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Retail Tech: Facebook Launches ‘Shops in Groups,’ Under Armour Taps AWS, Faire Raises $400 Million

Rivet’s 2021 winter issue has dropped! This in-depth issue examines the steps the global denim industry is taking to minimize its impact on the environment, from implementing zero waste production and design processes to establishing greenhouse gas emissions goals aligned with the Paris Agreement.

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

Social commerce

Facebook

Facebook is introducing new commerce tools designed to improve the shopping experience within its apps, launching Product Recommendations, Shops in Groups and Top Product Mentions, as well as trialing another feature, Live Shopping for creators.

The move comes as the social media titan tries to gain traction in the e-commerce experience, already launching a Shops feature in 2020 and extending similar capabilities to Instagram, both of which enable consumers to find personalized recommendations from creators, editors’ curated picks, shoppable videos and new product collections.

With the new features, Facebook is looking to bring a more group-oriented aspect to shopping. Shops in Groups enables admins of Facebook groups to set up an online store on their associated Facebook page. For example, the company highlighted in a blog post that members of OctoNation, an octopus fan group, can now buy stickers, mugs and apparel to show their love of octopuses.

And since people often ask members of groups for recommendations on their experience with a product and how it performs, Facebook added a group-oriented Product Recommendations capability that shows products that members recommend when they ask for guidance.

The social network, which has been a mainstay in the news recently due to its official name change to Meta, also is introducing Top Product Mentions within a user’s News Feed. Like the other features, this is designed so shoppers can discover products that were recommended by peers from groups that they’re a part of.

Livestreaming

Obsess

Obsess, an experiential e-commerce platform designed to enable brands to create interactive, shoppable online virtual stores and showrooms, launched a new “Shop with Friends” feature.

The company, which raised $10 million this past June, calls Shop with Friends “the next step in the evolution of e-commerce,” in that in can bring 3D virtual shopping experiences to life. With the use of these branded virtual experiences, retailers and brands can potentially drive product discovery, dwell time, average order value and conversion while also reaching new consumer audiences through word-of-mouth as shoppers directly invite friends and family members to join them to shop virtual stores.

With Shop with Friends, customers can opt to invite others to join them for a virtual store experience by clicking a button and sending friends and family a link to the virtual store by email or text. The video feature allows individuals in the group to see and hear one another as they navigate the virtual environment separately or together, just as they might in a multi-player video game.

With Shop with Friends, customers can opt to invite others to join them for a virtual store experience by clicking a button and sending friends and family a link to the virtual store by email or text. The video feature allows individuals in the group to see and hear one another as they navigate the virtual environment separately or together, just as they might in a multi-player video game.

For example, when one friend is browsing Charlotte’s Virtual Beauty Gifting Wonderland on CharlotteTilbury.com, others in the group can interact, join the shopper on one of three immersive “islands” dedicated to Charlotte’s gifting universe, look at the shades their friend is trying and give helpful tips, all in real time. Users can opt to view a live video feed of the other participants on the side of their screen or hide the feed to see the virtual store in full-screen mode.

“My three-dimensional Virtual Beauty Gifting Wonderland is at the center of the Charlotte Tilbury metaverse this holiday season! It combines all the sparkle and retail theatre of our stores with the ease and portability of the digital universe to unveil a truly immersive Charlotte Tilbury experience,” said Charlotte Tilbury MBE, founder and president, chairman and chief creative officer of Charlotte Tilbury Beauty in a statement.

Shop with Friends will enable store associates, stylists and influencers to guide shoppers to different areas within the virtual environment to demonstrate products and share styling tips. Wholesale sellers will also be able to use Shop with Friends to highlight products for buyers in virtual showrooms created by Obsess.

Obsess uses virtual- and augmented-reality technologies to create memorable, immersive digital flagship and pop-up store experiences for consumers and to digitize showrooms for wholesale buyers.

Digital transformation

Under Armour/AWS/SAP

Under Armour has selected Amazon Web Services (AWS) as its preferred cloud provider for SAP to increase resilience, enhance security, and provide more insights across its business. The athletic performance brand completed the migration of its SAP environments to AWS earlier this year, providing the foundation for improving performance and visibility across its design, merchandising, planning, manufacturing, supply chain and sales distribution channels.

