The weekly Retail Tech Roundup compiles technology news across the supply chain, manufacturing, retail, e-commerce, logistics and fulfillment sectors.
Buy now, pay later
As if a $650 million investment in September 2020 wasn’t enough, Klarna has secured a $1 billion equity funding round that now makes the buy-now, pay-later company the highest-valued private fintech player in Europe at $31 billion.
With the round, Klarna looks to accelerate its international expansion initiatives and further capture global retail growth, but the payments giant is now shifting gears to focus on sustainability. The company announced that it will pledge 1 percent of the capital raised to a newly created initiative that focuses on key sustainability challenges around the world, to be formally launched April 22 on Earth Day.
“Each and every one of us at Klarna will continue to work hard on this, but it is also time for us, with our culture of change, disruption and innovation, to focus on tackling bigger, more complex issues,” Sebastian Siemiatkowski, co-founder and CEO of Klarna, said in a statement. “I believe our industry has a responsibility to help in some way solve global sustainability issues and I hope others will join Klarna in our ambition.”
Klarna said that the round was funded by a combination of new and existing investors, but did not reveal specifics of who led the investment. The latest investment comes on the heels of a strong 2020 for Klarna, where transaction volume and revenue grew 46 percent and 40 percent year over year to more than $53 billion and $1 billion respectively.
The company’s “buy now, pay later” platform is active in more than 17 countries, and has over 250,000 retail partners, including Macy’s, Ralph Lauren, Urban Outfitters, H&M, Ikea, Asos, Peloton, Abercrombie & Fitch, Nike, Adidas and AliExpress, among others.
But while Klarna may be known for that component of its business in the U.S., where installment payments is seeing rapid growth amid more mobile-savvy, money-saving shoppers, the company hopes to foster a bigger financial relationship with its users as a fully fledged challenger bank. Klarna offers a range of licensed banking services, such as savings and current accounts in Sweden and Germany, with more countries to follow.
The fintech has been backed by Sequoia Capital since 2010. More recent investors include Dragoneer, Bestseller Group, Permira, Visa, Atomico, Ant Group, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Silver Lake, HMI Capital, TCV, Northzone, GIC (Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund) and funds and accounts managed by BlackRock.
The funding comes in just ahead of Klarna’s second annual “Hauliday” event with Cosmopolitan Magazine, which will feature sales and deals from top names across fashion, apparel, footwear and beauty.
Vestiaire Collective has reached unicorn status after securing a new financing round of 178 million euros ($216 million) led by French luxury giant Kering and U.S.-based investment firm Tiger Global Management.
Following a strong year that saw the platform’s transaction volume grow over 100 percent on a year-on-year basis, this financing round will position the luxury resale platform to accelerate its growth in the accelerating secondhand fashion market.
The funding came from a collective of existing shareholders including Vestiaire Collective’s CEO, Max Bittner and Condé Nast, as well as venture and investment firms including Bpifrance, the Eurazeo Group, certain funds managed by Fidelity International, Korelya Capital, Luxury Tech Fund and Vitruvian Partners.
In a statement, Bittner said the investment confirms the platform’s model, which has “clearly demonstrated its ability to continue to thrive during challenging conditions.”
“The resale sector as a whole is experiencing rapid growth,” he added, “especially amongst Millennial and Gen Z consumers, which will come to shape the retail landscape of the future.”
The pre-owned fashion sector has experienced rapid growth over the past three years and only further accelerated during the pandemic, predominantly driven by younger consumers’ increased focus on sustainability and a growing trend for both social shopping and online communities.
The number of pre-owned pieces in people’s closets is predicted to grow from 21 percent in 2021 to 27 percent in 2023, with the value of the secondhand sector forecasted to be worth over $60 billion by 2025, according to figures cited by Vestiaire Collective.
The investment from Kering, which gives the luxury group a 5 percent share of Vestiaire Collective, indicates that the owner of Gucci, Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta and Balenciaga is taking notice of the need for more innovative business models within the industry, embracing new market trends and exploring new services for fashion and luxury customers.
“Pre-owned luxury is now a real and deeply rooted trend, especially among younger customers,” said François-Henri Pinault, chairman and CEO of Kering. “Rather than ignoring it, our wish is to seize this opportunity to enhance the value we offer our customers and influence the future of our industry towards more innovative and more sustainable practices. This fits naturally with our entrepreneurial spirit, our pioneering sustainability strategy and our modern vision of luxury.”
