The weekly Retail Tech Roundup compiles technology news across the supply chain, manufacturing, retail, e-commerce, logistics and fulfillment sectors.
Standard Cognition, an autonomous checkout technology provider, has a raised a $150 million round of Series C funding led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 with participation from existing investors CRV, EQT Ventures and TI Platform Management; and new investors SK Networks and others.
The funding brings the total amount raised by Standard to $236 million, with the company saying it is now valued at more than $1 billion.
The company says the funding enables it to execute its technologies at scale by expanding its installation team. Standard Cognition’s technology enables cashierless checkout experiences for retailers using a system of cameras, computer vision and artificial intelligence (AI). Once installed and integrated with a payment system, customers can walk in a store, grab what they want and leave without needing to scan items or wait in a checkout line.
Consisting primarily of ceiling-mounted cameras that can detect which items a person picks up, Standard’s system uses no facial recognition and lets shoppers remain completely anonymous. It can be installed and retrofitted in existing stores without making any changes to layout, shelving, lighting or inventory management processes.
Standard Cognition is working with customers such as Alimentation Couche-Tard, Inc., the parent company of global convenience store brand Circle K, and foodservice company Compass Group, to outfit hundreds of checkout-free stores in 2021 and beyond, with a goal of more than 50,000 stores in the next five years.
In recent months, the technology provider helped Compass Group to open its first public stores at the University of Houston and in office buildings in Charlotte, N.C. and Toronto.
Customer experience management
Italian luxury brand Salvatore Ferragamo has chosen Medallia Experience Cloud to enhance the customer experience throughout its international network, both in its 654 physical stores and e-commerce sites.
With the suite of Medallia solutions, Ferragamo sought to open conversations with its customers to bring their sentiment and voice into the organization. Additionally, the implementation could give front-end teams relevant customer information so they can identify effective solutions to revenue-impacting issues and strengthen the bond of trust with customers.
The goal of the deployment is to amplify the understanding of what touches customers’ emotions and to establish a direct personal connection with customers regardless of what channel they begin with.
The original project roadmap coincided with the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Ferragamo team adapted to the situation throughout the crisis, first by anticipating the pilot on the U.S. e-commerce channel and then subsequently implementing the project in brick-and-mortar stores.
“An authentic dialogue with customers is essential for building lasting relationships and for enriching the brand,” said Micaela le Divelec Lemmi, CEO of Salvatore Ferragamo SpA, in a statement. “Listening to their requests, transforming criticisms into opportunities, flexibly and promptly finding solutions helps strengthen the bond of trust and is the basis of a lasting relationship. Through the Medallia platform, we have opened an additional channel of listening and understanding with our customers, with the aim of transforming areas for improvement into opportunities and strengthening the bond that the Salvatore Ferragamo brand wants to have with its customers.”
The Medallia Experience Cloud is designed to capture “experience signals” created on daily journeys in person, on calls and digital channels, over video and social media and IoT interactions. The technology applies proprietary AI technology to reveal personalized and predictive insights that is aimed at helping retailers reduce churn, turning detractors into promoters and buyers, creating in-the-moment cross-sell and upsell opportunities.
Pipe17, a service designed to help smaller e-commerce merchants connect their digital tools without the need to code, has secured an $8 million funding round led by GLP Capital Partners, the U.S.-based arm of GLP, an investor in logistics infrastructure and technology.
The funding will be used to accelerate go-to market efforts and expand the team to meet the rapid rise in e-commerce demand.
Pipe17 works in conjunction with merchant’s existing systems, including ERPs like NetSuite, to provide control and visibility throughout the fulfillment cycle, manage order and inventory flows and easily add and make changes to vendor services.
RipNDip, a Los Angeles-based clothing brand available in over 1,000 stores, credited the platform for enabling a smooth transition as it saw e-commerce business double in the past year.
“[Pipe17] makes it easier for us to expand into new channels and fulfill more error-free orders on time,” said Matt Pierce, e-commerce manager at RipNDip. “At our recent Black Friday sales event, we received 4,500 e-commerce orders within a couple of hours, in addition to our wholesale and retail orders. In the past, this would have been like a storm hitting us, with limited visibility into the state of our orders and inventory. Thanks to Pipe17, we were able to process all of our orders without a problem.”
Mo Afshar, CEO of Pipe17, said he believes empowering the growing class of direct-to-consumer merchants requires addressing the need for more intelligent technologies that let merchants easily connect all the platforms and applications they rely on—including their financial or ERP systems—into automated workflows. He said “solutions shouldn’t be this complicated” as most of the merchants the company speaks with don’t have IT staff and are frustrated with their technology service providers.
Unybrands, a new integrated platform positioned to help e-commerce businesses scale their operations on and off Amazon, announced its public launch and $25 million equity seed funding round.
The company operates with the goal to acquire, integrate, manage and grow high-quality e-commerce assets and turn them into long-term successful brands, and says it has already completed its first acquisitions.
Investors in the funding round include Nordstar Capital, DIA Management, Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk of 166 2nd Financial Services, Day One Ventures, Brian McGrath of Jefferies, Benvolio Group and more.
Operating at the sweet spot of disruptive online marketplace growth and consumers’ exploding demand for micro-brands, Unybrands specializes in buying, building and boosting Amazon as well as DTC online brands to ensure long-term success.
The company says it is built specifically for business owners that have reached the limits of their scale due to a lack of incremental operational infrastructure and growth capital, and aims to provide attractive and flexible exit opportunities for these businesses, including cash-upfront deals and long-term partnerships for sellers who wish to stay involved.
