The weekly Retail Tech Roundup compiles technology news across the supply chain, manufacturing, retail, e-commerce, logistics and fulfillment sectors.
Supply chain visibility
Craft, a platform designed to empower supply chain and procurement professionals to discover new suppliers, has closed a $32 million Series B equity financing.
With the funding, Craft wants to further develop its supplier intelligence platform, deepen its go-to-market execution in key verticals and accelerate research and development to further meet and exceed the needs of the market. The financing was led by BAM Elevate, the venture capital arm of Balyasny Asset Management.
In the past year, the company says it has deepened its integration of multi-dimensional supplier data, developed advanced analytic capabilities including Craft Risk Hub, Craft N-Tier Mapping and Craft Alerts, and enhanced its cloud-based suite of collaboration and case management workflows.
The industrywide increase in focus on cybersecurity, ESG, legal compliance and geopolitics all highlight the need for comprehensive and reliable intelligence on these categories, shared across all tiers of the enterprise supply network. Increasingly, enterprises in both private and public sectors are seeking to predict and mitigate issues proactively rather than reactively, in addition to embedding continuous monitoring of suppliers into daily operations.
Retailers use Craft to figure out which alternative suppliers to use if risk or other issues arise in one area of their supply chain.
Craft says its proprietary data platform ingests data from internal customer systems and external sources, and generates risk and opportunity insights for the customer in a cloud-based portal. While business intelligence products might require clients to bring their own data, Craft claims its solution comes with comprehensive data from thousands of sources, surfacing critical insights on suppliers.
The resulting 360-degree view of target companies includes more than 500 data types that are constantly refreshed using machine learning and human validation. Craft also compiles data into company profiles to provide insights to professionals who use the platform. These include data that is narrowed down to the product SKU level.
Craft says revenues grew 100 percent in 2022, with Fortune 500 enterprises and government agencies among the new clients and significant contract expansions. The company has approximately 60 customers, and it plans to grow that figure to 100 to 120 by the year’s end.
The financing also included participation from Greycroft; Uncork Capital; High Alpha; ServiceNow Ventures; Point Field Partners; Frederic Kerrest, executive vice chairman and co-founder, Okta; Stacey Epstein, chief marketing officer of Freshworks; and Edith Harbaugh, co-founder and CEO of LaunchDarkly.
Bestseller rolled out Nedap’s iD Cloud platform RFID solution to 380 Vero Moda stores in January.
Nedap says implementing iD Cloud can help improve the efficiency of how products are received and the introduction of real-time replenishments. This results in more time for store staff to focus on delivering a seamless shopping experience across all Vero Moda stores.
“Our primary focus is to optimize store operations even further by adding RFID-based goods receiving and sharing transactional data to close the loop around RFID,” said Casper Terp Harboe, RFID project manager at Bestseller, in a statement. “With this single view on all stock, Vero Moda can successfully offer the right products at the right place without high safety thresholds. This has a positive impact on sustainability and profitability.”
By partnering with Nedap, the international, family-owned fashion company with more than 2,600 stores, housing brands such as Jack & Jones, Vero Moda, and Only, will rapidly accelerate its omnichannel business’s flexibility and service across all its Vero Moda stores. With Nedap’s support, Vero Moda aims to enhance the way it interacts with shoppers and ensure a seamless brand experience across all consumer touch points. Stock visibility will be a key enabler for product availability, as well as circular services, the retailer said.
“As a company, we take nothing for granted, especially not customer loyalty. To keep our customers happy, we always need to have the right product available across all our sales channels without overstocking and overproducing,” said Terp Harboe. “Our stores play a vital part in this ambition. Now that we are taking the next step in our RFID journey, we need a partner that enables us to meet our ambitions. We found that partner in Nedap with its global user community and proven track record.”
Nedap also launched iD POS 2, an RFID-based point-of-sale reader developed to drastically speed up checkouts. The technology is geared at giving fashion retailers a real-time view of their inventory, enabling data-driven loss prevention and unlocking various omnichannel concepts including ship-from-store and click-and-collect.
ID POS 2 will officially launch during the EuroShop 2023 trade fair in Düsseldorf, Germany, which starts Feb. 26. The platform has been designed with Nedap’s goal to empower retailers to create real-time inventory visibility with zero waste and no losses. The point-of-sale solution aims to remove friction from physical shopping experiences and enhance customer service levels securely, enabled by RFID data.
