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Retail Tech: Bloomingdale’s Debuts Virtual Store, Amazon Acquires Robotics Firm

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

Virtual stores

Bloomingdale’s/Emperia

In celebration of its 150-year anniversary, Bloomingdale’s is introducing a new, futuristic virtual store designed by Emperia, a virtual reality technology developer for the retail, fashion, and art sectors.

The virtual store will feature exclusive collections from brands such as Polo Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs, David Yurman, MCM, Byredo and Baccarat.

The retailer is introducing the virtual store during New York Fashion Week as part of one of its biggest anniversary campaigns, featuring celebrations across the U.S., including acclaimed designers, exclusive merchandise and multiple national events.

The digital pop up store is accessible via the retailer’s website, featuring a video of the evolution of the brand from Bloomingdales’ initial establishment to the present, contrasting the difference from the past to the future. Additionally, the store will include games, special surprises and a Bloomingdale’s unique collection, designed exclusively for its anniversary celebrations.

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Addressing retailers’ demand for a long-term strategy, 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 a realistic virtual experience to consumers, Emperia wants to communicate brand narratives that are tailored for the unique environment of the virtual world. The technology company has already launched virtual experiences for Dior and Burberry in collaboration with Harrods.

Robotics

Amazon/Cloostermans

Amazon has acquired Cloostermans, a Belgian warehouse robotics company that designs and manufactures mechatronics solutions that the e-commerce giant already uses to help move and stack heavy pallets and totes together for delivery. The deal’s terms were not disclosed.

Cloostermans and Amazon first began working together in 2019, but under the acquisition, the companies plan to more rapidly deploy solutions in the workplace that can support employees in their roles, improve workplace safety and also help reduce packaging waste.

The deal comes as the tech titan faces concerns about workplace safety, with three employees recently dying on the job at three separate New Jersey warehouses in a one-month span.

As part of executive chairman Jeff Bezos’ push to make Amazon “Earth’s Best Employer and Earth’s Safest Place to Work,” the company invested $300 million in safety improvements last year, including $66.5 million to create technology to help prevent collisions of forklifts and other types of industrial vehicles.

The company recently announced a series of new robotic technologies, including Proteus, Amazon’s first fully autonomous mobile robot that uses advanced safety, perception and navigation technology to maneuver around employees without being confined to restricted areas.

Cloostermans’s team of approximately 200 employees will be joining Amazon Global Robotics’ growing presence in Europe. Last year, Amazon launched the European Innovation Lab in Italy focused on new ergonomic technologies.

“Amazon’s investments in robotics and technology are supporting how we build a better and safer workplace for our employees and deliver for our customers,” said Ian Simpson, vice president of global robotics at Amazon. “As we continue to broaden and accelerate the robotics and technology we design, engineer and deploy across our operations, we look forward to welcoming Cloostermans to Amazon and are excited to see what we can build together.”

Since Amazon began introducing robotics into its facilities in 2012 when it acquired Kiva Systems for $775 million, the company has deployed more than 520,000 robotic drive units worldwide while also creating over 1 million new jobs.

Email marketing

Amazon

Amazon introduced at its Accelerate annual seller conference three new audience types within the Amazon Customer Engagement tool. This intel can help sellers increase their email marketing reach at no cost.

For the first time, Amazon is enabling sellers to expand beyond brand followers when sending free marketing emails to reach customers, including repeat customers, recent customers and high-spend customers.

“Brands are able to quickly acquire new customers in the Amazon store, but they expressed a need for improved tools to increase customer lifetime value,” said Benjamin Hartman, vice president of Amazon North America Selling Partner Services. “These improvements help unlock the value of remarketing as we further our commitment to helping sellers reach the right customer, at the right time.”

Amazon Customer Engagement’s Tailored Audiences also allows sellers to monitor the impact of their email marketing campaigns and customer engagement with performance and reporting metrics, such as open rate, click-through rates, emails delivered, opt-out rates, sales and conversion.

The Big Tech firm is currently testing Tailored Audiences in a beta program, and the company plans to make it available to all U.S. sellers in early 2023. Through this tool, sellers select the customer audience types and Amazon sends the marketing email directly to those customers. The tool will be available at no cost in Seller Central, Amazon’s online portal for sellers. Amazon also plans to enhance the messages’ design capabilities with custom HTML content and improved templates coming soon.

Amazon also recently rolled out Premium A+ Content, an upgrade to the standard content management system built to support new, larger modules on product pages—such as video, interactive hover hotspots, image carousels and Q&A—to all brands worldwide that meet the eligibility criteria. Participating brands have seen sales increase up to 20 percent for products with Premium A+ Content, Amazon said.

Cross-border payments

Joor

Digital wholesale management platform Joor has debuted Joor Pay, an in-platform payment processing and checkout solution that accepts advanced embedded payment capabilities including PayPal, credit cards and bank transfers in almost every currency and geography.

