The weekly Retail Tech Roundup compiles technology news across the supply chain, manufacturing, retail, e-commerce, logistics and fulfillment sectors.
Finish Line will deploy solutions from retail technology solutions provider Aptos to optimize merchandising strategies across its retail enterprise and obtain actionable insights for its end-to-end merchandising activities.
With these technology investments, Finish Line says it will manage inventory with enhanced precision and automation, ideally enabling the business to respond faster as market conditions and consumer demand patterns shift.
The footwear retailer, already an Aptos partner, is implementing the technology to adhere to changing customer needs for its 890 Finish Line and JD Sports-branded locations and e-commerce sites.
“The ability to react quickly to customers’ needs is extremely important to us, and with Aptos technology, we will be able to optimally position inventory to maximize sales, reduce stock-outs and delight shoppers,” said Todd Steiner, chief information and technology officer at Finish Line in a statement. “We are looking forward to the benefits this solution will bring to our business, customers and employees.”
Aptos offers a suite of integrated applications designed to help retailers analyze, order, price, distribute and manage merchandise for maximum return on their investment.
By using consistent data to guide all processes, Aptos solutions are designed to automatically synchronize and integrate key functions across a retail enterprise, including purchasing, pricing, receiving, allocation and replenishment. Its centralized transactional database and support tools are built to enable retailers make better decisions based on accurate, current and shared information.
Supply chain visibility
Cloud-based supply chain visibility platform Verte has launched new AI capabilities to help sellers better forecast their ability to meet a goal with a retailer or end customer, and assist buyers with making plans based on shipment timing.
Verte’s technology solutions are designed to centralize information to increase transparency into the supply chain. The platform’s AI prescriptive solution can be applied to the planning, manufacturing and positioning of inventory across a complex retail fulfillment network using Verte’s unified data-first approach. Verte’s AI inventory management solutions are built to analyze consumer fulfillment choices and shopping behaviors, improving e-commerce and store inventory levels. Any entity may subscribe to the service, whether it is a retailer, partner providers, service providers or vendor.
Sharing and receiving available-to-promise inventory with and from specific suppliers requires access control to reduce lead times and gain multi-enterprise visibility into each source. In addition, running everything under one cloud platform is designed to ensure that each fulfillment decision is aligned with the business’ priorities, whether that entails cost or time.
Verte’s multi-cloud platform is built with distributed, microservices-driven architecture for current and future supply chain needs, with the company claiming that the platform enables 6X faster onboarding and 5X times quicker volume management. Features include dynamic integration for multi-channel order capture (for e-commerce, wholesale, and aggregation clients) and ready-to-start electronic data interchange (EDI) integration.
The platform supports real-time progress visibility across containers and order movement across demand channels, as well as a network facility with multi-dimensional analysis of customer preferences and experience. Additional assets include distributed dynamic network fulfillment execution and prescriptive dynamic replenishment.
Organizations can simplify their order compliance with flexible, configurable templates (50+ pre-built templates, from labels to BOLs) and obtain inventory reclassification in real-time through virtual inventory segmentation across channel sales. In addition, to optimize inventory movement and picking, the Verte platform offers multiple units of measure handling of inventory across demand channels and configurable, scalable, and load-balanced execution options through robotics and manual support.
Verte’s new AI features also provide route planning and shipments build-up, with adaptive changes to service level as needed, the company says. To manage and execute business delivery, organizations can use multi-mode last-mile delivery management, data management and reporting analytics with transparency and traceability enabled through blockchain. The platform allows for automated billing and invoicing with support for transactional and value-added services, in addition to centralized returns management for omnichannel returns (store returns and/or e-commerce returns).
Buy now, pay later
Installment payments provider Affirm has debuted two additions to its product suite: the Affirm SuperApp and a Chrome browser extension.
Affirm’s SuperApp is designed to combine the “buy now, pay later” company’s shopping, payments, and financial services in one destination. The new Google Chrome browser extension is built to enable consumers to use Affirm’s payment solutions at virtually any retailer’s website, even if Affirm isn’t listed as being available at checkout.
In the new Affirm app, consumers can see their snapshot including how much they might be able to spend, how much cash back they have earned, how much they have saved, and their outstanding payments, all on a completely reimagined home screen.