The solution has been extensively trialed by global retailers, including denim brand G-Star Raw and Norwegian apparel manufacturer Voice Norge AS.
“Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for customers to buy, whether in our stores or online. ID POS 2 guarantees a frictionless checkout experience,” Barry van Wijk, head of retail operations at G-Star Raw, said of the technology’s bulk-reading capabilities.
For Voice Norge AS, it deployed iD POS 2 to update inventory levels in real time. Hedda Hjerthén, head of supply chain at Voice Norge AS, said, “We can now push item-level POS data to iD Cloud, Nedap’s inventory management platform. This enables us to refill our sales floor even more frequently with the right items, based on both sales and cycle count data and boost sales even more.”
ID POS 2 marks an item automatically as “sold” in the RFID database, and when combined with an RFID-based EAS system, retailers can eventually move away from hard tags while maintaining the same level of security, or even higher.
Key features of the technology include bulk reading at the point-of-sale, real-time inventory updates, remote service monitoring capabilities and plug-and-play installations. The technology also includes the latesy Impinj chipsets.
Identiv, an Internet of Things (IoT)-based digital security and identification technology provider, has signed an exclusive strategic agreement with Trace-ID to become the exclusive provider for the firm’s complete line of specialty and industrial UHF RFID across North America.
This partnership is designed to deliver specialty and industrial UHF RFID at competitive price points and provides Identiv with access to a European manufacturing facility that has line-of-sight to 1 billion units of specialty UHF capacity.
The partnership with Trace-ID expands Identiv’s manufacturing footprint, enabling the company to add to its already extensive product portfolio, to strengthen its position as a specialty RFID technology leader. This partnership will enable Identiv to provide industrial UHF RFID solutions for hundreds of use cases across industries.
Identiv’s connected ecosystems put IoT in motion, creating digital identities for every physical object. The company’s RFID team handles research, design, development, software and manufacturing.
Identiv embeds tags, inlays and labels in billions of everyday objects, including medical devices, pharmaceuticals, luxury brands, specialty retail, athletic apparel, industrial applications, smart packaging, library media, toys, wine and spirits, mobile devices, cold chain items and perishables.
Digital freight platform Convoy conducted its third round of layoffs in a year and is closing its Atlanta office as part of a larger restructuring.
The restructuring, announced by Convoy CEO and founder Dan Lewis on his personal LinkedIn page, is part of the company’s transition to a new “customer service model.” The number of employees that have been laid off has not been disclosed.
Lewis said the “flexible” new customer service model unites “dedicated support teams” that are trained on one or a few shippers’ needs and operating requirements. The Convoy platform itself is built to help automate much of the work of a traditional freight customer support team.
The founder said a pilot of the model yielded operational efficiency gains of 30 percent to 40 percent.
“This shift represents a big step forward in how we operate, but it comes at a cost. Increased automation and tighter focus have changed our staffing needs,” Lewis said. “As a result of this change we will have significantly fewer Atlanta based employees, and we can no longer justify maintaining our current office space in Atlanta.”
Lewis indicated that the remaining employees’ “working model” will change over the next few months. Additional cost-cutting measures are set to impact the rest of the company, with Lewis saying there will “reductions to other teams around the company.”
Convoy joins a wave of layoffs in the logistics space, including, FedEx, Rivian, C.H. Robinson, Flexport, GXO Logistics and Project44.
Like many of these other companies, particularly on the technology side, Convoy raised a substantial amount of capital in the years ahead of the layoffs as e-commerce spending accelerated and more businesses needed to digitize their supply chains.
After raising $400 million in 2019, Convoy raised another $260 million in April 2022, valuing the business at $3.8 billion. The company made its first round of layoffs just two months later, before implementing another round of job cuts in October.
The company connects shippers and freight brokers to a nationwide network of 400,000 trucks through its carrier-facing smartphone app and technology platform. Convoy says the network is built to offer on demand and elastic truckload freight capacity, allowing shippers to move goods more efficiently, and truckers to earn more while reducing unnecessary carbon emissions.