The technology lets brands experience payouts within days of processing a transaction, the company says. Retailers can pay with their preferred method or pay later with 60-day net terms.

Joor Pay enables brands to accept multiple forms of payment across 135 currencies to simplify foreign transactions, and features include fraud protection and streamlined settlement and reporting.

Joor Pay

The solution aims to ease and accelerate cash flow for fashion brands and retailers, particularly small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that may struggle with international growth and cash flow due to the complex challenges of accepting and processing payments globally.

Joor’s network now reaches more than 13,700 brands and more than 394,000 retailers, with nearly $20 billion in wholesale order volume moving through its ecosystem annually.

For brands, Joor Pay can facilitate larger sales volumes, while potentially improving cash flow, reducing payments friction and promoting buyer retention.

“We’ve never been able to offer a global payment option before and it’s been a game-changer for our business,” said Aaron Smith, chief operating officer of apparel brand Alex Crane. “Since adopting Joor Pay, we can accept over 135 currencies and still get paid in our currency of choice. The intuitive, easy-to-use interface has been a breeze to adopt and we’ve already seen faster payments and been able to simplify our reconciliation.”

Supply chain management

Topo Solutions

Supply chain software as a service (SaaS) provider Topo Solutions has opened a new office in Los Angeles as the company further strengthens its footprint in the U.S.

The L.A. office, headed by founder and CEO Benjamin Eberle, is part of an ongoing global growth strategy for the Hong Kong-headquartered company.

Topo’s low-code technology is designed to covers a product’s journey across sourcing, product development, ordering and production, to quality, chemical and sustainability management.

This year Topo celebrates a decade of developing low-code cloud-based solutions for brands and retailers with a focus on sustainability in the supply chain.

Alongside the new office, Topo has appointed Stefanie Valerio as its new customer success lead for North America. Valerio has 20 years’ experience in supply chain management and technology and will be responsible for increasing Topo’s customer footprint in the region.

The SaaS company, which has been rapidly growing its team in Hong Kong in 2022 to meet increasing demand, has recently partnered with global trade association Amorfi to provide users with social-related supply chain information.

Topo Solutions is also launching a new searchable product compliance database giving brands, retailers, suppliers and importers access to compliance information and certification in a single search. The feature helps users avoid the need to collect data from different sources, ideally saving time and costs.

Searches can be narrowed down to focus on product categories and sub-categories, product functions, sales location and type of output, including information such as chemical limits, as well as advice from guidebooks and links to regulatory sites.

Blume Global

Blume Global, a multimodal supply chain orchestration platform that aims to unite end-to-end visibility, supplier management and logistics execution, will be providing its Blume Maps feature free of charge to all customers subscribed to its solutions suite.

Blume Maps gives shippers supply chain visibility value. Powered by patented data science technology, it is a dynamic map of the supply chain world running natively on Google Cloud that enables shippers to plan shipment routes, track progress in real time, receiving ETAs for shipments sent via air, road, ocean and rail. Blume Global says the feature can provide users with alternative transportation modes, carriers or routes, should they encounter any problems or delays, helping deliver packages to their customers as quickly and cost-effectively as possible every time.

Earlier this year, Blume announced updates to Blume Maps, including the launch of Blume Interline Schedules, a cloud-native platform that allows companies that leverage railroad intermodal services to better coordinate cross-country rail freight deliveries.

In partnership with Union Pacific Railroad, Norfolk Southern and CSX, Blume’s complementary end-to-end rail freight scheduler can gives users increased visibility around moving cargo from one railway to another. In concert with Blume Interline Schedules, Blume’s asset management feature tracks details around intermodal rail shipments and how they interchange. It also can validate the movement of freight delivery schedules with the ability to catch missing interchange points and improve accuracy with future deliveries.

Fit technology

Aetrex

Aetrex, a provider of foot scanning technology, orthotics and comfort and wellness footwear, launched the Foot.com Data Portal, a dedicated platform to help global shoe manufacturers create better fitting footwear.

Foot.com subscribers can click a map view and extract global 3D foot data broken down by gender, foot size, country and more.

According to Aetrex CEO Larry Schwartz, Foot.com aims to equip brand partners with the data needed to create anatomically correct, highly informed lasts for shoes that can fit more comfortably and also enhance performance.

The portal aggregates foot scans from Aetrex’s two newest 3D foot scanners, Albert 2 Pro and Albert 3DFit. These scanners are engineered with a pure computer vision model, a proprietary process that collects comprehensive foot data and creates the most accurate 3D reconstruction of the foot. From these 3D models of feet, Aetrex can pull measurements from any part of the foot, from any or all scans in the database.

Foot.com

For example, a footwear developer who wants to develop an anatomically correct last for a women’s shoe size 8 can download the average 3D measurements of the foot in different regions, or pinpoint one country to make a well informed last.

Foot.com is launching with 16 key measurements vital to footwear design. Some of these include foot length, width, ball girth, arch height and long heel girth, among other key inputs. Additionally, users can export aggregate data or download raw data of the unique, anonymous foot measurements from the database.