Last month, Vestiaire Collective unveiled a buyback program with Kering-owned Alexander McQueen, the first luxury label to work with the platform for brand-approved efforts. The partnership emphasizes client relations, with plans for McQueen sales representatives to contact clients to see if they want to sell any pieces from the label, issuing credit notes for those who do, while the clothing for sale goes to the site’s brand-approved section—to be sold with an authenticity tag.
London department store Liberty is using Hero’s omnichannel technology to offer online shoppers an in-store experience. With the new virtual shopping service, at-home consumers can connect live with one of Liberty’s department-specific experts via chat and video consultations. So far, customers who shop virtually with Hero spend an average of 78 percent more when interacting with rich imagery and video content transmitted from the physical store.
“Liberty prides itself on the experience of inspiration and discovery that comes from our store” said Eric Fergusson, e-commerce director at Liberty, which offers fashion, beauty, children’s apparel, accessories and homewares. “We’ve taken several steps to permanently bring this feeling to life for our shoppers online, during the current lockdowns and long after. Hero has allowed us to make our store associates central to that experience.”
Sourcengine, a marketplace that is designed to enable original equipment manufacturers and suppliers source, negotiate and purchase on one platform, has integrated its “Quote It” RFQ (request for quote) functionality with its BOM (Bill of Materials) tool in an effort to simplify the component sourcing process for manufacturers and other purchasers.
The integration of these two tools bridges the already existing, negotiation-intensive purchasing process with an e-commerce-based component.
Via the BOM tool and Quote It, purchasers can source their materials via the Sourcengine marketplace and select products from their quoted BOM to send directly to the Quote It tool for further negotiation. This functionality is designed to streamlines the traditional negotiation-based model, which can open up additional inventory and reduce pricing, within the framework of an e-commerce purchasing experience.
Thomas Ruzika, senior product manager at Sourcengine, said that purchasers will not only be able to request a quote for an entire list of up to 4,000 parts, but can turn over negotiations on any of those parts to Sourcengine to secure a special quote from across its network of more than 3,000 vendors. According to Ruzika, this can potentially unlock additional inventory and reduced pricing.
Sourcengine’s BOM Tool allows purchasers to source and purchase entire bills of materials or any parts lists from thousands of traceable suppliers. Purchasers need to register a Sourcengine account and they can upload lists of up to 4,000 items that can be quoted. Additionally, the tool allows purchasers to customize criteria, such as pricing and lead time.
From there, Sourcengine is designed to aggregate the best offers from the thousands of vendors on its platform. Purchasers can download results as an Excel file to share with their teams, review quotes, add all or individual items to their carts and purchase with one click.
On the other hand, the Quote It Tool leverages the negotiation power and expertise of Sourcengine with the intent to find additional stock and better pricing. Purchasers can upload product lists, desired quantities and target prices to Quote It and a team of sourcing experts takes over to negotiate. Following those negotiations, Sourcengine aggregates the best offers in a cart and notifies the purchaser via email so they can view the results and complete their transaction within the online marketplace.
Post-purchase logistics platform provider Narvar and returns management provider Cycleon are partnering to create what the companies call a “full-service global returns solution” for retailers.
The intent of the partnership is to centralize brands’ entire reverse logistics engine from the customer experience, to reduced shipping rates and item consolidation, to value recovery.
In particular, the collaboration will combine Narvar’s intelligent rules engine and Cycleon’s network of 30 global distribution centers to create a more sophisticated routing automation capability that can save total carbon footprint and reduce time to process returns and refunds.
This integrated returns solution is available immediately, the companies say.
Narvar’s solution has been dedicated to simplifying the customer returns experience by enabling shoppers to drop off their returns at physical locations, and then facilitating the return for the retailer. While the average return rate for in-store purchases is about 8 percent, Narvar says, that number shoots up to 20 percent to 30 percent for online purchases depending on product category, equating to approximately $428 billion in merchandise in 2020.
In November, the software provider partnered with Simon Property Group, allowing shoppers to drop off returns from approximately two dozen brands at a participating Simon location, as well as Cole Haan, expanding the brand’s drop-off network to include more than 4,900 UPS Store locations.
The Netherlands-based Cycleon and its global physical presence, which is active in more than 80 countries, can enhance Narvar’s global presence, with the companies pointing out the need for retailers to improve some of the costs required to ship and return goods worldwide.