The athleticwear and footwear giant will now integrate its SAP environments with AWS’s technologies, including analytics, machine learning, computing and storage. This modernization is designed to deliver a range of AWS capabilities to fuel innovation in areas like 3D apparel and footwear design, digitally connected footwear and apparel, resource-efficient production, direct-to-consumer sales and global wholesale distribution.

“AWS is a critical element of our digital transformation, and we look forward to harnessing its industry-leading cloud capabilities as we enter our next stage of growth,” said Under Armour chief technology officer Danny Miles in a statement. “With SAP in the cloud, we can now apply deep analytics and machine learning capabilities to drive greater efficiency across our business. With AWS, we are optimizing our product innovation processes to deliver premium consumer experiences wherever and whenever our customers choose to engage our brand.”

Under Armour accelerated its SAP migration with the help of the AWS Professional Services team, shifting its SAP landscape to the cloud in less than six months. As part of the migration, Under Armour moved its ERP, supply network collaboration, global trade services, enterprise reporting, integration services, SAP Fiori design interface and solution manager workloads to AWS.

Following the migration, the company implemented CloudEndure Disaster Recovery, AWS’s service for scalable, cost-effective business continuity for physical, virtual, and cloud servers. With this move, Under Armour can maintain optimum system performance and minimize downtime and data loss with a cross-region disaster recovery solution that includes 65 servers replicating from one AWS region to another.

Marketplaces

Faire

Faire, an online wholesale marketplace connecting more than 300,000 retailers with 40,000 brands around the world, has closed $400 million in a Series G investment round co-led by new investor, Durable Capital Partners LP, and returning investors, D1 Capital Partners and Dragoneer Investment Group.

This round, which includes all existing investors, is Faire’s third in 13 months and values the wholesale market leader at $12.4 billion, bringing its total funding-to-date to more than $1 billion. In October 2020, Faire raised $170 million, before raising $260 million in June 2021.

This new capital will help Faire continue to hire talent and will be used toward adding more tools to the marketplace’s platform. Additionally, this capital will ensure the company can grow its supply of global brands, as well as introduce the company into new markets and economies around the world.

Six months after Faire launched across 15 markets in Europe and the U.S, annualized sales volume in the region has exceeded more than $150 million—a scale the company says took nearly three years to achieve in North America.

Faire has reported more than 3X year-on-year growth, reaching more than $1 billion in annual volume in less than five years.

The marketplace calculates that there are more than 2 million independent retailers across North America and Europe alone doing $2.5 trillion in revenue, more than twice that of Walmart and Amazon combined.

“With our global reach, Faire is providing an even greater opportunity for the independent retail community to compete against big-box giants,” said Max Rhodes, co-founder and CEO of Faire, in a statement. “By removing the traditional growth hurdles our customers face, we have enabled more opportunities, more connections, and more possibilities for the entrepreneurs who use the platform. Our ability to deliver local and cross-border demand to brands, and in turn offer retailers access to a more expansive, data-driven selection is how Faire will define the future of retail.”

Since launching in Europe and the U.K. this year, Faire’s community of independent brands and retailers across the region now represent the fastest-growing demographics of users on the platform to-date. In fact, Faire’s European brand base has grown by more than 10x over the past year, with the total amount of products for sale from the region increasing 800 percent, culminating in access to over 400,000 unique products.

Faire has sold over 125 million products in the last year, recording an average of over $10 million in sales per day during peak buying events. In that time period, Faire presides over 160,000 orders between North American and European businesses, and more than 2 million total connections between businesses on the platform.

Additionally, independent retailers saved an estimated $7 million by offering free import duties and free shipping, allowing them to source global products at no additional cost.

Faire’s headcount also more than doubled over the past year, now representing a team of roughly 700, located across 10 global offices in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., the Netherlands and Brazil.

The wholesale marketplace takes a data-driven approach to connect local, independent retailers with brands and artisans to stock their shelves. Faire retailers rely on the marketplace to order from thousands of brands all in one place, as well as gain access to more than 60 payment terms, free returns on opening orders and freight caps. For brands, the platform provides sales, marketing, and analytics tools, so sellers can simplify their wholesale business and focus on their products.

