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Retail Tech: Google Launches Shopping Graph, Zip Co Acquires Two BNPL Firms

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

E-commerce

Google

Google has launched Shopping Graph, what it calls its most comprehensive, real-time dataset about products, inventory and merchants.

Announced in a blog post, the Shopping Graph is an AI-enhanced model designed to understand a constantly changing set of products, sellers, brands and reviews. Additionally, it recognizes product information and inventory data received from brands and retailers directly, as well as how those attributes relate to one another.

With people shopping across Google more than 1 billion times a day, the Shopping Graph can make those sessions more helpful by connecting consumers with over 24 billion listings from millions of merchants across. It works in real time so people can discover and shop for products that are available right now.

Bill Ready, president of commerce and payments at Google, said that the efforts are for “supporting an open network of retailers and shoppers to help businesses get discovered and give people more options when they’re looking to buy.”

Last year, Google eliminated commission fees and made it free for sellers to list products on the platform.

In an effort to “democratize e-commerce,” Google also announced that it is expanding its partnership with Shopify, introducing a new, simplified process that will let Shopify’s 1.7 million merchants feature their products across Google Search, Shopping, YouTube, Google Images and more.

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Google has also extended Google Photos so that any time a shopper searches a screenshot they will see a suggestion to search the photo with Google Lens. This enables shoppers to see accompanying search results that can help them find a pair of shoes, a jacket and more.

“We want to help people discover, learn about and shop for the products they love — whether those products come from a big-box retailer, new direct-to-consumer brands or the mom-and-pop shop down the street,” said Bill Ready, president of commerce and payments at Google. “We’re supporting an open network of retailers and shoppers to help businesses get discovered and give people more options when they’re looking to buy.”

Supplier-retailer collaboration 

Salsify/Alkemics

Salsify, a commerce experience management platform that aims to help brands “win on the digital shelf,” is acquiring supplier experience management platform Alkemics for an undisclosed sum.

The combined solution is designed to power open collaboration and content exchange between suppliers and retailers, facilitating superior product experiences everywhere consumers shop.

With Alkemics, retailers can engage with their suppliers at every stage of their commercial relationship to better serve consumers, from sourcing and product discovery to the listing process and omnichannel sales.

The platform is used by large-scale retailers in Europe to discover, list, and launch products from more than 20,000 brands. These brands and suppliers can use the platform to increase their visibility among retailers, as well as to offer greater transparency to their consumers, as they can share their product catalog across all types of channels.

With the acquisition, Salsify now consists of three main components. Product Experience Management (ProductXM) is designed to empower brands, retailers and distributors to create, deliver and optimize product experiences that win the algorithm across all their digital touch points.

Supplier Experience Management (SupplierXM) helps retailers to win the omnichannel shopper through deep collaboration with their suppliers at every stage of their commercial relationship.

And CommerceXM Network is the open, two-way collaboration network through which brands, distributors and retailers exchange data, content and communications to most efficiently deliver winning products to the market at scale.

The companies already had been partners for years with a built-in integration to Salsify, in which their customers could transmit data to Alkemics’ EMEA retailer customers, according to Antoine Durieux, co-founder and CEO of Alkemics, who with the rest of the executive team will continue to lead the company.

Buy now, pay later

Zip Co Limited

Zip Co Limited is acquiring two global “buy now, pay later” platforms in Europe and the Middle East in which it had minority stakes. The company acquired the remaining shares of Czech Republic-based Twisto Payments that didn’t already own for 89 million euros ($108.7 million) and will also acquire the remaining shares of UAE-based Spotii for $16 million.

Zip has already seen significant success from its Quadpay acquisition in 2020, where annual transactions climbed by over 200 percent post-deal.

Twisto and Spotii are integrated into Zip’s global Single Merchant Interface (SMI), which provides merchants instant access to 11 countries across five continents.

The Twisto acquisition will complement Zip’s U.K presence, and now gives the company access to 27 member states of the European Union (EU), and further entry to Europe’s $1.1 trillion e-commerce market. More than 1 million customers and 14,000 merchants including Gap, New Balance and Under Armour have transacted on the platform, which is expected to generate $12 million in revenue for 2021 based on April revenue.

