The weekly Retail Tech Roundup compiles technology news across the supply chain, manufacturing, retail, e-commerce, logistics and fulfillment sectors.
Fintech, banking and “buy now, pay later” giant Klarna has acquired Hero, a platform designed to connect online shoppers with in-store product experts, for an undisclosed sum. A report from the Wall Street Journal estimates the deal was approximately $160 million.
Within the Hero platform, store associates can provide inspiration, reviews and advice to shoppers via messaging, video chat and social-style content, essentially becoming content creators for the retailer. Hero’s existing products will be immediately available to Klarna’s 250,000 retail partners, which includes apparel sellers such as H&M, Saks, Macy’s, Asos, Ralph Lauren, Abercrombie & Fitch and Shein, among others.
Hero counts global brands such as Levi’s, Harvey Nichols, Herman Miller and Rag & Bone among its customer base and shares a number of customers with Klarna, including JD Sports and Nike.
The Swedish fintech is now valued at $45.6 billion, the second-largest private fintech company worldwide behind Stripe, after raising $639 million in funding in June.
Sebastian Siemiatkowski, CEO of Klarna, said in a statement that the deal creates a huge opportunity to enable in-store retail professionals to become global brand ambassadors. Ultimately, the online-offline convergence that both companies aim to achieve is designed to provide consumers with an engaging, personalized shopping journey that helps them make more informed purchasing decisions, he said.
And for Hero, founder Adam Levene said the deal ensures that its technology is brought to “even more merchants and consumers across the world.”
All of Hero’s approximately 100 employees across London and New York will join Klarna upon the acquisition. Klarna has over 4,000 employees and is active in 17 markets.
Klarna, known most in the U.S. for its installment payments platform, has recently been expanding the suite of tools available to allow retailers to engage with consumers as it looks to become a more all-encompassing shopping service. In December, Klarna acquired Shoptail, a comparison shopping service designed to ensure retailers can compete in the online ad space by giving consumers access to search-based deals, and Toplooks, an AI-powered styling engine that allows retailers to create shoppable content by suggesting complementary items to consumers across their web and social channels.
Both companies are banking that social commerce becomes a major part of e-commerce shopping habits, with Klarna citing a TechNavio study that U.S. social commerce sales are expected to reach $84 billion by 2024, 15 percent of total estimated U.S. e-commerce volumes. The company also pointed to eMarketer’s 2019 prediction that an estimated 28 percent of the U.S. population is expected to be social shoppers by 2022.
Vera Bradley/Reflexis Systems
Vera Bradley has selected Reflexis Appointments from workforce management and execution solutions provider Reflexis Systems to enable shoppers to book in-person or virtual shopping sessions ahead of time. Reflexis Appointments also is designed to help the handbags, luggage and travel accessories retailer’s stores stay in compliance with evolving state and municipal mandates as pandemic restrictions ease in the U.S.
Customers can book time slots on the retailer’s website to shop in-store or virtually from home, schedule curbside pickup and join on-site queues for walk-in service.
“Reflexis Appointments lets customers initiate and choose their shopping experience, and our stores have benefited from this customized approach,” said Kelly Brown, vice president of stores, Vera Bradley. “This helpful technology ensures we have the right employees in place to meet our customers’ needs and feedback has shown shoppers plan to continue using this personalized approach in the future.”
Booked appointments are automatically accounted for in labor forecasts and schedules, essentially giving the retailer a better opportunity to ensure the right staff with the right skills are working at the right time to meet customer demand. Appointment data can also be integrated with a CRM or other third-party systems to improve customer-facing processes.
The companies said feedback from Vera Bradley shoppers has shown that they intend to take a more “tailored” approach to shopping well into the future.
Zebra Technologies acquired Reflexis for $575 million last year to expand its software offerings into retail task management.
EnVista, a global supply chain software, consulting, managed services and automation solutions firm, has acquired long-time partner HCM Systems, a systems integrator specializing in conveyor hardware and software, controls, robotics, accessory equipment, installation and systems management for manufacturing and distribution-centric organizations.
HCM has grown from a single line conveyor distributorship into a material handling integration company with an extensive range of automated solutions.
The acquisition comes at an important time on multiple fronts, as automation demand has never been higher due to continued elevated e-commerce sales and ongoing labor shortages that have continued in the U.S., said Mike Kasperski, senior vice president of automation at enVista.
Both enVista and HCM would bring combined expertise across process optimization, labor, facility design, engineering, robotics and systems selection and implementation, in an effort to optimize manufacturing and distribution operations and accelerate time to value.