Robotics

Bealls/Berkshire Grey

Apparel and home furnishings retailer Bealls has selected robotics and supply chain automation firm Berkshire Grey to handle expanding merchandise categories and fulfill orders quicker.

The AI-enabled BG RSPS robotic automation systems will help Bealls increase the processing capacity and throughput needed to meet surging customer demand, the retailer said.

“By implementing Berkshire Grey’s AI-enabled robotic solutions, we can better support our stores with quicker inventory shipments that drive sales while at the same time support our warehouse associates with innovative automation that makes their work more fulfilling,” said Dan Love, president of Bealls Support Group in a statement. “Berkshire Grey takes a very different approach to automation than we’ve seen from other suppliers. BG invested the time necessary to understand our business, our operating environments, and our culture. We are confident Berkshire Grey will deliver a flexible scalable solution that will make an immediate positive impact on our distribution operations.”

By implementing Berkshire Grey’s robotic systems, Bealls has the capability to pick, sort and pack over 55 million units annually in its distribution centers, enabling its existing workforce across its 525 locations to speed up store replenishment.

The robotics technology provided recently secured new orders of $36 million, representing $25 million in repeat orders from “a blue-chip anchor customer” and $11 million from new customers including Bealls. These orders increase the company’s total orders to-date to $184 million and increase backlog to its highest level yet to $113 million. The $25 million order represents yet another follow-on order for solutions to be installed in different locations, with many more locations anticipated for future orders. 

Fit technology

Nautica/MySize

MySize, Inc., a developer and creator of body measurement solutions, is offering its MySizeID application for global lifestyle apparel and accessories brand Nautica in Turkey through the Eren Group, the licensed production owner of Nautica Turkey.

The MySizeID app will be made available to Nautica customers in Turkey through its online retail e-commerce site. The nautical-influenced classic American sportswear brand aims to cut cost and reduce returnes by incorporating MySize into the supply chain.

Nautica Turkey recognizes that correct size selection is critical for all online retailers working to increase margins. MySize was created to increase buyers’ satisfaction and reduce costs for online retailers by standardizing sizing and helping consumers find the right fit on any size chart. MySize’s patented algorithms and SDK decreases return rates from consumers and improves retailers’ bottom line.

Nautica Turkey’s licensed production owner, Eren Group, is a partner of the French Devanlay Group, providing additional opportunities for MySize to integrate with more brands in the portfolio.

MySize is familiar with the Turkish audience, already partnering with Levi Strauss & Co. in the market. But the company is gaining even more of a presence in Russia as well, working with four “tier 1” retailers in the country.

The “tier 1” retailers are Lacoste, home goods seller SimaLand, multibrand footwear retailer SuperStep, and luxury apparel and accessories brand The Kooples. Additional Russian fashion retailers that MySize works with include lingerie and beauty brand MonoMio, luxury swimwear brand Swimlane, designer apparel and jewelry seller RusPublica and dress retailer 1001dress.

Logistics/Supply chain

Hive

E-commerce logistics startup Hive Technologies has unveiled it has secured a $34 million Series A funding round valuing the business at $157 billion. The new funding round will be led by existing investors Earlybird and Picus and will also include new investor Tiger Global Management.

Hive provides software and operational services to help direct-to-consumer brands manage their operations from sourcing to delivery, and was founded by Oskar Ziegler, Franz Purucker and Leo von Kleist in July 2020.

With the capital raised, Hive plans to expand geographically, starting with Paris in early 2022. Additionally, the software provider wants to invest in product development, build new services for its supply chain and business teams, and triple its technical teams by next year. Hive also aims to reduce delivery times by two days in most parts of Europe and the next day in the core market.

The app is designed to enable real-time syncing of inventory and order data to give e-commerce brands in-depth logistics insights, but the company is planning on integrating more software to handle procurement and freight.

In the 16 months since its founding, Hive grew to a team of more than 100 people, working on product warehousing and order processing through its fulfillment center. In the meantime, the company’s revenue has increased tenfold, processing thousands of packages per day, the company says.