In a statement, Zip lauded Twisto’s “exceptional product suite,” which the company said aligned with its digital wallet strategy, due the issuing of virtual cards, an account-based revolving credit line and integrations with Apple Pay and Google Pay. Zip also said its in-house credit and fraud scoring engine known as Nikita, which analyzes more than 500 factors in “milliseconds,” was ready for “rapid scaling.”

Meanwhile, Spotii gives Zip a go in the Middle East, where overall online spend is increasing at 25 percent annually, according to data from Bain and Co. The platform has already integrated 650 merchants since its inception last year, with total transaction volume having grown at an average of 90 percent month-on-month.

Spotii’s proprietary risk algorithm has enabled the company to maintain low loss rates, and to integrate across a broad spectrum of industry verticals in a market with limited access to centralized third-party data sources, Zip said.

Zip expects to complete the Spotii acquisition in the third quarter of 2021, and the Twisto acquisition in the fourth quarter.

Search

Findologic/BigCommerce

Search and navigation platform Findologic has partnered with BigCommerce in an effort to bring its capabilities to more retailers. Marking the launch of the partnership, Findologic, based in Austria, is now offering a plug-in that allows brands and retailers already using the BigCommerce platform to enhance on-site search and navigation.

Findologic’s solution boosts e-commerce conversions by allowing retailers to optimize elements of a shopper’s path to purchase, such as via enhanced on-site search and navigation, delivering personalized content that supports an individual customer’s buying journey or user experience (UX) optimization.

The platform’s AI-powered virtual shopping assistant, Li.S.A., uses intent signals and discovery to deliver improved on-site search. Findologic says that Li.S.A. is built to analyze behaviors to understand each shopper’s intent, and deliver personalized recommendations that are more likely to convert. This is unlike traditional search solutions, the company says, which often rely on keywords and can return volumes of random results.

Using the newly developed app available on the BigCommerce platform, Findologic says that retailers can transform digital buying journeys using the platform in just five weeks. This timeline accounts for a bespoke project plan, through to integration, testing and go-live.

Findologic’s user interface allows direct integration into retailers’ online storefronts, while its mobile-first technology ensures that UX is optimized and future-proofed, regardless of channel.

Logistics

DropLoads

DropLoads, a same-day intercity and freight shipping service, has announced a new B2B interface that allows companies with current logistics deals with Amazon to integrate their existing software into the DropLoads mobile app.

The mobile app’s users do not need to rely upon tracking numbers, the company said. Each shipment is geotagged at the point of receipt and tracked in real time via the mobile app. This added layer of security is designed to prevent the lost, misplaced and damaged goods common in the shipping industry.

Independent contractors can work local routes with the mobile app and assist big-box retailers signed up with DropLoads, like Walmart and Lowes. As brick-and-mortar stores close for the day, DropLoads partners can retrieve packages and deliver them to customers. Ideally, retailers using the app would have an advantageous provision over Amazon’s next-day shipping by providing same-day service to their local online consumers.

Businesses within the app can sign up and become a verified business shipping partner. Now, the company says it can run its fleet on a 24-hour schedule.

These companies are encouraged to incentivize their drivers to sign up independently with DropLoads to fill in schedule gaps and earn additional income while remaining employed.

In-store analytics

Sensormatic Solutions/Vsblty

Johnson Controls, a sustainable building technology software provider, has expanded its partnership with digital display platform provider Vsblty Groupe Technologies Corp. With the partnership, Johnson Controls’ retail solutions portfolio Sensormatic Solutions can help retailers increase consumer engagement at the point of purchase and discover demographic insights driving those purchase decisions.

In particular, Vsblty’s computer vision technology will integrate with Sensormatic IQ’s broad portfolio solutions to provide retailers with enriched, actionable shopper demographic information that can help them measure audiences effectively.