Shoppers can also access exclusive offers from brands, which are tailored based on their shopping preferences in the app. Additionally, they can shop online or in-store by creating a single-use Affirm virtual card and entering that card number at online checkout as they would with a regular debit or credit card, or through their mobile wallet in-store.
The SuperApp also provides shoppers with cash back rewards by paying upfront at participating merchants, and enables them to increase spending limits with positive repayment behavior.
Finally, on the app, users can manage their Affirm payments and Affirm Savings, whether turning on AutoPay, making payments early or checking how much they have earned in savings.
During the beta period, Affirm saw increased consumer engagement and repeat use of the app. In that time frame, Affirm found that among existing Affirm users, those using the Chrome extension were more than 30 percent more likely to pay for a purchase with the platform.
ShipMonk/Ruby Has Fulfillment
ShipMonk, a provider of e-commerce fulfillment and technology solutions, has acquired third-party logistics (3PL) technology company Ruby Has Fulfillment for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition continues ShipMonk’s efforts to expand operations throughout the U.S. and internationally to Canada and the U.K. and is designed to deepen its enterprise-class fulfillment capabilities to serve growing DTC brands.
With the Ruby Has acquisition, ShipMonk adds eight fulfillment centers spanning New York, Nevada, New Jersey, Kentucky, California, Canada and the U.K. And with ShipMonk’s existing locations in Florida, California, Pennsylvania and Mexico, the company now currently operates 11 distribution centers totaling 2.4 million square feet, enabling the company to make two-day shipping available across North America.
ShipMonk’s workforce has more than doubled since January 2021 to more than 3,000 employees. The Ruby Has acquisition alone will bring on another 700 new workers.
Additionally, the combined company will offer expanded customer support that includes dedicated client success managers and on-site teams. Processes designed to promote and improve responsiveness and quality service include a new ticketing system, quarterly reviews, advisory councils, as well as B2B and larger client support.
The deal also will allow for more advanced brand guidelines and value added services like engraving, embroidery, etching, and returns refurbishment, as well as the introduction of more fulfillment automation and robotics systems that have improved cost and velocity efficiency.
Currently, ShipMonk serves a roster of more than 2,000 B2C businesses, including BrüMate, Liquid IV, FEAT, and Glamnetic. Ruby Has’ client base, including Brooklinen, The Ridge, and Overtime, expand Shipmonk’s client roster in service of both larger enterprises as well as established B2B brands.
The combined 3PL fulfillment offering pairs expanded EDI retail capabilities with dedicated fulfillment center setups to provide the custom flexibility that enterprise-class operations often require. The Ruby Has Sure Sort technology will be added within ShipMonk’s warehouse technology suite.
These new capabilities complement ShipMonk’s current service offering to clients, regardless of the size or needs of their business. ShipMonk’s platform allows merchants at any growth stage to scale by delegating the challenges of managing end-to-end order fulfillment, inventory management, and post-purchase customer cycles (order tracking, returns and refurbishing).
For larger customers, Ruby Has brings dedicated space, processes and technology for individual brands to the ShipMonk platform. This modernized fulfillment can enable orders to be picked and packed separately.
Over the past 18 months, ShipMonk has raised $355 million in funding to accelerate its strategic growth and expansion to serve existing and new customers internationally. In October, the company established ShipMonk Mexico through its acquisition of El Mar Mexico. Together with the acquisition of Ruby Has, ShipMonk now has North American operations from Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, to Tecate, Mexico.
These locations north and south of U.S. borders enable ShipMonk to better leverage U.S. Customs and Border Patrol’s (CBP) Section 321, which legally bypasses taxing on the majority of U.S. shipments, eliminating tariffs and import duties.
The Ruby Has deal closed in November 2021. ShipMonk has plans for continued international expansion and to open a European warehouse in 2022.
Passport, an international shipping carrier built for cross-border e-commerce, has secured $39 million in Series B funding.
The round is led by growth equity firm TCV, with participation from new investors including Flexport, FJ Labs and Pure Imagination as well as angel investors including Nik Sharma, CEO of Sharma Brands, Kitsch founders Cassandra and Jeremy Thurswell, Shopify’s former vice president of shipping Louis Kearns, Jeremy Cai, CEO of Italic and Sid Gupta, CEO of Quince.