Metro Supply Chain

Canadian supply chain solution provider Metro Supply Chain plans to invest more than $100 million to automate several of its fulfillment facilities. Alongside the $100 million investment, the company is also aiming to build out business intelligence capabilities that can integrate fully with the facilities in an effort to help consumers make better operational, financial and business decisions.

The first facility being outfitted is a 285,000-square-foot building in Bolton, Ontario, dedicated to the apparel and footwear sector.

Following an extensive review, Metro Supply Chain selected AutoStore to power its first facility. AutoStore is a cube storage and order fulfillment system powered by warehouse robots that is designed to maximize storage capacity, offer fast access to inventory, and reduce energy consumption.

Bastian Solutions will implement AutoStore into this facility and integrate it with automated conveyors, high-capacity packing stations and high-density, very narrow aisle (VNA) racking to create an e-commerce and unit pick solution that can solve for both the seasonal and the unexpected peaks businesses face.

Quincus

Quincus, an enterprise SaaS supply chain management platform, has closed an undisclosed Series B funding round led by venture platform AEI HorizonX.

AEI HorizonX joins Quincus’ initial Series B investors Up.Partners and GGV Capital in a round that valued the tech provider at $100 million.

In particular, this latest investment will be used to help expand Quincus’ global footprint with an emphasis on commercial growth in the U.S. The platform seeks to provide the logistics industry with a machine-learning-enabled platform that can optimize and automate shipping operations.

Quincus works with businesses across industries and countries to build smarter, more efficient supply chains. Headquartered in Singapore, it also operates in Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Taiwan, Vietnam, UAE, the U.K., and the U.S. The firm says it transacts more than 70 million shipments per month, serving customers such as airlines operators, freight companies and e-commerce platforms across Southeast Asia.

AEI HorizonX chose Quincus as its first investment based on its ability to connect shippers, operators, and freight forwarders with an open operating system, all while reducing striving to reduce the industry’s overall carbon footprint.

Headless commerce

Cart.com

Cart.com, an end-to-end “e-commerce-as-a-service” provider, launched a range of new and expanded headless commerce capabilities designed to support high-growth brands across all e-commerce deployments, providing flexibility while enabling them to leverage the full power of Cart.com’s integrated e-commerce solution.

The headless capabilities include a commerce API that enables access to Cart.com’s integrated back-end e-commerce tools, as well as localization for global commerce, with the ability to build headless deployments in any language and cater to the specific needs or requirements of consumers across regulatory jurisdictions, currencies, etc.

By making the e-commerce solution accessible via headless deployments, the new features enable brands to extend and customize their online sales presence. Brands can now use their existing Cart.com platform to power tailored experiences via mobile apps, commerce-enabled marketing campaigns, B2B marketplaces, social media, voice-enabled smart speakers and other device-specific applications.

Alongside the additions, Cart.com announced that it has acquired 180Commerce, a brand management firm that works with sellers on Amazon, Walmart and other top marketplaces.

Following the acquisition, 180Commerce experts will still be able to provide clients guidance in areas including advertising strategy, content creation and optimization, customer service and reviews management, analytics and inventory planning.

180Commerce clients will gain access to the integrated Cart.com e-commerce offerings, including performance marketing to accelerate direct-to-consumer (DTC) efforts, logistics and fulfillment, and AI-driven insights and data science capabilities in a single view for users. 180Commerce’s full team—including experienced digital retail, brand and ex-Amazon professionals—will join the Cart.com team under the continuing leadership of 180Commerce founder and former Shoe Metro chief operating officer Jason Stuempfig.

Acquisitions are central to Cart.com’s growth strategy, according to Saheb Sabharwal, the company’s chief strategy officer. Sabharwal leads all M&A activity at the company, and noted that the expansion enables it to gain a better grasp of a “full spectrum of e-commerce sales channels,” including marketplaces.

Fulfillment

ShipBob

ShipBob, a global fulfillment platform for small and medium-sized e-commerce businesses, has launched a B2B Fulfillment Suite and new API capabilities, including retail drop shipping and wholesale shipping.

In this release, ShipBob achieves electronic data interchange (EDI) compliance, which includes both a retail drop shipping solution that automates fulfillment and shipping of orders from retailers’ websites and an expanded wholesale solution for brick-and-mortar purchases in the U.S.