Descartes Systems Group/GroundCloud
Logistics software provider Descartes Systems Group has acquired GroundCloud, a cloud-based provider of final-mile carrier solutions and road safety compliance tools, for as much as $138 million.
Final-mile carriers leverage GroundCloud to receive customer delivery orders, plan and execute routes against those orders, train and monitor drivers on safety and performance, manage assets and resources and analyze the operating efficiency of their business.
GroundCloud’s platform also incorporates video telematics to provide driving event detection and verification, combined with reactive coaching solutions designed to improve safety.
Andrew Roszko, chief commercial officer at Descartes, said in a statement that compliance within the last mile still remains convoluted, since thousands of subcontracted delivery service providers work as agents for larger carriers. GroundCloud can help ensure more seamless operations, end-to-end visibility and higher standards of safety and compliance, by helping final-mile carriers comply with the various safety mandates of large transportation brands.
GroundCloud is headquartered in Minneapolis, Minn. Descartes acquired GroundCloud for up-front consideration of approximately $80 million in cash on hand, plus potential performance-based consideration based on revenue targets in each of the first two years post-acquisition. Any earn-out is expected to be paid in fiscal 2025 and fiscal 2026.
The deal comes just one month after Descartes acquired another supply chain technology provider, shipment management solutions provider Supply Vision, for $12 million.
Supply Vision is designed to help logistics service providers (LSPs) digitize their operations and manage the lifecycle of shipments. Headquartered in the U.S., the company provides modular applications that help LSPs coordinate shipments, from quoting, routing and booking through to final delivery. The Supply Vision platform also integrates with real-time visibility solutions, such as Descartes MacroPoint, to provide LSPs and their end customers with more information about shipment status and location.
The Supply Vision acquisition complements Descartes’ recent investments in logistics software including QuestaWeb, Kontainers and Portrix, as the company looks to broaden its footprint for LSPs.
PortPro, a transportation management software (TMS) provider with a focus on the drayage community, raised a Series A funding of $12 million led by Avenue Growth Partners.
PortPro built DrayOS to give carriers and drivers access to software that addresses these issues directly from their web portal or their smartphone. Its offerings include a TMS for drayage and intermodal carriers, connectivity and visibility solutions for brokers, carriers and expediters, as well as strong integrations with other providers serving the supply chain.
With the funding, PortPro says it will invest heavily into building out its technology platform.
The platform allows dispatchers to view a driver’s itinerary and availability, determine which loads need to be assigned to a driver and dispatch loads directly to drivers.
PortPro seeks to address the broader challenges facing carriers that don’t have IT departments to implement and manage software, in an effort to further digital transformation for drayage companies.
Premium men’s underwear and apparel brand Saxx launched a dedicated virtual store, an immersive experience in the metaverse powered by virtual store platform provider Emperia, that allows shoppers to browse three-dimensional items in a 360-degree showroom.
The store exclusively features underwear, tops and swimwear from Saxx’s DropTemp collection, which uses proprietary evaporative fabric to cool the body.
Upon entering the store, shoppers are transported to what Emperia calls an “oxymoronic” environment where it’s snowing in the desert, highlighting the cooling qualities of DropTemp.
A short pathway lined with shoppable product displays then leads to an open-air showroom. More items can be found around the showroom’s swimming pool, including underwear, short and long sleeve tops, polos and hoodies with UPF 50 that can be worn in the water. Shoppers are encouraged to “dive in” to the pool, which unlocks another retail area consisting of a variety of prints from Saxx’s swimwear line.
“We like to do things differently than other brands, and a virtual store gave us the opportunity to bring
our DropTemp technology to life in an unexpected setting,” said Wendy Bennison, Saxx CEO. “This is an exciting step for SAXX as we’ll be able to connect with our customers in a new way. Not only does this mark our first virtual store, but it’s also our first-ever standalone retail location where shoppers can walk around and interact with our products, albeit virtually.”
Emperia created a SaaS platform that enables creative control for retailers and brands to update merchandise and change store decor so that maintaining a virtual space can be aligned with a retailer’s physical store operations.
By providing this virtual experience to consumers, Emperia wants to communicate brand narratives that are tailored for the unique environment of the virtual world. The company has already launched virtual experiences for Bloomingdale’s, Dior and Burberry in collaboration with Harrods.
