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Retail Tech Roundup: Farfetch Pilots Livestream Shopping, AiFi Raises Millions for Checkout-Free Stores

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

Logistics/Fulfillment

ReadyCloud

ReadyCloud has updated its ReadyShipper X shipping software, rolling out what it describes as faster label-printing speed capabilities, team collaboration and added features designed to help retailers meet the growing online demands of consumers nationwide without the limitations of a browser-based shipping system.

ReadyShipper X is described as a hybrid-cloud “thin client” shipping solution that works like collaborative workplace tools such as Microsoft Teams or Slack. The application is powered by the desktop, not a web browser, and shares small bits of data with its online database in the ReadyCloud platform.

This can result in a faster, smoother application without lag, enabling ReadyShipper X to print up to three labels per second for faster fulfillment. The solution is designed for growing businesses and volume shippers, including third-party logistics providers (3PLs) and warehouses—where ReadyShipper X can be connected to multiple workstations and across numerous locations.

ReadyShipper’s blend of local and cloud-based resources extends to the ReadyCloud App Store, where new sales channels can be added any time.  The App Store includes integrations for Amazon, Walmart, Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, Magento, eBay, Square, Zapier, Instagram and more. Each channel syncs to feed orders to ReadyShipper X for fulfillment.

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AliExpress/Cainiao Smart Logistics

Alibaba Group subsidiaries AliExpress and Cainiao Smart Logistics have partnered to upgrade its warehouse and express delivery process, particularly across Europe, while the latter has launched a cross-border logistics solution dedicated to big-ticket items.

The Covid-19 pandemic’s effect on e-commerce logistics, particularly how air freight capacity has been cut, led Cainiao to launch an international air freight route in August to speed up average delivery times between China and Europe by more than 30 percent, with some goods now able to reach consumers markets such as Spain and France in 10 working days.

Cainiao’s European trucking network leverages algorithms to generate the most efficient loading plans and transportation routes for its fleet, as well as the optimal number of trucks to deploy in real time.

Cainiao’s cross-border service focusing on delivering big ticket items, like furniture and automobiles, covering products over four meters in length and width, or weighing more than 300kg (661 lbs).

Cai Weimin, overseas general manager at Zhejiang Bendi Vehicle Manufacturing, an AliExpress merchant, said: “We have prepared 3,000 motorcycles for this year’s 11.11 Global Shopping Festival, and they are ready for shipping. We expect them to be sold out within one to two weeks.”

Autonomous stores

AiFi

Cashierless store technology venture AiFi has secured new funding led by Qualcomm Ventures, existing investors Cervin Ventures and TransLink Capital and new investor Plum Alley, raising its total funding to $30 million.

AiFi, whose enabled stores rely on WiFi technology, creates a checkout-free “grab and go” retail experience powered by cameras that can recognize thousands of products on shelves. Qualcomm says it is moving further into computer vision technology, which is a major component of cashierless checkout deployments. In July, the company announced a chip cluster that adds machine learning and AI to mid-tier cameras, so its investments in AiFi fit Qualcomm’s positioning going forward.

AiFi is taking two approaches to retail, building out self-contained, autonomous, shipping container-sized “Nanostores,” and also retrofitting existing stores. The company says it will be deploying the technology to 330 locations around the world in 2021, and that it has partnerships with a number of grocers across the U.S., Europe and Australia. Thus far, AiFi operates 14 stores in the U.S., Europe and Asia, and by the end of the year, will have stores open in California and Texas.

Social commerce

Kustomer

CRM platform provider Kustomer has integrated with Instagram Messaging, enabling customer brands to now engage with followers, connect influencer-driven conversations to company experts and resolve customer service issues.

The Kustomer platform is designed to unify customer conversations across multiple channels in a single-screen view and give agents visibility and insights about their customers.

With the integration, brands can respond to direct messages, mentions, and Instagram Stories from the Kustomer platform, eliminating the need for toggling between tabs or devices. They can view messaging on Instagram in a single timeline view, along with other customer interactions and conversations across multiple channels and platforms. Additionally, they can leverage intelligent routing, automation and artificial intelligence (AI) to keep up with demand and cost-effectively scale, all while tracking KPIs and managing service level agreements (SLAs) for Instagram conversations.

“In the past, our agents had to respond to customer DMs, stories or tags directly within the Instagram app, which wasn’t scalable and didn’t allow us to track KPIs,” said Wellington José of Amaro, a Brazilian direct-to-consumer fashion brand. “Now that the Kustomer customer experience CRM platform is integrated with Instagram Messenger, we can efficiently manage that channel in the same seamless way Kustomer allows us to manage our other channels.”