Volumental

Footwear fit technology Volumental has reported an 85 percent increase in revenue in 2022, says it now scans 500,000 pairs of feet per month. Volumental now says its foot scanning technology and AI-powered recommendation engine have helped users reduce returns by an average of 20 percent.

Brands such as Hoka, Under Armour, Red Wing Shoes, New Balance, Fleet Feet and The Athlete’s Foot use Volumental’s in-store foot scanners to help them offer a more personalized customer journey.

Consumers scanned in-store receive their personalized foot scan by email, improving their ability to identify the best style and size for their feet whether they are shopping in-store or online.

At Red Wing Shoes, Volumental’s technology serves as the engine of the footwear retailer’s AI-driven Ultimate Fit Experience in more than 500 Red Wing retail stores. Red Wing’s store associates use the scans to provide personalized recommendations across the brand’s catalog of nearly 1,000 different styles. In a partnership between Volumental and Red Wing’s lead footbed provider, Superfeet, stores also let customers purchase personalized 3D printed footbeds to further customize their fit.

Volumental also provides data from its 33 million foot scans to shoe manufacturers to improve fit, comfort, and performance. Athletic footwear, in particular, is becoming increasingly more specialized as major brands tap into new performance-enhancing technology.

For instance, Adidas and Lululemon each leveraged Volumental’s data to develop better fitting shoes designed specifically for women’s feet. In the past, women’s shoes have just been scaled-down versions of shoes designed for men, without taking specific metrics such as heel width, or instep height, into consideration. Designing specifically for a female foot has helped differentiate these brands, driving conversion, increased loyalty and brand equity, Volumental says.

MySize

MySize, Inc., an omnichannel e-commerce platform and provider of AI-driven measurement solutions, will feature its FirstLook Smart Mirror and other MySizeID solutions when it participates in two upcoming retail conferences in New York and in Cologne, Germany.

Along with its software partner GK Software, MySize will participate in the SAP Fashion Experience with Pan-American Customers conference from Sept. 13-16, 2022 in New York City during Fashion Week. During the session, MySize and GK will present an end-to-end fashion demo featuring the FirstLook Smart Mirror.

Recently, MySize entered a joint venture with Santista Textil in Brazil and helped implement MySizeID apparel sizing solution for 7 For All Mankind’s Brazilian operation.

MySize and GK Software will then present the FirstLook Smart Mirror, at the Digital Marketing Exposition & Conference (DMEXCO) in Cologne on Sept. 21-22, 2022. The MySizeID sizing solution and FirstLook Smart Mirror will be presented to industry leaders, potential partners and decision makers. Last year’s conference brought over 20,000 attendees together, 84 percent of whom have purchasing power.

Last-mile delivery

Bringg/Uber

Bringg, a delivery management platform provider, and Uber Direct in France, the on-demand white label delivery service from Uber, have partnered to give retailers in the market access to the extensive courier network for last-mile delivery. Bringg and Uber’s collaboration are designed to enable local enterprises to easily launch fast and convenient delivery options to their consumers.

With the partnership, enterprises will be able to offer transparent delivery experiences for end customers, as well as more control and visibility for delivery managers. The partnership enables Bringg to offer greater flexibility and delivery capacity to customers in the EMEA market.

As a result of this partnership, Uber Direct France will be able to expand its ability to connect with more local enterprises, enabling faster setup and delivery across the country. Uber will also be better equipped to support current customers as they scale deliveries to unparalleled levels, ensuring customers have the critical capabilities of real-time visibility, cost efficiency and the capacity for flexible delivery options; particularly crucial with the peak shopping season quickly approaching.

Site search

Algolia/Search.io

Algolia, an API-first site search and product discovery platform, has acquired another site search provider, Search.io, from Tidal Ventures for an undisclosed sum. With the acquisition, Algolia will combine its keyword search capabilities and Search.io’s flagship Neuralsearch product into a single API.

To date, Algolia’s technology has used a keyword-based approach for search, which benefits from artificial intelligence (AI) to help improve relevance. Search.io has developed its own system as well, though unlike Algolia’s core system, it doesn’t rely on keyword relevance.

Instead, Search.io created a vector-based recommendation engine that uses AI to convert content into numerical value. Vector search enables search engines to understand context by encoding text and images so that things with similar meanings have similar codes, which can be interpreted by an algorithm.

The combination is aimed at enabling Algolia to more effectively surface the most accurate and relevant results for users, whether they use specific keywords or type in natural human expressions.

Algolia CEO Bernadette Nixon said that it is often challenging for retailers to capture revenue from long-tail search queries such as “stunning fall outfit for mother of the bride,” even though they represent nearly 55 percent of all search queries today.

The Search.io acquisition comes after Algolia created more than 145 new jobs in Q2 alone and doubled its employee headcount over the past year.

The Australian Financial Review reported the deal to be “comfortably above $100 million [Australian dollars],” or approximately $67 million.