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Retail Tech: GXO Pilots Apparel-Focused Robotics, Amazon Brand Acquirers Raise $1.2B

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

Robotics 

GXO Logistics/Knapp

GXO Logistics, Inc. has launched a pilot of intelligent automation at its fashion e-commerce warehouse in the Dutch town of Tilburg.

GXO’s pilot of the Pick-it-Easy Robot station is tailored for one of its global customers, in collaboration with intelligent automation technologies provider Knapp AG. The pilot is the first application of Knapp’s Pick-it-Easy Robot technology for automated pocket induction in the sector for apparel logistics.

The Pick-it-Easy’s Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based vision system is designed to recognize each product and identify the optimal gripping point and gripping speed, while the arm places items into a pocket conveyor for sorting, grouping and routing to packing stations. It addresses the logistics challenges presented by the apparel industry, given the vast range of product sizes, shapes, textures, weights and packaging.

After the successful implementation of the first Knapp Pick-it-Easy Robot is complete, GXO plans to expand its use of technology in Tilburg with an additional four robots. GXO operates 869 warehouse locations totaling 208 million square feet.

Sustainable supply chain

Responsibly

Responsibly, a recently launched supplier data platform designed specifically for responsible supply chains, secured a $2 million pre-seed investment round led by venture capital firm Flash Ventures.

This investment will allow Responsibly to expand its team of engineers, data scientists and its impact intelligence team to accelerate development of its flexible data feed and interpretation engines. The raise will also enable the Denmark-based startup to soft-launch the first version of Responsibly, a service geared to make sense of the world’s supplier data, empowering businesses to purchase responsibly and efficiently.

Responsibly seeks to centralize and harmonize data of more than 10,000 suppliers for pilot customers, producing scorecards that are used to better inform sourcing decisions. This enables companies along the value chain to incorporate purpose and potentially reduce their own negative impacts on the world.

The Responsibly engine is designed to read data from any source, and interpret it into a uniform data flow that can be summarized in a holistic supplier scorecard, and an analytics dashboard that shows the performance of a brand’s full supplier mix.

The Responsibly engine is designed to read data from any source, and interpret it into a uniform data flow that can be summarized in a holistic supplier scorecard, and an analytics dashboard that shows the performance of a brand’s full supplier mix.

Responsibly scorecard

The technology aims to minimize friction for buyers faced with many different and arbitrary information sources. It also addresses the challenge of making decisions between suppliers when each supplier is operating on a different information foundation.

Responsibly is currently developing and testing the software and algorithms with select pilot clients, and expects to go live with the product at the end of 2021. The tool will be available for both large and small companies.

Overall, the company’s goal is to give corporate purchasers the tools to put social and environmental impact alongside price on the supplier scorecard. The goal helps purchasers to procure sustainably, and to enable all parties to work together, across buyers, suppliers, data providers and academics.

Since there’s no uniform definition for responsible sourcing, the company allows any organization to define its own responsible sourcing scorecard, or select a predefined scorecard by a leading NGO. The engine then reads and interprets the information sources according to that definition, and outputs it right into their procurement system for decision making.

Responsibly is being developed within Google’s startup accelerator in the Sustainable Development Goals category, with the aim to confront an industrywide challenge of getting a clear and unified picture for supply chain decision making.

The funding comes as companies evaluate millions of suppliers across thousands of data sources, and hundreds of parameters and frameworks. Information sources for transparency are often too costly to access and interpret, which means it’s rarely fully leveraged in sourcing decisions.

The investment round is backed by other parties including Flash Ventures’ partner Johann Nordhus Westarp, serial entrepreneur and investor Ferry Heilemann, angel investor Michael Wax, and Planetly founder and CEO Benedikt Franke.

Buy now, pay later 

Mercari/Zip Co.

Peer-to-peer online marketplace Mercari has partnered with digital payments company Zip Co. (which formerly operated in the U.S. as Quadpay), enabling shoppers to shop secondhand with the option to pay for purchases in installments.

With this partnership, Mercari customers can buy now and pay later on the resale platform. By selecting Zip at checkout, Mercari shoppers will now have access to Zip’s four-payment installment option over six weeks. Mercari customers who sell on the platform will still receive full payment for items sold regardless of whether a shopper pays in installments.

The move is significant for Mercari, which is continuing to grow as more shoppers turn to secondhand marketplaces to find in-demand items that remained sold out at traditional retail stores. Zip highlighted the importance of growth in digital payments offerings within the past year, with this payments option having the biggest percentage leap to date in 2020. In North America, buy now, pay later is expected to grow an additional 181 percent by 2024, according to a report by FIS WorldPay.

Marketplaces

Lands’ End/X-Trade

Lands’ End has partnered with Germany-based online fashion and footwear seller X-Trade.

Through the partnership, X-Trade will manage warehousing, customer logistics, sales and aftersales of Lands’ End merchandise on fashion and general marketplaces in Europe. The first phase of the partnership includes men’s and women’s apparel and began with a soft launch in August on German e-commerce giant Zalando.