Unybrands says it specializes in eight key categories, including personal care, pet care, household products, juvenile and baby, sports and fitness, garden and outdoor, lifestyle and arts, and supplements.
After buying an online business, Unybrands says it handles all processes from end-to-end, including logistics and supply chains, optimizing performance marketing and economics. This way, the company can ultimately expand the business to new domestic and international markets, product lines and platforms.
Livestream commerce company Talkshoplive has closed a $3 million seed round of financing led by Spero Ventures LLC.
The company says the financing will accelerate the expansion of Talkshoplive’s product management and technical teams, meet increased demand from sellers and customers and scale the network worldwide.
Founded in 2018 by brother and sister team Bryan and Tina Moore, Talkshoplive is a livestream commerce network and app with patent pending technology designed to allow transactions to be processed within an embeddable video player anywhere it exists.
The Talkshoplive network and app offer a full range of services for both buyers and sellers, from live show creation to order processing, to ease of shipping and payouts. Sellers showcase their products via livestream shopping shows, displaying product details and engaging with customers in real time through the live chat feature. Highlighted items are available for purchase using a one-click “buy” button located within the live video. Buyers are able to access unlimited channels and live product shows.
The company has partnered with more than 3,000 small businesses that are actively using the Talkshoplive network to connect with and sell to customers.
In addition to Talkshoplive’s thriving small businesses community, the network has captured more popular brands seeking to reach customers through livestreams, including Fred Segal, Best Buy and Kathy Ireland Worldwide.
Joining with small businesses and global brands, Talkshoplive has engaged a differentiated community of influencers who have their own Talkshoplive channels to sell fashion, apparel, cosmetics, music, books and more. Some top names that have connected with shoppers and sold products on the platform include Garth Brooks, Paul McCartney, Matthew McConaughey, Alicia Keys, Dolly Parton, Julie Andrews, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Tim McGraw, Tim Tebow, Kristin Cavallari, Jenna Dewan, Trisha Yearwood and Giada De Laurentiis.
Buy now, pay later
Personalized rewards platform Drop Technologies Inc. has partnered with “buy now, pay later” solution Sezzle.
With the partnership, Canadian shoppers accessing who the Drop rewards app can earn “Drop” points back on all purchases made through the installment payments technology.
Powered by machine learning, Drop matches consumers with more than 200 brands to help them earn points from their purchases and redeem them for instant rewards. The company says it has 3 million members across North America.
Sezzle says its payment platform is used by more than 2.2 million active consumers, offering interest-free installment plans at over 26,000 online stores and select in-store locations.
Ocelot Acquisition Corporation I, a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) focused on the e-commerce, transportation and logistics industries, filed on Friday with the SEC to raise up to $250 million in an initial public offering (IPO).
The blank check company plans to offer 25 million units at a price of $10 where it would command a market value of $313 million and list on the Nasdaq under the symbol OACAU. Each unit consists of one share of common stock and one-half of a warrant exercisable at $11.50.
The company’s sponsor is listed as an affiliate of Ocelot Capital Management LLC, an Austin, Texas-based family office investment firm.
Ocelot has made recent investments in delivery services—in 2019 it made an investment in last-mile provider Scoobeez and in 2020, it invested in Lone Star Overnight, a parcel delivery company with service in the Southwest.
Lone Star Overnight was sold to another Ocelot-owned company, WeDo Logistics, in November. WeDo is also listed as the holding company for Scoobeez, which filed for bankruptcy in 2019, but still operates today.
The SEC filing says the SPAC eyes acquisitions in the e-commerce, transportation and logistics and logistics technology industries. The filing lists the “most attractive opportunities” as freight brokerage, third-party logistics, transportation management, final mile, cold chain logistics and warehousing.
Abound, a curated wholesale marketplace that connects small business owners and independent brands, closed a $22.9 million Series A financing round led by Left Lane Capital with additional support from RiverPark Ventures, All Iron Ventures and Red Antler.
This investment is Abound’s first institutional fundraise and is aimed at furthering its international expansion, growing the team and enhancing its tech offerings.
The company says all products on the Abound platform are listed at wholesale prices at as much as 50 percent below retail. The pricing model, coupled with Abound’s free return policy and its sale terms for qualified buyers, are designed to allow independent retailers to earn a healthy margin selling products their customers want.
The funding comes after a strong year of growth for Abound. Since the start of 2020, the company has added over 180,000 products to its marketplace and experienced a 20-fold increase in monthly sales volume.
With the round, Abound says it intends to continue “stripping away the complexities and costs of wholesale distribution” and allow emerging brands to focus their talents on creation and innovation.
PopCom, a provider of smart vending and kiosk solutions, announced the launch of PopShop Local, a program that helps small businesses sell their products in hotels, airports, and convention centers and ultimately makes use of previously unused real estate space.
PopCom will place its PopShop, a smart vending machine that also displays ads and measures customer engagement, in the common areas of participating hotels across the U.S. PopShop Local currently has pilots with AC Hotel, JW Marriott and are in process of securing a pilot with Virgin Hotel.
Local brands can apply for placement in one of these machines, which would enable them to have a physical retail shop without the costs of maintaining a brick-and-mortar store. Hotels use the contactless machines as a gift shop for their guests and receive a percentage of all sales from each machine. The machines are meant to provide a convenient way for hotel guests to find highly curated local souvenirs and products.
PopCom takes applications from local brands in each city, and presents those brands to the hotel to select which products they want to upsell in their contactless gift shop.