The first integration built on the API is with EDI provider SPS Commerce. This enables ShipBob to fulfill orders according to each retailer’s compliance guidelines, including third-party shipping and retailer-compliant packing slips. The engineering of this new solution, paired with ShipBob’s infrastructure, will open up speed to add and onboard new retail partners in what the company says would be in a matter of days instead of months or longer.

With retail drop shipping, direct-to-consumer fulfillment for orders placed on a retailer’s U.S. e-commerce site can get fulfilled directly by ShipBob instead of by the retailer. This allows brands to partner with retailers, sell products on their online stores, and have ShipBob ship those orders to those end customers.

Merchants can also have ShipBob fulfill EDI-compliant wholesale orders from retail partners, where ShipBob ships inventory to businesses that will fulfill orders directly to their customers (including in-store purchases). EDI automation means data from a purchase order will be automatically pulled into the ShipBob dashboard to create new orders, packing slips, and GS1 barcodes.

Approved retailers include Target, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Ace Hardware, Chewy.com, CVS Pharmacy, IHerb, Thrive Market, Staples, Ulta Beauty, Bed Bath & Beyond, The Paper Store, Saks Fifth Avenue, QVC, Summit Racing Equipment and KeHE.

Data analytics

PreciseTarget

PreciseTarget, a retail data science company, is unveiling a new feature, AcquisitionAI, which is built to give instant access to analysis on a brand’s newly acquired customers. Additionally, the feature automatically generates audiences targeting the brand’s highest value new customers. These recommendations are based on PreciseTarget’s data models that determine brand and product preferences as well as geotargeting fit.

The new feature expands on PreciseTarget’s service, ConsumerInsights, which provides apparel and fashion brands with deeper data, knowledge and actionable insights about each of their existing customers as well as their best acquisition targets. AcquisitionAI offers integration with Facebook and all major digital ad platforms and demand-side ad exchange platforms.

In addition to saving time and strategically targeting a brand’s ideal customers with AI recommendations, AcquisitionAI is designed to increase customer lifetime value for brands and retailers.

AcquisitionAI connects a brand’s existing CRM with data science models that are continually tuned to optimize recommended data sets to target a brand’s highest-value customers. Additionally, the platform leverages deep-learning and a core data set of over 5 billion transactions to score newly acquired customers so that brands and retailers can improve their marketing capabilities.

Buy now, pay later

Splitit/Wix

Buy now, pay later provider Splitit has secured a new platform integration with website development platform Wix, enabling its merchants to offer Splitit’s installment payment capabilities to shoppers using their credit cards.

Through the partnership, Wix merchants will be able to offer their customers more payment options in various countries in North America, Europe, Asia and more.

Wix merchants can create a Splitit business account and connect a payment gateway to add the installment payments method at checkout. It includes options to fine-tune the look and feel of the Splitit checkout experience and add upstream messaging about the BNPL provider’s features.

Splitit is designed to help shoppers make smarter purchase decisions by tapping into their unused credit on their existing credit cards. The company says it doesn’t charge additional fees or interest to the consumer, and involves no application or financing.

Average order value (AOV) on Splitit is over $1,000, which also supports e-commerce platforms including Salesforce Commerce Cloud, Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce and BigCommerce.

Payments

Podium

Podium, a communication and payments platform built for local businesses, raised $201 million in Series D funding, led by YC Continuity with participation from Durable Capital Partners, Arpex Capital, Accel, Album VC, IVP, Sapphire Ventures, Summit Partners, and Sorenson Capital. This latest round brings the company’s valuation to over $3 billion, Podium said in a press release.

The platform is designed to help local businesses facilitate interactions with consumers today, from text messaging, website chat, marketing campaigns, to payment transactions. Podium’s mission is to help all local businesses thrive, and will continue to play an integral role in transitioning their analog operations to a digital one.

In total, Podium says it works with more than 100,000 local businesses.

Additional funding will support Podium’s expansion to reach more businesses worldwide, as well as further build out its payments, communications and marketing technology. This includes supporting local businesses needs to collect payments, managing their customer communications, and creating more personalized marketing campaigns that drive conversations and revenue.

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