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Retail Tech: Instacart Acquires Caper AI for $350M, NetSuite Unveils Analytics Warehouse

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

Livestreaming

OOOOO

Mobile video commerce platform OOOOO Entertainment Commerce Limited has signed a 10-year lease for a 20,000 square foot commercial space in Manchester, U.K. that will serve as a video content studio and “training center” for U.K. clients.

The new flagship studio in Manchester’s Trafford Park industrial zone is positioned as a key part of OOOOO’s strategic initiative to provide retailers, brands, entrepreneurs and creators with production facilities to create video content that is shoppable on the OOOOO app and other mediums including TikTok.

The new studio has multiple coves and over 30 production-themed sets, including a gym, bar, kitchen, bathroom and a plane. The studio also offers dedicated space for top clients, customized for their brand and ready-to-make content. In addition to production space, the new facility will act as a center of excellence to train presenters and clients in the fast growth area of video commerce.

Sam Jones, co-founder and CEO of OOOOO, said in a statement that over the last year, the business learned that many U.K. companies are not fully equipped to embrace live commerce. He indicated that there is a “talent and infrastructure gap” for brands and retailers in what is required to make video content that can lead to sales.

Jones indicated that creating content and training clients under a single roof can help OOOOO scale, which has happened to many Chinese companies that built out their own studio hubs.

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He believes the livestream commerce platform can make more than 100 shows per day in this space, indicating that OOOOO is working to become a “modern version of a mall, replacing stores with videos.”

Having launched in November 2020, the OOOOO platform has seen more than 360,000 installs to date and successfully onboarded brands across the fashion, sports, beauty and wellness industries.

Autonomous delivery

Ryder System/Gatik

Supply chain, transportation, and fleet management solutions provider Ryder System, Inc. has unveiled a multi-year partnership with Gatik, a provider of automated on-road transportation for short-haul, middle-mile logistics, in an effort to establish an autonomous logistics network for Gatik’s customers nationwide. Gatik currently focuses on short-haul, B2B logistics for Fortune 500 retailers such as Walmart and Canadian supermarket Loblaw, delivering goods from warehouses to the merchants’ stores.

The partnership comes two months after Gatik’s latest funding round, which totaled $85 million, including an investment from Ryder’s corporate venture capital fund RyderVentures. The investment arm specifically aims to invest in and partner with early-stage companies that are developing new technologies and business models that deliver advancements and automation in the logistics and transportation industries. The funding represents RyderVentures’ first investment in an autonomous trucking company.

Gatik said it will use the funding to advance its commercial-grade autonomous technology, scale its fleet of Class 3-6 multi-temperature autonomous box trucks across new markets in North America, grow with existing and new customers, and increase its team size.

Gatik said it will use the funding to advance its commercial-grade autonomous technology, scale its fleet of Class 3-6 multi-temperature autonomous box trucks across new markets in North America, grow with existing and new customers, and increase its team size.

Through the broader partnership, Gatik will lease a fleet of medium-duty, multi-temperature box trucks from Ryder designed for transporting goods to retail locations from micro-fulfillment centers or dark stores. Approximately 20 trucks will be deployed in the Dallas area.

Gatik will integrate its commercial-grade autonomous driving technology into the leased fleet, enabling Gatik to provide what it calls its “autonomous delivery as a service (ADaaS)” model to its new and existing customers. In addition to providing the leased vehicles, Ryder will service and maintain the trucks, including calibration of autonomous vehicle sensors and the necessary pre- and post-trip inspections.

Going forward, Ryder and Gatik will explore opportunities for Ryder to manage the logistics operations of the autonomous fleet as well, allowing Gatik to focus on its unique, end-to-end ADaaS business model and manage long-standing relationships with its customer base.

The goal of the partnership is to expand quickly across the U.S. and Canada, with the initial focus on the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Gatik’s autonomous box trucks are commercially deployed in multiple markets including Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Ontario. Ryder currently manages nearly 235,000 commercial vehicles and operates more than 300 warehouses encompassing approximately 64 million square feet across the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the U.K.

