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Retail Tech: Manifest Launches Sustainable Logistics, Nuvemshop Nabs $500M

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

Brand acquisition

D1 Brands

D1 Brands, a company built by Amazon-native third-party sellers that acquires, builds and grows Amazon FBA brands, has secured $123 million in Series A financing.

The financing will allow the company to accelerate its pace of growth through investments in new brand acquisitions, product development, technology and talent, the company says. As part of this phase of growth, D1 Brands hired CJ Bilangino as its chief financial officer. Bilangino previously served as CFO for a number of high-growth consumer product companies, most recently at premium men’s athletic apparel and gear retailer Rhone, where he led finance and operations.

D1 and its team of more than 85 former sellers on Amazon seek to provide an efficient and fair exit experience for its selling partners. The company says it maintains a 100 percent closing rate on LOIs (or letters of intent) issued to third-party sellers and has an average closing period of 27 days. Given that the process of selling can be an intense, anxious and potentially emotional experience, D1 says it is their mission to provide a high-touch, professional experience to sellers by including senior leaders at all steps of the process and offering 24/7 access to the C-suite.

“We intimately understand the challenges these brands face operating a small business on Amazon because we’ve faced them ourselves,” said Mohammad Usman, co-CEO and co-founder of D1 Brands. “We’ve learned from experience in the space, both through successes and mistakes, and have taken these learnings to become better and more empathetic partners to sellers. We believe in fostering the entrepreneurship of the Amazon space and look forward to serving as a driving force of the overall growth to come.”

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Asset management firm CoVenture and Crossbeam Venture Partners, a venture capital firm backing startups building what it calls “the next generation economy,” led the round, with additional investment from ID8 Investments, an investment firm focused on partnering with mission-driven consumer and technology companies.

“The FBA space is an enormous, rapidly growing market of thousands of talented operators who, until now, have not had a quality option for realizing the brand value they have created,” said Yaz Malas, co-CEO and co-founder of D1 Brands. “With the support of CoVenture, Crossbeam and ID8, we are able to provide value to even more sellers and continue on the path to serving as the preferred partner for Amazon sellers, while also playing a major role in the overall growth and development of this space.”

Livestream shopping

CommentSold

CommentSold, a livestreaming and social selling solution for SMBs, has secured an undisclosed strategic investment from private equity firm Permira.

The cloud-based SaaS platform, which is designed to enable live and social selling across multiple shopping platforms and channels such as social networks, e-commerce sites and mobile apps, aims to use the investment to accelerate its next phase of business growth.

CommentSold, a livestreaming and social selling solution for SMBs, has secured an undisclosed strategic investment from private equity firm Permira.

The company currently works with more than 6,000 independent sellers and SMBs and over 12 million registered users. In the last 12 months, the platform generated over $1 billion in gross merchandise value (GMV), with shoppers viewing more than 1 billion minutes of content on the platform.

More than 80 percent of CommentSold’s GMV is generated through the native mobile app it developed. The company enabled and white-gloved its clients to deploy white-labelled versions of this app on the iOS and Android platforms, multiplying the sales of most top retailers in its client base by up to eight times, in an average period of just three years, CommentSold says.

CEO Brandon Kruse will continue to lead the company alongside the existing management team after the investment.

The platform isn’t exclusively designed for the live and social selling aspect—retail SMBs can run their entire selling operation on the CommentSold platform. However, DTC and larger traditional retailers will soon be able to use the platform to expand from conventional selling channels into live and social selling.

CommentSold designed to help retailers optimize business functions such as invoicing, merchandising, inventory management, fulfillment and marketing, enabling them to offer a range of payment options, recommend products, send push notifications, prerecord videos for product demonstrations and offer replays of previously recorded livestreams to shoppers on demand, among other capabilities.

Permira advises funds with total committed capital of approximately $50 billion, making long-term majority and minority investments in more than 250 private equity investments in four key sectors: technology, consumer, services and healthcare. In tech investments, Permira has invested $14.3 billion in 53 companies across enterprise cloud adoption, SaaS, fintech and online marketplaces.