HCM’s capabilities will be integrated into enVista’s enterprise suite of solutions, while the HCM team will be onboarded under the enVista umbrella, according to enVista CEO Jim Barnes.
EnVista’s DC Optimization and Automation solutions include process optimization, workforce management, facility design/build, engineering, robotics proof of concept and implementations, systems selection and implementation and more. The team includes implementation experts to help clients project and model an optimal approach to both distribution center labor productivity and automation.
HCM’s core competencies are projects involving conveyor, conveyor control, warehouse control system (WCS) to warehouse management system (WMS) data processing, high speed pick-and-pack applications, palletizing systems, end of the line packaging systems and bar code scanning.
Viscata, a Barcelona-based seller of luxury espadrille footwear and accessories, has selected the Chief Returns Officer solution from returns reduction and intelligence technology provider Newmine.
Already committed to a sustainable approach to manufacturing, escalating product returns have become top of mind for Viscata, a premium footwear brand that uses traditional artisan techniques to handcraft its products. By partnering with Newmine, Viscata is aiming to strengthen its commitment to reducing its carbon footprint.
“Newmine’s platform is comprehensive and will aid us in improving financial performance while supporting our sustainability goals.” said Guillaume Benoit, global supply chain director at Viscata. “Newmine takes a visionary approach to the issue of returns. With Returns Intelligence, we’ll reduce hassle, cut down on expenses, harness customer feedback, all while ensuring our supply chain remains resilient, efficient, and sustainable.”
Newmine’s Chief Returns Officer is an AI-powered SaaS solution that is designed to proactively analyze and identify the root cause of returns. The solution is built to empower retailers in-season to address the upstream issues with machine learning, prescriptive actions and workflow collaboration.
Perfitly, a virtual reality/augmented reality (VR/AR) and AI-powered virtual fitting room solution, has closed a $725,000 equity round through crowdfunding platform SeedInvest.
Perfitly’s solutions are designed to reduce returns and increase sales, enabling online shoppers to visualize garments on a “digital body double.” With this visualization, the technology is designed to generate more confident purchases and size selection, so that shoppers can avoid abandoned carts and unnecessary purchases of multiple sizes that ultimately become returns.
The funding will be used to onboard and serve clients in its pipeline, which includes several top-10 retailers, the company says. Additionally, Perfitly wants to accelerate its product roadmap, and continue building its team and operations, especially in sales and marketing.
Co-founding CEO Dave Sharma says Perfitly’s goal is to reach approximately 200 client retailers of varying sizes by 2024.
Using Perfitly’s VR/AR solutions, garments are e-stitched to create a 3D replica, including all fabric properties: density, weight, stiffness, stretch, friction and more. When shoppers click Perfitly’s “Try it on” button embedded on a retailer’s product display page, they’re able to see and interact with their personalized avatar wearing the Perfitly recommended size. From here, users can size up and down, zoom and rotate their avatar in order to find their perfect fit.
NewStore, an omnichannel store solution, today announced it has secured $45 million in Series B-1 funding. The strategic investment comes after the company saw global SaaS revenue grow over 100 percent year over year in the first half of 2021.
The company says it will use the investment to fuel its go-to-market strategy, expand globally, speed up product development and increase employee headcount.
In the past year, NewStore has expanded its portfolio in apparel to include organizations like Burton Snowboards, Unified Commerce Group’s Frank And Oak, Marine Layer, Faherty Brand and Goorin Bros.
These wins also expanded NewStore’s geographic footprint, which now includes 20 countries across North America, Europe and Asia Pacific.
NewStore’s solution is positioned as an “Omnichannel-as-a-Service” platform, since it applies capabilities across the front and back ends including POS, order management, endless aisle retailing, clienteling and inventory management. The platform helps retailers unify their digital and physical retail operations by collecting customer, order and inventory data into a cloud-based omnichannel order management system that is made available in real time through the POS. Store associates leverage the technology via iPhone and iPad apps to assist the shopper.
NewStore is backed by investors including General Catalyst, Activant Capital and Salesforce Ventures.
Missoni, the Italian luxury fashion house known for its colorful knitwear and designs, is partnering with Tulip to create hyper-personalized customer experiences across the entire connected store. With Tulip’s solutions, retail associates can create seamless holistic shopping experiences and provide curated recommendations for their clientele through applications designed specifically for them.
“This is an important and fundamental partnership for Missoni. We believe Tulip will prove to be an invaluable tool in helping further facilitate Missoni’s continued journey in digital innovations; which must always be based on a deeper understanding and engagement of the consumer,” said Missoni CEO Livio Proli.