Ryder manages and maintains a test fleet for Waymo, the self-driving truck unit of Google, as well as autonomous truck technology company TuSimple.

Influencer marketing

Grin

Grin, a creator management platform for direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands, has closed a $110 million Series B funding round led by Lone Pine Capital.

The new funding increases Grin’s overall valuation to $910 million and will allow the company to continue growing its executive leadership team, expand into international markets including the U.K. and Australia and continue working toward its vision of “building the infrastructure for the creator economy.”

With the creator economy currently estimated at over $100 billion, according to The Influencer Marketing Factory, both brands and creators are looking to discover new ways to optimize partnerships as the pool of creators expands beyond “influencers.” Grin largely concentrates on micro influencers, who have 100,000 followers or fewer.

Grin’s creator management platform is built to enable brands to form close relationships with every creator they work with, including influencers, affiliates, athletes, celebrities, traditional content creators and even customers. The company is also working to solve problems for creators with a suite of tools covering finance, communications, and more.

The round also included participation from Bond Capital, a host of top content creators like Danielle Bernstein of women’s apparel brand WeWoreWhat, fitness influencer Devon Levesque, pop music artists The Chainsmokers, and others, in addition to existing investors like Imaginary Ventures.

The funding brings Grin up to $145.3 million raised, according to venture capital tracking site Crunchbase. In its fall report, the company said it had 214 employees. Supporting the goal of expanding its executive leadership team, Grin added Jay Simons of Bond Capital to the company as a board observer.

ERP

Oracle NetSuite

Oracle NetSuite unveiled a series of new product innovations to help organizations accelerate growth. The latest solutions include the SuiteBanking platform that integrates fintech into NetSuite, a new analytics warehouse that helps customers enhance decision making and uncover additional revenue streams, and expanded support services for customers to leverage the full power of NetSuite.

The SuiteBanking solution is designed to help customers automate key financial processes and gain full visibility into their cash flow. By bringing together automated accounts payable and accounts receivable processes, SuiteBanking can let brands pay bills, send invoices and get paid, all from within NetSuite.

NetSuite’s Analytics Warehouse is built on Oracle Analytics Cloud and Oracle Autonomous Data Warehouse, and is designed to help customers spot patterns and quickly surface insights from NetSuite and third-party data to enhance decision-making and uncover new revenue streams.

And expanding on NetSuite’s Advanced Customer Support service, the new Advanced Customer Support Playbooks can help customers accelerate their return on investment. The playbooks are based on experience and data from thousands of implementations and assist customers in addressing operational challenges, such as revenue recognition, project profitability or supply chain management, and cross-functional processes like quote to cash.

In addition, the ERP platform has brought new analytics and automation innovations into its existing solutions. With the new capabilities, organizations can improve decision making, streamline business processes, simplify payments, reduce IT complexity and enhance the customer and employee experience.

For example, the company’s analytics platform includes new 360 dashboards designed to provide a focused work space that aggregates the rich data and functionality across NetSuite, letting users enhance insight, automation, collaboration and streamline day-to-day tasks around critical business functions like inventory, customers, projects, and cash flow.

In the supply chain, NetSuite enhanced capabilities to enable planners to allocate inventory by gross profit or revenue and more accurately predict availability at a given location—factoring in supply chain lead times, allocation strategies, sales channel allocations and reservations—so that organizations can prioritize inventory to sales orders and allocate stock more profitably.

And Smart Count, a new automated cycle counting solution, automatically triggers cycle counts based on events, stock levels, sales velocity thresholds, or on a schedule, and tally scans without impacting operations in the location. By automating count approvals based on an established threshold, organizations can reduce time spent counting inventory, avoid stock outs and increase customer satisfaction.