Previous investor private equity firm ZMC will exit its position as part of this transaction.

Delivery management

NShift

NShift, a global provider of cloud delivery management solutions for e-commerce shops, retailers, manufacturers and third-party logistics companies, has launched in the wake of the combination of three companies.

The new company has more than 100 pre-built third-party integrations into e-commerce and other shippers’ critical IT systems and a carrier library delivering connectivity into more than 700 carriers.

NShift is designed to offer customers an end-to-end cloud platform to automate and optimize the entire delivery management process from label creation to delivery tracking and last-mile logistics to returns management. The company’s solutions have enabled nearly 1 billion annual shipments globally for e-commerce shops, retailers, manufacturers and third-party logistics providers.

The new company is the result of a merger of two European delivery management companies, Unifaun and Consignor. Unifaun enabled customers to deliver almost 300 million shipments annually, NShift said, with over 200 employees across Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and Poland. Cosnignor had more than 170 employees across Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, as well as Bucharest, Romania and London, England.

The merger officially occurred in February, when Marlin Equity Partners, Unifaun’s majority owner, partnered with Francisco Partners, Consignor’s majority shareholder, to become equal shareholders in and together own a majority of the combined business.

The companies then acquired Returnado, a Stockholm-based e-commerce returns management provider, to complete the offering and spur the rebrand. Through Returnado, NShift adds critical technology to its cloud delivery management platform with a streamlined return process for shippers, carriers, and recipients.  Returnado’s returns expertise spans brands such as Helly Hansen and Asket.

Fulfillment

Manifest Commerce

Sustainable fulfillment provider Manifest Commerce has launched with the intent to lead the logistics movement towards a greener supply chain with carbon-neutral fulfillment and zero plastics solutions.

Manifest’s mission is to disrupt one of the dirtiest global industries, supply chain logistics, by offering earth-friendly third-party logistics solutions.

The company is led by CEO George Wojciechowski, the co-founder of e-commerce fulfillment provider ShipBob, and has over 750,000 square feet in green warehousing space in Atlanta and Austin, Texas.

Total e-commerce packaging waste reached 295 million tons in 2020, 60 percent of which was non-recyclable plastics, according to the company. These plastics will take more than 500 years to break down and will clog landfills and oceans in the meantime.

At launch, Manifest is offering retailers of all sizes sustainable fulfillment services, tech integrations and warehouse management. All materials are recyclable and biodegradable using zero plastics and carbon offsets designed to help ensure carbon neutrality from end to end. To that end, the Manifest technology integrated with Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento, and BigCommerce stores as well as customized big-box retailer technology.

Upon launch, Manifest also partnered with cloud-based e-commerce supply chain platform Verte and carbon-neutral ordering e-commerce plugin EcoCart to power the solution.

Verte’s AI platform is designed to help retailers make more informed decisions that result in more sustainable business practices.  The company wants to help retailers avoid holding onto products that become redundant due to seasonal trends by measuring the probability of need, demand and consumption.

Having access to this data also decreases the likelihood that retailers will purchase stock that goes to waste and limits the number of journeys involved in moving and storing items – all of which would pose direct harm to business and the environment.

EcoCart serves as a browser extension, receiving commission from brands to drive traffic to their websites under a standard affiliate marketing model. EcoCart uses a portion of the proceeds to offset a shopper’s carbon emissions.

Wojciechowski tapped fellow industry pioneers Bob Sixsmith (former ShipBob General Manager), Max Stevens (founding member at ShipBob), Jen Root (marketing entrepreneur and e-commerce strategist), and Matt Bocker (former ShipBob growth expert) to round out Manifest’s leadership team.

Goodfair/Descartes

Houston-based Goodfair, an online thrift store platform that sells themed bundles of clothing, is using Descartes Systems Group’s cloud-based e-commerce warehouse management system (WMS) to automate, streamline and scale its order fulfillment processes to meet surging demand for secondhand retail.