Buy now, pay later
“Buy now, pay later” platform Afterpay is now partnering with Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW) to bring its services to the global retail real estate giant’s shopping centers. The partnership extends to Westfield centers in the U.S., with plans to expand the tie-up globally in the coming months.
Several new brands with a Westfield location across the country have recently begun to accept Afterpay, including Aldo, The Children’s Place, Lush Cosmetics and The Container Store. Afterpay says that nearly 4.5 million customers have set up the Afterpay Card to shop in person since its solution went live in Fall 2020.
“Afterpay is the ideal BNPL partner for us because we share a commitment to providing seamless and effective solutions to retailers that, in-turn, provide increased choice and flexibility for consumers,” said Colin Shaughnessy, executive vice president, U.S. leasing, URW. “We look forward to working together to elevate the in-store shopping and media experience across our portfolio in the U.S.”
A recent survey conducted by Westfield found that nearly half of consumers are excited to shop in-person again, with 63 percent of consumers calling in-person shopping a “special treat.” The immediacy of in-person shopping also has an impact, with 73 percent of shoppers stating that the ability to go home with their purchases right away, is a big factor in their decision to return to malls, the study said.
Afterpay is offered by nearly 86,000 global retailers and has more than 17 million customers in North America alone, the company says.
Aria Network/Brookfield Properties
The Aria Network, an integrated media network that builds augmented reality (AR) experiences, is exclusively partnering with Brookfield Properties to bring AR to all the REIT’s shopping centers.
The deal will allow Aria to provide localized and general advertising through AR, powered by its ARIA 360° AR technology, within the common areas of Brookfield Properties malls nationwide, representing more than 100 locations across 42 states and over 150 million square feet of retail space.
The AR-based experiences are accessible via mobile devices, and include digital store directories, wayfinding and unique in-store promotions for brands and tenants. Aria also said there is potential to bring touch-free transactions to the shopper with these experiences.
“We are excited to partner with Aria within our retail portfolio,” says Brookfield Properties’ senior director of strategic partnerships, Patrick Pechous. “Brookfield Properties is always seeking new, innovative experiences for our guests, and we know our shopping center communities will embrace this new offering.”
The Aria 360° AR technology recently powered immersive AR experiences at the Super Bowl through the Pepsi Halftime AR featuring The Weeknd.
Marketers using the technology can generate first-party data with real-time insight into how shoppers engage, what triggers conversion and what content resonates, the company said.
“Through this agreement, we are able to leverage millions of square feet of untapped ad inventory—the virtual air rights in the common spaces of leading malls across the country,” said Aria co-CEO Darren Mann.
In addition to the exclusive deal with Brookfield Properties, Aria is also bringing its AR advertising platform to public spaces in stadiums, airports, concerts venues, music festivals and universities.
Aria will begin working with new partners to bring the 2021 holiday season to life with AR experiences across the common areas of Brookfield Properties malls. In addition, Aria is creating an immersive Metaverse to expand authentic experiences for consumers in a unique, virtual world inspired by user communities. Aria also powers the Aria Exchange, a carbon-neutral NFT trading platform.
AI forecasting technology company antuit.ai released its AI Demand Modeling Studio to the consumer products and retail market. The solution is designed to enable companies with production-ready AI models, pipelines and workflows to leverage demand forecasting, shaping and fulfillment use cases.
With a goal to help retailers and brands better understand consumer demand and more accurately forecast future demand, the AI Demand Modeling Studio is built so its possible for companies to adopt AI-driven forecasting and other demand modeling practices without the heavy lifting required from generic AI platforms, nor the restrictions of black-box solutions to customize pre-built models.
Antuit.ai’s AI Demand Modeling Studio is customizable by design, allowing companies the ability to augment, extend, tune and drive continuous improvement of the models. Data science teams can now configure antuit.ai’s AI models, or bring their own, in the same low-code modeling studio.
Namogoo, an e-commerce technology company focused on delivering intent-based promotions, has acquired data-driven marketing automation solutions provider Remarkety. This is Namogoo’s second strategic deal since early 2020, when it acquired behavior analytics company Personali.
The acquisition of Remarkety, which serves more than 500 global brands, extends Namogoo’s goal to provide what it calls “digital journey continuity” by engaging customers with hyper-personalized multichannel experiences both on and off-site.
Additionally, the deal will also allow Namogoo to break into the SMB market in which Remarkety is well-established, furthering the company’s strategy of serving brands of all sizes.
Namogoo is designed to empower retailers to personalize the digital customer journey for shoppers by determining their intent in real-time, delivering individualized experience to get them to purchase, all while mitigating distracting ads that could take them off the retailer’s website. Namogoo will now add hyper-targeted SMS and email campaigns to its solution.