New intelligent product recommendations in SuiteCommerce now leverage transactional and behavioral data to drive more sales by enabling organizations to personalize offers to website visitors and predict which products are likely to be relevant for each individual shopper. In addition, new NetSuite Connectors provide integrations with marketplaces such as Amazon and Walmart, third party logistics providers, and other e-commerce platforms like Shopify enabling customers to add new channels that can support growth.

The NetSuite updates also include areas within HR, finance, platform and infrastructure; and project management.

Logistics/transportation

SPS Commerce/C.H. Robinson

SPS Commerce and C.H. Robinson have collaborated ahead of the 2021 holiday season time to help omnichannel retailers make their shipping process easier, more cost-effective and faster. With the partnership, SPS Commerce integrates its Carrier Service LTL directly into C.H. Robinson’s Navisphere platform, giving users access to a less-than-truckload (LTL) network across North America and competitive rates for more than 95,000 retail suppliers.

The new Carrier Service LTL solution from SPS Commerce is built to allow suppliers to instantly view rates across multiple carriers, schedule pickups and book shipments, with automatic access to C.H. Robinson’s LTL carrier network to ensure they get the best pricing available. Additionally, as suppliers book a shipment, it automatically triggers the creation of the bill of lading documents and shipping labels and populates tracking details into the shipping notice to inform the retailer of the pending delivery.

This type of connectivity is aimed to help companies moving their goods via LTL enter a busy retail season. LTL freight has increased 9.1 percent in 2021 and many carriers are not accepting new business or are implementing unprecedented peak surcharges. Adding to the challenges is a truck driver shortage. The American Trucking Associations (ATA) estimated a pre-pandemic driver shortage of 60,800 that is expected to grow to 160,000 by 2028, which will further constrain the market.

These challenges are systemic across retail, and without deploying further automation and creative tech solutions, may result in delayed shipments that result in chargeback fees from retailers, out-of-stock positions in stores and lost sales.

Additionally, the challenges could lead to increased errors that boost return rates and decrease customer satisfaction/reviews, and employee burnout as data entry and other manual processes are tedious and labor-intensive.

RFID/inventory visibility

XXL All Sports United/Nedap

Sports and outdoor retailer XXL All Sports United has deployed the iD Cloud platform from RFID solutions provider Nedap.

XXL All Sports United, which operates stores in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Austria, has deployed iD Cloud in all Norwegian stores and will finalize the rollout to the rest of its 89 stores before the end of first half of 2022. Nedap’s partner, security services provider Securitas, is implementing the technology.

“We were pleased to see that we grew in all our markets this past year, now it is up to us to maintain and further strengthen this position. One of the key contributors to this growth is our e-commerce strategy,” said Pål Wibe, CEO at XXL All Sports United said in a statement. “If we want to stay in the driver seat, we need healthy inventory and operational excellence. RFID is a key technology to make this happen.”

Before implementing RFID, XXL All Sports United had an average in-store inventory accuracy of 75 percent to 85 percent. Besides losing sales in store by not having the right items available with the subsequent negative customer experience, this also led to inefficiencies fulfilling e-commerce orders. In some cases, items had to come from multiple stores to get one order out of the door.

“We tried to offer omnichannel services like click-and-collect with other technologies. However, none of these provided us with what we really needed: a single point of truth, showing all inventory we have available,” said Espen Terland, chief information officer at XXL All Sports United in a statement. “We are now close to 100 percent accuracy and this really builds the foundation for us to trust our stock levels, digitize our store inventory, display this online and optimize our customers’ experience by giving them the items they want, when they want them.”

XXL All Sports United now feels the technology can help the retailer replenish the store stock in a much more detailed way, and also leverage store stock to fulfill e-commerce orders and offer omnichannel services.

“This way we optimize the customer experience against healthy margins,” Terland said.

With between 70,000 and 100,000 items in store, refill processes used to take several hours, the retailer said.