“By reintroducing clothing back into the consumer cycle that would otherwise have been destined for a landfill, we’re revolutionizing how people shop, reducing water waste, carbon emissions and marine pollution,” said Topper Luciani, CEO at Goodfair. “We rely on the Descartes solution to help us ship fluctuating volumes of pre-loved clothing bundles to consumers quickly and accurately, as well as to partner with a leading retail brand for its online vintage shop. With an eye to minimizing our environmental impact, the Descartes solution has eliminated wasteful and inefficient paper-based order picking practices that frequently led to order errors, offered poor warehouse visibility and compromised the customer experience.”

Part of Descartes’ e-commerce solution suite, the e-commerce WMS helps direct-to-consumer brands, like Goodfair, e-commerce retailers and traditional retailers build their brand around scalable fulfillment and a consistent customer experience. The cloud-based solution enables users to ship the right items on schedule and have full transparency into warehouse operations and inventory levels. The solution is pre-integrated with e-commerce platforms, like Shopify Plus, Magento, ChannelAdvisor, to accelerate implementation and time to value.

Robotics

Locus Robotics

Locus Robotics, a provider of warehouse robotics for automated fulfillment, has reached its half-billion units picked milestone. The 500 millionth pick, pair of Vans Old Skool Shoes, was made at a VF Corporation Fulfillment Center in Prague.

“Reaching the half-billion milestone represents a significant milestone for not only Locus, but also the fulfillment industry as a whole,” Denis Niezgoda, Locus Robotics’ vice president of Europe, told Sourcing Journal. “It underscores the critical business value that Locus’s proven technology brings to our customers around the world. Coupled with being ranked amongst the fastest growing private companies in the United States, this milestone reflects how warehouse fulfillment automation evolves.”

Niezgoda added that Locus’ first 100-million milestone took 1,542 days while the most recent 100 million picks came in just 94 days. “We reached our 250 millionth pick milestone back in November of 2020,” he said. “Because fulfillment volumes are exploding worldwide and we have a significant number of new customers and new sites coming online in the coming months, it’s very tough to accurately predict when we’ll reach the 1 billion pick, but we expect it very soon.”

Buy now, pay later

Afterpay

Installment payments platform Afterpay has debuted Afterpay Ads, a new suite of advertising products aimed to help brands reach, acquire and activate high-intent, loyal shoppers across the company’s ecosystem.

The suite is built for brands who are focused on growing their base of Gen Z and Millennial shoppers.

With Afterpay Ads, brands can place featured ads across the Afterpay app and amplify merchant promotions, products and offers on a pay-for-performance model. Brands choose the products they want to promote via sponsored listing formats, such as deals, products and collections, and pay only when a shopper engages with the ad. Early results with advertisers show 20 percent lift in sales on average when brands choose to promote their products within the Afterpay app, the company says.

The Afterpay platform generates an average of 1 million referrals per day globally from the Afterpay Shop Directory  Approximately 55 percent of these referrals come from the Afterpay app, which is consistently in the top 20 most downloaded shopping apps.

Retail management

Optimum Retailing (OR)

Cloud-based retail management software (RMS) platform Unefi has rebranded to Optimum Retailing (OR).  The announcement follows an extensive assessment of the challenges and opportunities facing the brick-and-mortar industry, and reflects the platform’s evolution into a tool to help today’s retailers optimize their store’s retail operations.

As both the industry and technology have evolved, the RMS platform has expanded to add two new pillars to its retail communication platform—compliance and performance. With the evolution of the platform and the shift to OR, the former Unefi can brick-and-mortar retailers a predictive modeling tool that incorporates and analyzes multiple data sources, customer behavior and trends to inform a localized retail strategy for each store location that drives operational efficiencies and increases store performance.