The funds allow the company to first further develop its software-based infrastructure for cross-border e-commerce and secondly, to expand on its recent acquisition of Access Worldwide by building out its physical logistics capabilities, according to Alex Yancher, Passport’s co-founder and CEO.
Direct-to-consumer brands, marketplaces and e-commerce 3PLs alike rely on Passport for their international shipping needs. E-commerce merchants including Kylie Beauty, Bombas, Native, Ritual and Seed.com partner with Passport to handle their cross-border shipping services including door-to-door international parcel shipping to more than 150 countries; international regulatory, duty and tax compliance including a duty and tax calculator for Shopify, BigCommerce and WooCommerce; international returns; high-touch customer support; and door-to-door milestones on a branded tracking page.
The round has also garnered participation from existing investors including M13, Resolute, and River Park Ventures. Since its inception in 2017, Passport has raised a total of $54 million.
Enterprise point-of-sale (POS) technology provider NCR Corporation and Google Cloud are expanding their partnership to bring additional platform and cloud capabilities, including AI and machine learning solutions, to retailers worldwide.
Under the partnership, NCR Commerce Platform users can now run their stores from end-to-end through APIs that are available on Google Cloud’s Apigee gateway.
Under this partnership agreement, NCR will extend its NCR Commerce Platform and its retail software portfolio onto Google Cloud’s global infrastructure in an effort to create technology for retailers to introduce highly personalized shopping experiences.
NCR and Google Cloud first announced their global strategic partnership in April 2021 to collaborate on product development and innovation that would further enhance the suite of cloud-based solutions and analytics available to banking customers on Google Cloud. Last June, the companies then extended their partnership to the retail industry, running the NCR Emerald platform on Google Cloud, enabling retailers to offer the solution on a subscription basis, and helping them lower upfront capital expenditures.
Emerald leverages Google Cloud data management solutions as the central repository for transactional, behavioral, and merchandising data. NCR Analytics then harnesses the analytical and data visualization capabilities of Google’s business intelligence platform Looker to help retailers get a consolidated view of their business across all channels.
Additionally, NCR Analytics also leverages the power of Google Cloud AI and machine learning, so that by mapping to the retailer’s own catalog, they can also break down category-level performance and trends. For example, store managers can visualize how well they’re using their real estate and compare productivity of certain lanes, or even compare self-service versus manned lanes.
Nextech AR Solutions Corp., a provider of augmented reality (AR) experience technologies and services, has debuted its ARitize 3D SaaS offering to the public.
With this launch, Nextech now can extend 3D model creation to an unlimited list of customers, including small, medium and large e-commerce businesses that want to quickly scale the creation of 3D models in a cost-effective way.
While ARitize 3D SaaS was first released in beta in November, the public launch is geared to expand Nextech’s revenue opportunity into a no-touch self-service with a growing base of monthly recurring revenue (MRR) and brings the company’s ARitize 3D modeling factory to all consumers.
Nextech calls the SaaS platform a “one-stop shop” for 3D and AR needs within e-commerce, in that it automates 3D model creation, and also includes its own content management system and AR visualization capabilities.
The tech provider is currently working on integration with all the major e-commerce aggregators including, Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, Wix and Magento.
With ARitize 3D SaaS, whether a customer wants to create five models or 5,000 models, they can sign up to use the solution, select the applicable pricing plan, enter a credit card payment method and enable WebAR for their website.
The company also offers an array of 3D model and AR visualizations including; product hotspots, animations, 360+ exploded views, 3D swirl ads, configurators, a 3D carousel, virtual staging and a room decorator. These enhanced features allow companies to provide even further detail and context to 3D models, including changing colors and textures, breaking apart the model into an “exploded view” to see all the individual parts of the product and providing animation to any part of the product that requires movement.
These enhancements provide the company with significant high margin revenue opportunities.
Nextech already is supplying retailers with 3D models and AR product visualizations, including Kohl’s, Pier 1, Kmart Australia and many others.
The company plans to introduce its ARitize CAD solution to the public as a SaaS offering next. Nextech believes that with the combination of ARitize 3D and ARitize CAD, which is built enables manufacturers to convert CAD files into 3D AR models at scale the Company has a major competitive edge in the 3D modeling market and believes it is well positioned in becoming the world’s leading 3D modeling factory.