“Based on RFID data, store associates are now able to quickly look up on their mobile devices the items they need to refill,” Terland said. “This ensures that we always have the right item available. By limiting the time spent replenishing the store, we can now spend more time helping customers.”

XXL All Sports United leverages RFID source-tagged items from brands such as Under Armour. Non-tagged items will be provided with an RFID label in stores, or as a value-added service by some of the brands. The more brands that come in source-tagged, the higher the efficiency gains are expected to be.

Checkout

Instacart

Delivery giant Instacart has acquired AI-powered shopping cart and checkout technology platform Caper AI for $350 million in cash and stock.

This acquisition is designed to expand Instacart’s retailer enablement platform, which currently spans the Instacart marketplace and bolster the company’s enterprise services and fulfillment technology to support delivery and pickup capabilities, last-mile delivery, and much more. With this deal, Instacart aims to help retailers unify the in-store and online shopping experience for customers, supporting their businesses across channels.

Caper seeks to reimagine the in-store shopping journey by developing AI-powered shopping carts and automated checkout counters that bring together online and offline shopping to create a new in-store shopping experience for customers. Caper’s object recognition system lets customers place items into their cart such as fruits, vegetables and other items without having to scan or weigh them, and check out at the cart.

The company also develops smart checkout counters that use cameras and a weight sensor to auto-detect items placed on its counter, creating an easier and faster express checkout flow for customers at grocery and convenience stores.

In addition to streamlining the in-store shopping and checkout process, Caper is built to help create unique and more personalized shopping experiences. Caper’s carts feature touch-enabled screens that let customers navigate brick-and-mortar grocery store aisles more seamlessly. The screens also make product suggestions based on what’s in a customer’s cart.

Over time, Instacart expects to integrate Caper’s technology into the Instacart app and the websites and apps of its retail partners, allowing customers to build online shopping lists and browse recipes ahead of time and check off their lists as they go. And, for Instacart shoppers who shop on behalf of customers, they can also utilize the carts to find items more efficiently and bypass long checkout lines.

For retailers, Caper’s smart cart technology can offer a plug-and-play solution that requires little capital expenditure. The technology can enable brick-and-mortar retailers to create compelling experiences for customers and drive growth for their business by increasing average basket sizes relative to traditional shopping carts.

Caper’s smart carts are currently deployed at some North American grocers, including Instacart partners Kroger and Wakefern, as well as Sobeys in Canada. This is in addition to their smart checkout counters in convenience stores. Caper’s smart carts were the first carts in the U.S. approved by the federal government’s NTEP (National Type Evaluation Program), which certifies that it can accurately sell items that are priced by weight and measures, like produce and bulk items.

Product information management

Stride Rite/Salsify

Stride Rite, a premium children’s footwear brand, has selected Salsify as its new product information management (PIM) system as it moves away from a custom PIM. Digital commerce agency CQL will implement the PIM system.

The footwear brand’s PIM will create a product management experience designed to allow the business to grow their sales channels and optimize organizational efficiencies in product data management.

“Vida Shoes values its strong and long-standing partnership with CQL, and we are confident in CQL’s recommendation for Stride Rite to implement Salsify,” said Todd Dreith, vice president of customer experience and direct-to-consumer at Vida Shoes, the parent company of Stride Rite. “With CQL’s implementation of a new Salsify PIM, Stride Rite will have a robust, flexible central repository for all of our product information, providing a better digital experience and speed to market across our retail, marketplace, and e-commerce channels.”

Stride Rite’s Salsify PIM implementation includes data model blueprints, development of a middleware solution to connect Salsify with Stride Rite’s M3 ERP system, product data migration, and integration into the Stride Rite website. An agency partner of Salsify, CQL integrates PIM systems on multiple commerce platforms including Salesforce, Shopify Plus, and Magento to help brands win on the digital shelf.

CQL plans to launch the Salsify PIM system for Stride Rite in late fourth quarter 2021.