Sam Vise, co-founder and CEO of OR, said that even prior to the pandemic, clients would see a 25 percent to 30 percent average increase in traffic, 10 percent top-line growth and 30 percent average bottom-line improvements—all within the first 12 to 18 months of the partnership.

OR is designed to integrate sales data and shopper traffic and track associate and customer interactions to improve collaboration while elevating overall retail performance.

The launch of OR comes on the heels of new platform features recently rolled out by the company, including Automated Photo Compliance (APC) which uses an AI engine to automatically identify and execute planograms by simply pointing a phone at a fixture. OR also fully integrates POS and sales data in an anonymous way that enables users to see “heat values” of fixtures that provide a better understanding of what retail store design or fixture configuration works best. The enhancement of additional tools to improve overall store performance includes the ability to track level of effort (LOE) and automated photo rejection, among others.

E-commerce

Nuvemshop

Nuvemshop, an e-commerce platform based in Brazil, raised $500 million in a Series E round of funding. The round was co-led by Insight Partners and Tiger Global Management, with significant participation from Alkeon and Owl Rock.

Following the company’s $90 million Series D financing in March 2021, this newest round of financing values the company at $3.1 billion and brings Nuvemshop’s total funding in the last 10 months to more than $620 million.

Nuvemshop, also known as Tiendanube in Spanish speaking countries, serves more than 90,000 merchants across Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina, ranging from direct-to-consumer (DTC) upstarts to an expanding roster of dominant brands such as Billabong, Brazilian apparel company Lolja, intimates brand StrappyCo and cosmetics companies Zaira Beauty and Vitabe. This total is significantly up from 20,000 merchants at the start of 2020 and 80,000 at the time of the March fundraising.

The funding will help accelerate the company’s growth in current markets and support the company’s geographic expansion into new countries, including Colombia, Chile and Perú. Additionally, the funding will e Nuvemshop accelerate its payment and logistics capabilities, which will further drive e-commerce penetration in the region. In order to accelerate these capabilities, the company also plans to use its new funds for future M&A opportunities.

Nuvemshop projects the e-commerce penetration rate in Latin America will reach 60 percent over the next decade as smartphone usage continues to grow, digital banking increases, and logistics infrastructure improves. Nuvemshop’s platform was home to 14 million transactions in 2020, the company says.

In addition to geographic expansion, the funding will help Nuvemshop accelerate its payment and logistics capabilities, which will further drive e-commerce penetration in the region. In order to accelerate these capabilities, the company also plans to use its new funds for M&A opportunities.

For payments, Nuvemshop launched a beta version of its own payments solution platform for merchants earlier this year. A full 70 percent of the credit card transactions on the platform happen via installments, the company says. The new product will be made broadly available to all merchants over the course of the next year.

Nuvemshop’s logistics capabilities can enable merchants to deliver directly to consumers via partnerships and integrations with what would otherwise be a highly fragmented network of carriers. The company will continue to broaden its set of warehouse and carrier partners to help accelerate the adoption of e-commerce in Latin America by driving down the click-to-delivery time in most regions—now typically five to six days—to an eventual goal of one- or two-day delivery, which is now standard in the U.S.

“We envision a world in which anybody can convert a passion project into a thriving business,” said Santiago Sosa, CEO and co-founder of Nuvemshop. “From the start, we have focused on building solutions tailor-made for Latin American merchants. This singular purpose has cemented Nuvemshop as the standard for merchants in this region to build direct relationships with their customers. This additional funding will allow us to not only enable our merchants to be more successful, but will enable Nuvemshop as a platform to aggressively drive e-commerce progress in the region. Faster payments and reliably shorter delivery times will cause e-commerce to further explode in the region.”

The platform will also expand its capabilities to serve larger merchants by expanding its sales and customer support staff, as well as continuing to invest in resources and support for its rapidly growing ecosystem of app partners and agencies.

Other investors that joined the round included Sunley House Capital and VMG Partners, as well as existing investors Accel, Kaszek, Kevin Efrusy, Qualcomm Ventures LLC, and ThornTree Capital.