Livestreaming

Bambuser AB

Bambuser AB, a software company specializing in interactive live video streaming, has entered into a pilot agreement with Farfetch to launch Live Video Shopping on the luxury fashion platform.

Farfetch, which features items from more than 50 countries and nearly 1,300 brands, boutiques and department stores, would be able to use the platform to enable these businesses to host live shopping experiences showcasing their products.

The agreement gives Farfetch the right to use Live Video Shopping at a fixed cost of 35,000 pounds (approximately $45,480), with support for English, Japanese, Chinese and Arabic languages during a six-month pilot phase.

Stockholm-based Bambuser recently announced it was establishing companies in the U.K. and U.S., with new offices in London and New York respectively. Lingerie brand Etam partnered with the streaming company to enable live shopping during its annual Live Show event on Sept. 29.

Personalized recommendations

Searchspring

Searchspring announced the beta launch of its Personalized Recommendations feature, which early adopters are already trialing to display hyper-relevant products that engage shoppers and boost conversions. Full rollout of the feature is expected in early 2021.

The feature offers e-commerce merchandising teams insight into behavioral data and enables product recommendations and curation sitewide without relying on developers.

AI models within the platform can learn from shopper history, real-time behavior and preferences to personalize product recommendations by displaying top items for each shopper, curated based on purchase and browsing behavior. Users can also recommend complementary items to the product being viewed, or suggest similar results with a higher price point in an effort to upsell or cross-sell.

The new feature is also designed to activate return purchases by recommending recently viewed items, and items similar to recent purchases, and it can boost trending products based on category or sitewide top sellers.

Merchandisers can boost recommendations of preferred brands or product lines based on specific attributes, and can then analyze the business impact of their recommendations with powerful product performance and shopper insights, revealing segments of customers who are most likely to respond to retargeting.

3D visualization

SML Group/Digitize3D

SML Group, a global retail branding and RFID solutions provider, unveiled its internal 3D and Augmented Reality (AR) visualization platform, Digitiz3D.

The new virtual product development tool helps retail business owners and garment vendors to better streamline their labelling and trims processes in order to increase overall speed and flexibility.

Digitiz3D address the challenges of time-consuming alteration rounds, endless physical samples and wasted fabric that can have both cost and environmental repercussions through technology that eliminates the need to touch or wait for physical samples.

Instead, the technology provides customized garment catalogues with previews that can demonstrate how various branding items would look on each garment or product. This includes features such as trims and packaging visualizations, hardware colors and finishes explorations and an AR library of assets for designers (i.e. labels, tags, buckles, buttons, packaging, etc.). SML Group’s 3D models are created through a combination of various software platforms and Digitiz3DTM, which seamlessly integrate with rendering software.

Payments

Rapyd/InComm Payments

Payments technology providers Rapyd and InComm Payments have partnered up to enable cash bill pay and load solutions at participating retailers across the United States.

With the partnerships, consumers will be able to use cash to add funds and pay their bills at participating locations that they already frequent in their communities such as retailers, grocery stores and pharmacies. They can show their unique barcode to the cashier through their smartphone app and instantly add funds to participating accounts or pay their bills.

Those funds can be used to make monthly payments on loans and purchase online goods and services without the need for a credit card.

The companies say that the partnership “opens up the entire digital economy” to customers who prefer cash transactions for everyday activities such as paying bills, citing Federal Reserve statistics from 2019 stating that cash was used for 47 percent of payments under $10 and for 40 percent of payments between $10 and $25.

In-store IoT

Lenovo

Lenovo has debuted its ThinkIoT Smarter Store Solutions to help brick-and-mortar stores improve inventory availability and product interaction while simultaneously driving labor efficiency, all while making them safer for shoppers during Covid-19 pandemic.

The solutions help store operations leaders across numerous fronts. For one, the solutions use targeted advertising and tracking of in-store marketing effectiveness via custom QR codes within customized digital displays to bring new customers and increase store visits. The IoT technology also leverages out-of-stock detection, inventory counts and planogram compliance via smart shelves and smart pushers to drive inventory productivity.

Additionally, the solution is designed to increasing customer purchase rate in-stores by teaching customers about products in a dynamic/self-service way using smart displays with interactive product information and tailored ads.

Aside from store experience capabilities, the Smarter Store Solutions are designed to make shopping spaces safer by using FDA-certified temperature screening to help keep sick employees from entering the store and through policy communication measures, mask requirements, and occupancy levels to customers simply and easily with digital signs.