Disaster recovery

Pivotree

Pivotree Inc., a provider of frictionless commerce solutions, has been selected by an undisclosed high-end fashion retailer to upgrade its disaster recovery program using the company’s cloud-based managed service. Pivotree’s cloud-based Disaster Recovery (DR) solutions are designed to offer retailers a fail-safe option that can guarantee continuity of a frictionless commerce experience for customers in the event of technical disruptions that interrupt digital commerce transactions.

Pivotree’s cloud-based DR solutions leverage AWS capabilities and are aimed at retailers with Oracle Commerce ATG that do not have modernized DR solutions, or have disaster recovery in multiple data centers that do not operate in the cloud.

As retailers have grown their dependence on e-commerce, so does their need to prevent a disaster that could interrupt their ability to perform commerce online. Pivotree’s cloud-based disaster recovery solutions are built to offer advantages including rapid implementation, lowered total cost of ownership by using elastic AWS services for disaster recovery, and reduced ongoing maintenance.

Pivotree also provides real-time monitoring to ensure the DR environment is always ready to go with regular testing and updates to the disaster “run book.”

As part of its portfolio of enterprise-class commerce solutions, Pivotree’s AWS implementations are ultimately there to help brands innovate and reduce costs using the platform.

Personalization

Indochino/Exchange Solutions

Made-to-measure men’s apparel brand Indochino, has partnered with Exchange Solutions, a personalized loyalty solutions provider. With the partnership the retailer will leverage ES Engage, Exchange Solutions’ digital commerce personalization product, to maximize its online engagement and conversion growth goals.

ES Engage is built to empower retail brands to deliver one-to-one promotions at scale, in real-time. After a tag-based implementation, ES Engage showcases customized offers to both known consumers and browsers throughout their online or app-based shopping sessions. Offer types and values are optimized in the moment to give the consumer the right incentive at the right time, with the aim to remain profitable for the retailer, eliminating the need to solely rely on deep discount offers to drive revenue.

Indochino said in a statement that it “immediately recognized the impact one-to-one personalized offer can have on digital sales,” especially given a custom suit is a considered purchase. Providing the right offers at the right time is a way to help entice first time customers to complete their shopping experience with confidence, while existing consumers can be incentivized to buy a product they haven’t tried yet.

Product lifecycle

Clyde

Clyde, a product lifecycle platform, announced it has raised $41 million, including $25 million in Series B funding and $16 million in working capital, to enable merchants to create product lifecycle programs that can grow revenue and drive loyalty. The funding round was led by Headline, with participation from Vulcan, Spark Capital, Crosslink and other leading investors.

With the funding, Clyde plans to further its vision of helping merchants maximize the performance of their product lifecycle programs and the longevity of their customer relationships, while enabling customers to unlock the full value of the products they buy.

Clyde will expand its GDPR and CCPA-compliant platform so merchants can identify and build direct relations with customers, even when they purchase through third parties. This would ideally provide merchants with a better understanding of their products and customers, while driving higher attachment rates and more revenue. Additionally, Clyde will leverage the funding to fuel its expansion into new markets and categories, beginning with hiring new talent and scaling internationally.

The company was launched in 2017 by founder and CEO Brandon Gell on the premise that the extended warranty process was broken, both for merchants and consumers. In 2018, Clyde launched its core offering, an extended warranty product designed to allow merchants to sell protection plans, drive revenue and deliver unbeatable customer experiences. The platform now also includes a unified claims management tool for merchants to handle all customer and product issues, regardless of whether or not they own a protection plan.

To date, Clyde has partnered with more than 300 brands and retailers. Merchants using Clyde’s extended warranty solution see an 18 percent average attachment rate—the frequency at which consumers purchase extended warranties for eligible items. Clyde’s customer list spans a number of industries and verticals, including consumer and household electronics, scooters and e-bikes, furniture and mattresses, appliances and hardware, fitness and sporting equipment, and jewelry and watch brands.