Walmart has partnered with BigCommerce, an open software-as-a-service (SaaS) e-commerce platform geared for both fast-growing and established brands, to enable its eligible U.S. merchants to sell products directly on Walmart Marketplace, giving them access to the more than 120 million unique consumers visiting Walmart.com each month.
The retailer said the partnership will allow it to rapidly scale the number of products it offers consumers beyond the 85 million now available.
BigCommerce merchants looking to sell through Walmart.com will also receive an expedited application review to get up and running on the marketplace quickly. For a limited time, Walmart will offer $0 commission rates to new platform sellers when they meet all New-Seller Savings offer conditions for their first month.
“After a year where our customers shopped online more than ever before, we are excited to partner with BigCommerce, an industry leading e-commerce platform, to make it even easier for sellers to grow their online business,” said Jeff Clementz, senior vice president of Walmart Marketplace. “At Walmart, we’re always thinking about how to best serve the customer and this partnership will provide customers with an even greater assortment.”
This is the second time in as many years Walmart has entered a partnership with a major e-commerce platform provider with the intent to improve traffic to its Marketplace offering. Walmart teamed up with Shopify, opening Marketplace to 1,200 U.S. Shopify sellers in 2020.
Walmart Marketplace is available as a new channel in the BigCommerce Channel Manager. By activating the Walmart Marketplace channel, merchants using BigCommerce can start selling on Walmart.com quickly and manage orders on their own BigCommerce control panel all while choosing their own tech stack.
BigCommerce automatically keeps products synced with Walmart.com, so that merchants can track products, orders, inventory and fulfillment from one central location. Merchants connecting into Walmart Marketplace through BigCommerce will also gain access to a curated network of complementary partners—including CedCommerce, Codisto Channel Cloud, Feedonomics, SureDone, Zentail, Tinuiti, Teikametrics and Deliverr—to support their listing, order and inventory management, advertising and fulfillment needs.
Essential goods company Vitabox said it was able to connect its entire product catalog of 8,500+ products to Walmart in as little as two days. Since becoming operational on Walmart Marketplace, Vitabox increased sales an additional 25 percent, with Walmart quickly becoming the company’s second-largest sales channel.
“Vitabox believes in making everyday essentials available to everyone, regardless of how or where they choose to shop. With BigCommerce, we were able to offer our entire product catalog on Walmart Marketplace in a matter of days, and every new product Vitabox adds to our website is automatically available on Walmart,” said Ghiselle La Russo, head of marketplaces at Vitabox. “Even better, selling through this additional channel requires no ongoing maintenance from our team, which frees us up to focus on building the best essentials shopping experience for our customers while growing Walmart sales 300 percent year over year.”
RangeMe, an online platform that streamlines new product discovery between suppliers and retailers, has announced partnerships with multiple certification bodies in a move designed to help retail buyers find higher quality products and bring greater transparency to the shelf.
Certification providers under the RangeMe umbrella now include Fair Trade USA, Fairtrade America, Non-GMO Project, Parent Tested Parent Approved, Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), The Paleo Foundation, Kosher Supervision of America (KSA), National Animal Supplement Council (NASC), Etimad Halal, Safe Food Certifications, UL, Premier Certification Services and Nutrasource.
RangeMe is creating a dedicated RangeMe Services section, where suppliers can browse, message, and work directly with the certification bodies themselves to find which one best fits their brand or products. While 12 certification partners are highlighted on the platform, more will be added soon, the company says.
With label-conscious consumers driving demand, retailers want to buy and sell products that validate their claims and create a more tailored assortment for their customers. To support this, RangeMe is working with certification providers to promote deeper education of what it means for brands to carry certifications and greater visibility of certifications to the nearly 200,000 suppliers on the platform.
“With consumers demanding even more traceability and transparency, RangeMe helps suppliers and retailers search even easier for the certifications their customers want.” Abby Ayers, head of retail partnerships at Fair Trade USA. “We are thrilled to be working with RangeMe.”
Resilience360 and Riskpulse have integrated and launched a combined platform leveraging each player’s solutions in global supply chain risk analytics.
Now known as Everstream Analytics, the company offers real-time and predictive risk analytics that helps brands bolster both the resilience and the agility of their global supply networks, protecting revenue and reputation, it says.
As companies plan, source, make and deliver their goods, Everstream says it helps users assess, predict and monitor risks, leaning on predictive models that analyze more than 20 billion data points every day and real-time, on-the-ground proprietary supply chain intelligence sourced directly in 220 countries.
Additional reporting by Jessica Binns.