Caja Robotics/Bastian Solutions
Caja Robotics, a provider of robotic and flexible goods-to-person solutions for order fulfillment, is partnering with supply chain integrator Bastian Solutions to bring its robotic systems to the U.S.. The two companies will leverage each other’s capabilities and leadership positions in the material handling space to serve a range of projects and customer sites.
The Bastian Solutions portfolio includes advanced automation such as mobile robots, automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS), automated guided vehicles (AGV) and goods-to-person technology, each considered on their own merits to provide productivity gains and a return on investment. The company also provides custom robotic and conveyor manufacturing and high-quality material handling software.
With offices across the U.S., Bastian Solutions plans to evaluate opportunities to deploy Caja as an automated order fulfillment partner to retailers and brands.
Born in response to the daily challenges experienced in the world of order fulfillment, Caja developed a smart warehouse technology that is designed to adapt to existing infrastructure and is flexible enough to handle peaks in sales.
The Caja solution combines two robots: a Lift robot and a Cart robot, that work synergistically to optimize order picking operations. With Caja’s advanced AI-powered software, the robots move bins between workstations and the inventory, constantly optimizing inventory management. The solution operates in different market segments with adaptations to address their specific needs, such as for footwear, fashion, apparel or online grocery.
Placer.ai, a provider of location analytics and foot traffic data, has closed a $100 million Series C funding round at a $1 billion valuation.
The round was led by Josh Buckley with participation from WndrCo, Lachy Groom, MMC Technology Ventures LLC, Fifth Wall Ventures, JBV Capital and Array Ventures. The funding will be used to expand the company’s R&D capabilities to further increase the pace of innovation.
In particular, the round will accelerate the development of the Placer.ai platform, adding a range of new data sets such as vehicle traffic, planned construction, web traffic and purchase data, according to Noam Ben-Zvi, CEO and co-founder of Placer.ai.
Since launching in November 2018, Placer.ai has been adopted by more than 1,000 customers including industry leaders in commercial real estate and retail like JLL, Regency Centers, Taubman, Planet Fitness, BJ’s Wholesale Club, and Grocery Outlet. These companies all use the platform to determine anonymized crowd movement, size and sentiment to help with their decision making and strategic planning.
The company created a recovery dashboard during the Covid-19 pandemic to analyze the performance of retailers as they sought to bounce back and driver more consumers to the store. And beyond the retail store, Placer.ai had new reasons to use this kind of data, whether it was to determine crowds at testing or vaccination sites, or because new customers were using the company’s tools for M&A due diligence.
France-based women’s wear retailer Promod has deployed the Nedap iD Cloud platform throughout its 450 stores. After rolling out to Promod’s own retail stores, the aim is to connect the technology with its international partner stores.
With Nedap, Promod wants to leverage real-time inventory data so that it can better grasp of the items it needs to pick and ship-from-store.
Promod, known for a wide variety of styles with French feminine allure, offers new items on a weekly basis. To ensure product hit the right sales channels, Promod is applying RFID labels at the point of manufacture which allows for item tracking in all stores and inbound verification in distribution centers in real time.
This unified view on inventory data allows Promod to gain a more accurate read on demand fulfillment, whether the consumer decides to purchase online or in store.
“Retail and the way consumers are engaging with brands is changing. That means we had to change too,” said Olivier Parenti, international sales manager at Promod. “We have always been good at building great customer experiences, especially in our stores. To enhance this experience now and in the future, we need to know exactly where items are in the supply chain. In addition to location, it is also important that we know their status. That way, we can be sure that an item reserved online to be picked up later from the store is not accidentally sold in the meantime. This is only possible if we have real-time insight into stock data.”
The retailer was able to integrate ERP and POS systems with the iD Cloud platform within two months using APIs, which allowed the company to start and scale quickly with a small task force, according to Claire Thelliez, chief information officer at Promod.
“The fact that a far-reaching IT project can be completed so quickly with a small team, in the middle of a lockdown due to a pandemic, says enough about the scalability of this solution,” said Thelliez. “People on the store floor are also responding enthusiastically to the iD Cloud solution. This is positive for us, as it will further accelerate the adoption of RFID technology within our organization in partnership with Nedap.”
To boot, the use of RFID technology helps the company better understand product availability, and can now gauge it better without having to overproduce and overstock.