Additionally, the partnership bolsters in-store sales through delivery of context-sensitive, targeted advertising and promotional video content throughout the store and on digital displays.

As part of the partnership, Vsblty and Sensormatic Solutions are rolling out two new products, Shopper Demographics and Shopper Views.

Shopper Demographics leverages camera and sensor technology with AI to provide shopper demographics and sentiment analytics data that can help retailers adapt the assortment and the point of sale activity, and evaluate how the marketing campaigns are performing to attract different shopper profiles into the stores.

Shopper Views uses edge and cloud-enabled AI techniques to help retailers bring brand messaging to life through targeted digital display content. When combined with a content management system (CMS), Shopper Views delivers custom-triggered content leveraging video, proximity-aware sensor technology and anonymized facial analytics to help enhance guest experiences while simultaneously revealing new analytics and actionable insights.

Shopper engagement 

Algonomy

Algonomy, a provider of retail software for omnichannel personalization, customer journey orchestration and analytics, merchandising analytics and supplier collaboration, updated its platform for retailers and brands in recovering from the pandemic.

The unified platform for digital customer engagement integrates data from supply to demand across the value chain with algorithmic decisioning and omnichannel orchestration.

The company says the release features numerous capabilities like composite AI frameworks, no-code machine learnings frameworks, visual AI algorithms, greater control and governance over customer data, and better orchestration abilities across marketing, commerce and merchandising.

The Algonomy Personalization Suite now features new connectors that can help brands sync product catalogs, inventory and pricing via Shopify Plus, VTEX, Adobe Magento, SAP Hybris, SFDC Demandware and others.

The suite also includes DeepRecs Visual AI enhancements, which offer deep learning to replicate store-like personal experiences on digital commerce properties, helping shoppers find visually similar products and get complete-the-look recommendations based on product images and without the need for any behavioral data. More than 15 apparel clients already use the feature, Algonomy says.

While the other features are for general audiences, test audiences also get a peek into two new features. Contact center personalization is designed to provide online shopper behavior, intent signals, search data, affinities, cart contents and past purchases to sales associates and agents for personalized interaction and assistance. Social proofing engages shoppers using real-time view and purchase data provides urgency messaging on digital commerce properties, which can result in a lift in conversion rates and reduced abandonments.

Beyond the Personalization Suite, Customer Analytics now features a new data studio that offers data scientists and analysts security-controlled access to full enterprise customer data to build models, perform exploratory analyses and build dashboards in one interface.

Within the Customer Journey Orchestration (CJO) platform, Universal Control Group allows creation of a program-level control group to measure effectiveness of multiple campaigns and multiple journeys across longer-term marketing objectives. The platform features a new Criteo integration enabling marketers to push automated dynamic and personalized ads to known customers across channels.

New merchandise planning and analytics features include size-pack assortment planning for multiple size strategies, such as single and multiple size packs, fill-in packs, and hybrid size planning. The enhancements feature granular store recommendations, greater user control and autoscaling, modeling for new stores and new plan classes without history and enhanced analytics.

Additionally, the merchandise planning platform includes Style Intelligence, which uses Visual AI to rank and recommend fashion products/trends and integrates with the attributes creating the assortment plan. Another new offering, Product Lifecycle Pricing, enables user interface enhancement and features a wider set of pricing and markdown strategies.

Experience management

DevHub

DevHub, a SaaS startup that builds e-commerce websites and landing pages, acquired Brickwork Software, a retail technology company powering local consumer experiences for national brands, from retail-as-a-service platform b8ta for an undisclosed sum.

The purchase is intended to strengthen DevHub’s Data Experience Platform for brick-and-mortar, multi-location brands and retailers. Additionally, DevHub looks to extend the native capabilities of its platform and give local-first brands the tools to create better customer experiences.

The company will add online-to-store conversion actions such as appointment booking and event RSVP to its list of local experience offerings.

Brickwork was founded in 2013 and its software is used by global companies such as Nike, Chanel, Saks Fifth Avenue and more. This will add to the stable of 179 brands DevHub is working with via its Data Experience Platform.