“Our partnership with X-Trade is an important continuation of our efforts to reach more customers in Europe and provide them with high-quality, comfortable apparel that is synonymous with the Lands’ End brand,” said Constanze Freienstein, managing director of Lands’ End Europe.

X-Trade is present on more than 15 marketplaces in 10 countries and has a direct-to-consumer online shop, Tauro. The company says it has warehouse space exceeding 18,000 square meters.

“The X-Trade team is very pleased to collaborate with Lands’ End in making their Lands’ End assortment available on Marketplaces throughout Europe. Our many years of platform expertise and our infrastructure optimized for the marketplace economy help Lands’ End not only to be represented quickly and cost-effectively on all relevant marketplaces for fashion, but also to win new customer groups,” said Sascha Rosenau, CEO of X-Trade.

Fit technology

MySizeID

MySize, Inc., a developer and creator of smartphone measurement solutions, now offers a Sizing Trends feature for e-commerce retailers that implement the MySize solution on their sites and apps.

The Sizing Trends feature provides visibility into shifts in sizing among brand customers and across the industry, enabling retailers to adjust their size charts to ideally best fit their customers’ needs.

Sizing Trends leverages anonymized, aggregated data from over 100 million customer measurements, along with a brand’s customer specific sizing data to alert e-commerce retailers of trends towards particular shapes, fits and sizes. The visibility into real-world customer sizing shifts allows brands to readjust their size charts and product tables to provide the ideal fit for customers’ changing measurements.

As up to 70 percent of online apparel returns are blamed on poor fit, MySize said, Sizing Trends aims to provide another tool in e-commerce retailers’ arsenals to preemptively convert costly returns into a boost in sales.

MySizeID already seeks to empower retailers to make smarter, AI-backed business decisions, with an array of AI-driven actionable insights it provides clients, including user behavior and conversion rates.

The sizing solution uses retailers’ size charts, product tables, general trade item number (GTIN), descriptions and other relevant details, alongside MySize’s patented algorithms, to provide online shoppers with a size recommendation. The plug-and-play widget can be integrated into e-commerce brands’ sites, enhancing customers’ online shopping experience and boosting their engagement levels and confidence in the brand.

MySize already partners with Levi’s, Speedo and Boyish Jeans, as well as e-commerce platforms including Shopify, WooCommerce, Bitrix and Lightspeed. The company said its MySizeID platform reduces returns by as much as 50 percent and increases average order value (AOV) by as much as 30 percent.

Omnichannel

OneView Commerce/Microsoft

OneView Commerce, a provider of omnichannel commerce platforms that powers transactions from click to brick across the shopping journey, has brought its solutions to Microsoft Azure. OneView’s unified commerce transaction engine, in combination with Azure’s serverless infrastructure is designed to extend the point of sale to any place in the buying journey, with the idea to empower retailers to secure brand loyalty and drive revenue opportunities.

OneView’s platform infrastructure, using Azure functions, is designed to connect physical store operations and digital engagement via various features, including the Unified Commerce Transaction Engine, which is a processor built on cloud-native, API-first architecture, as well as a Microservices Framework, which offers brands access to hundreds of pre-built commerce microservices such as search, add product and build basket.

Additionally, the platform includes Retail Accelerators, which are pre-built physical and digital interactions ready to use out-of-the-box or customized and scaled for a retailer’s unique needs.

OneView’s unified commerce offerings are available in the Azure Marketplace with a 30-day free trial and affordable fast-start programs, including OneView Unified Commerce Platform, OneView Pickup & Delivery, OneView Mobile Point of Sale, OneView Omnichannel Point of Sale, and OneView Inventory and Distributed Order Management.

Brand acquiring

Berlin Brands Group

Amid a crowded space for brand acquirers, which are looking to compile and grow top brands selling on Amazon and other major marketplaces, Berlin Brands Group is one of multiple businesses looking to capitalize on the continued infusion of capital into the “roll-up” space.

Berlin Brands Group (BBG) has closed a $700 million funding round from Bain Capital, comprising both equity and debt, which it will use in part to continue building its fulfillment and logistics infrastructure, as well as its tech platform, and in part to buy more companies. With the investment, the company is valued at north of $1 billion, BBG says.

In January, BBG said it would commit $302 million of its own balance sheet for M&A, and in April it announced a debt round of $240 million.

While BBG got its start initially developing its own products and selling them on Amazon and other marketplaces, the company later saw a chance to diversify that opportunity. In acquiring and merging third-party brands into its business, BBG wanted to provide these brand owners with an exit route, all while scaling them, bolstering their marketing capabilities and improving the efficiency of their operations.

The company operates of mix of 3,700 products and has curated a portfolio of 14 own brands, and says it has 1.5 billion e-commerce customers across various marketplaces where it sells goods in Europe, the U.K., the U.S. and Asia.

Heroes

U.K.-based Heroes raised $200 million in debt funding led by Crayhill Capital Management, with the intent to use the funds to accelerate growth and acquire and scale consumer brands.

