givers. We are always trying to enhance our customers’ discovery and shopping experience,” said Natalie Gordon, founder and CEO of Babylist in a statement. “We’re proud to partner with Obsess to launch this virtual store that gives our customers a new way to learn about and interact with our brand partners’ products, envision how items will look and function in their own home, and easily add them to their baby registry.”

The Babylist Cribs Virtual Showroom enables guests to travel through an entire house, where they can view a shoppable collection of play gear, strollers, car seats, sleep essentials and more, clicking to learn about and interact with items just as they might in a physical store. Visitors can also watch videos, read articles and dive into Babylist’s expert guides as they navigate the virtual store to ensure they have all the necessary information to make product decisions and add items to their registries.

The virtual showroom builds on the success of Babylist’s recent popup in Venice, Calif. featuring a curated selection of the latest baby and parenting must-haves in a modern, 3,300-square-foot home. Over the past year, more than 8 million customers have purchased items on Babylist, resulting in over $240 million in 2021 revenue.