The company raised $10 million in a Series A funding round in January led by Base10 Partners. Emperia said it would use the funding to grow its team, develop its virtual store platform and deepen the capabilities of the data suite that powers it, with the aim of accelerating global market presence. The firm also plans to use virtual store customer data to provide retailers with better tools to personalize the customer experience.
Gotham City Online/Epson
Print-on-demand manufacturer Gotham City Online, the parent company of pop culture apparel seller Pop Threads, selected direct-to-garment (DTG) solutions from Epson to scale and streamline its apparel business.
Gotham City has installed a fleet of Epson SureColor F2100 and SureColor F3070 DTG printers to produce an assortment of textile products. As a result, the company says it has experienced a more efficient workflow along with new opportunities for customization, allowing for an expanded product offering.
“The next-generation technology offered in the SureColor F2100, and then again in the SureColor F3070 industrial series, really blew our minds,” said David Topkins, co-founder, Gotham City Online. “The SureColor F3070 includes compelling features, such as increased print speed, enhanced functionality, and sensitivity of the platen height. Due to its speed, we’ve seen better ROI with orders that require larger images.”
With the SureColor F3070 industrial features, Gotham City has experienced an increase in productivity with larger sized garments, and garments with big images. In addition, thicker apparel, such as sweatshirts, have benefited due to the new platen height sensor in the SureColor F3070.
The Epson DTG printers have integrated into the manufacturer’s job pull automation system to further streamline workflow, increase efficiency and have provided a scalable solution.
“Opening up the SDK, allowing us to really integrate, control and tie our systems into controlling the equipment made a huge difference,” said Jonathan Garriss, CEO of Gotham City Online, in a statement.
According to Topkins, Epson printers allowed the company to scale up its business as necessary.
“The printers are set-up in a pod configuration and that helps us to increase production as needed during peak season and when we have a surge in demand,” Topkins said.
Gotham City’s team also gained additional benefits with the SureColor F3070 printer’s bulk ink tanks and simple maintenance features.
“The SureColor F3070 allows us to schedule maintenance, so we can minimize the negative impact to our production,” said Garriss. “It’s not constantly going down; we don’t have the Epson repair person here all the time. However, it’s also nice having that support network from Epson, having that point of contact and them controlling the quality from beginning to end, whether it’s through the ink, to the parts, to cleaning kits, it is nice to have a streamlined solution.”
U.K.-based e-commerce retailer Very has selected Constructor, an AI-powered product search and discovery platform. The retailer aims to use the Constructor’s technology to deliver personalized shopping experiences and journeys that drive engagement, loyalty and conversions.
With 1.8 billion pounds ($2.2 billion) in annual revenue, Very is The Very Group’s fastest-growing retail brand, offering fashion, tech, homeware, toys and sports equipment. With such a large product catalog, it’s important for Very to help each individual shopper find what they want and need, so they aren’t overwhelmed and can benefit from a useful and cohesive shopping experience across the Very website and on its mobile app.
“Very always seeks to deliver superior customer experiences. An important part of that is recognizing each shopper’s unique preferences and needs, and helping them find the best items for their lifestyle,” said Paul Hornby, digital customer experience director at The Very Group, in a statement. “Constructor’s AI- and machine-learning-driven approach to product discovery will help our shoppers quickly and—remembering and reflecting their history with us across channels—while also furthering our own digital transformation journey.”
Very will take advantage of Constructor’s product discovery suite, including capabilities and solutions for searching, browsing, product curation and even customer quizzes.
When Very shoppers use search to find an item, they can instantly view results optimized for their personal preferences and tastes, as well as for Very’s key performance indicators (KPIs). Upon browsing the numerous pages, they showcase items that are both personalized to Very shoppers and optimized for the retailer’s KPIs.
Very can create fully personalized, dynamic product landing pages based on automatic rules or curated lists of products. Constructor’s newest offering uses zero-party data (posing brief questions to shoppers, like an associate would in-store) and, based on their responses, personalizes the items and recommendations they see next.
Constructor’s platform learns from each and every shopper’s query—which the company says amounts to hundreds of millions of times each day. With every click, add to cart, quiz answer, purchase and more, Constructor uses clickstream behavior to automatically rank results and surface recommendations—showing shoppers the products they’ll love and reflecting e-commerce companies’ top KPIs.