Since its launch in October 2020, Heroes has scaled its business in the U.K., the E.U., North America and Asia, and through multiple acquisitions has built a portfolio of consumer brands operating on global Amazon marketplaces in categories such as baby, pets, sports, personal health, and home and garden.

The company employs more than 70 staff globally with plans to doubling headcount by the end of the year. The majority of the team is based across operational functions, such as supply chain, logistics, brand management, marketing and technology. Heroes integrates acquired brands onto its own tech-enabled and operational platform post acquisitions and scales the brands through operational optimization across logistics, marketing, channel expansion and globalization.

Heroes launched with $65 million in funding, a round comprised of both equity and debt. Other investors in the startup include 360 Capital, Fuel Ventures and Upper 90.

Olsam 

Another U.K.-based roll-up company, Olsam, secured $165 million of its own in an effort to build out a different approach when it comes to target companies. While it is focusing on categories such as home and garden, sporting goods, beatuty, baby and children products, it is also building out a strategy to sell those products, and others, on Amazon’s B2B portal.

Apeiron Investment Group led the Series A equity round, with Elevat3 also participating. North Wall Capital was behind the debt portion of the deal.

Olsam wants to continue building a stable that takes advantage of the popularity of B2B, primarily for bulk purchases. Altogether, those merchants generated $300 billion in gross merchandise value last year, and that figure is growing by 50 percent each year at the moment. Amazon itself notes that online B2B sales as a category—beyond, but also including, on Amazon itself—is about 2.3 times bigger than its B2C counterpart.

Citing Marketplace Pulse, Olsam said that some $7 billion has been spent cumulatively on acquiring these businesses. The brand acquirer estimates that there are approximately 3,000 businesses in the U.K. alone making more than $1 million each in sales on Amazon’s platform.

Forum Brands

E-commerce acquisition platform Forum Brands has secured $100 million in debt funding from TriplePoint Capital.

The financing comes just over two months after the startup raised $27 million in an equity funding round led by Norwest Venture Partners.

Forum says its technology employs advanced algorithms that measure more than 100 million data points to populate brand information into a central platform in real time, scoring brands and generating accurate financial metrics.

The company recently acquired two companies: Bonza, a pet product retailer, and Simka Rose, an eco-friendly baby products company. By buying these brands, the startup said it hopes to widen its global reach and integrate more high-quality brands.

Investors put nearly $9 billion into Amazon acquisition startups from April 2020 to September this year, according to a Marketplace Pulse report.

3D product visualization

Cappasity

Cappasity, a solution provider that creates and integrates interactive 3D content for e-commerce, has launched the 3DShot mobile app for classified sections so users can create a 3D view of an item and integrate it into a website. The app enables users to share 3D views on websites, marketplaces and classifieds to sell a product faster.

Classified users can download 3DShot as an application, digitize their items in 3D locally in the app and share the resulting 3D View on a product page. In this case, a classified should do a simple integration to support a new content format on the website. Another option is to embed the features of 3DShot 3D capturing into a classified application.

Cappasity raised $2.1 million in funding to integrate the 3D digitizing solution into leading global classifieds and marketplaces. The 3DShot platform is designed so users can digitize anything from a laptop to a car. Users also can integrate their content into AliExpress, Shopify, Magento, Wix, WooCommerce, Tilda, Readymag and the majority of website constructors.

Kufar, a part of Adevinta Group, is one of the first classifieds to allow its users to create immersive content with the 3DShot app. Adevinta operates classifieds in 16 countries. The Kufar.by website is reported to have over 30.9 million monthly visits and is currently ranked the world’s 15th most popular classified.

Self-checkout

Zippin

Zippin, a developer of checkout-free technology, has closed a $30 million Series B funding round with participation from new and existing investors including OurCrowd, Maven Ventures, Evolv Ventures and SAP. This new round brings Zippin’s total funding to more than $45 million.

This funding round will enable Zippin to scale its checkout-free platform and power “tens of thousands of stores” by 2025, the company said. Zippin says the round comes as the company has recently signed numerous new accounts and launched multiple new public checkout-free stores.

Zippin currently powers checkout-free stores across four continents including convenience stores, grocery stores, sports stadiums, hotels and residential buildings. Zippin’s customers include food service providers Aramark Corporation and Compass Group, Japanese convenience store chain Lawson and Brazil-based mass merchant Americanas, all of which are rapidly expanding their checkout-free store footprint.

The cashierless checkout company’s multi-modal AI technology is built to deliver greater than 99.9 percent accuracy even in stores with high shopper density and a complex selection of products, including unbranded and small-sized items. But the solution is designed to work equally well in newly constructed stores and existing store retrofits.

The Series B funding will help Zippin accelerate innovation in both deployment and maintenance, with the company already cutting time-to-deployment by a factor of five with its Cube technology. Zippin’s goal is to retrofit stores within a single day with zero or minimal down time for retailers.

Many of the Zippin-powered stores in sports venues can attract up to 500 shoppers in a single hour, said Jon Medved, CEO and founder of investment firm OurCrowd.

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