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Retail Tech: Walmart Orders 4,500 Last-Mile EVs, Klarna Valuation Drops 85%

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

Electric vehicles

Walmart/Canoo

Walmart is purchasing 4,500 all-electric delivery vehicles from Canoo to expand its last-mile delivery fleet.

The retail giant has the option to purchase up to 10,000 units. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. The vehicles will be used to deliver online orders and will help contribute to Walmart’s goal to achieve zero-emissions by 2040.

For the first batch, Walmart is ordering Canoo’s Lifestyle Delivery Vehicles (LDVs), which are specifically designed for small package delivery. The LDVs are expected to be deployed in 2023, the companies plan to kick off advanced deliveries to refine and finalize vehicle configuration in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area in the coming weeks.

Walmart associates will drive Canoo’s electric vehicles to deliver online orders, from groceries to general merchandise. The retailer said that the fleet could potentially be used for its Walmart GoLocal delivery-as-a-service business.

“We’re thrilled to continue diversifying our last mile delivery fleet with Canoo’s unique and sustainably focused all-electric technology which will provide our associates with safe, ergonomic delivery vehicles,” said David Guggina, senior vice president of innovation and automation, Walmart U.S. in a statement. “Today, the closest Walmart to customers is right in their pockets—it’s the Walmart app. By continuing to expand our last-mile delivery fleet in a sustainable way, we’re able to provide customers and Walmart+ members with even more access to same-day deliveries while keeping costs low.”

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Through their expansive last mile delivery network, Walmart can reach 80 percent of the U.S. population with same-day delivery on a growing assortment of items.

Canoo’s fully electric LDV is an all-American commercial EV optimized for sustainable last-mile delivery use cases. As with all Canoo vehicles, the LDV is built on a proprietary multi-purpose platform (MPP) architecture that integrates the motors, battery module and other critical driving components. The LDV has a last-mile delivery optimized cabin and customized cargo space. Canoo is using steer-by-wire technology, reducing moving parts and cabin intrusion, resulting in more usable interior space, better driver ergonomics and the addition of a panoramic window to improve road visibility.

The LDV is engineered for high frequency stop-and-go deliveries and speedy vehicle-to-door drop-off, including grocery and food/meal delivery. Its customized interior is designed for small package delivery. The modular design and 120 cubic feet cargo volume are adaptable to evolve with customer needs. which contributes to a decreasing per unit investment over time.

Canoo’s agreement with Walmart builds on the company’s existing commitments in the state of Arkansas. Last year, Canoo announced it had selected Bentonville, Ark., as its headquarters and Pryor, Okla., as the site for its U.S. manufacturing, further establishing an EV ecosystem in the heartland to create thousands of technology and manufacturing jobs in the surrounding communities.

“We’re encouraged that by being located in close proximity to the Canoo headquarters, we have the advantage to collaborate and innovate in real-time as well as the opportunity to aid in the creation of manufacturing and technology jobs here in our home state of Arkansas,” added Guggina.

Canoo anticipates starting production of the LDVs beginning in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Buy now, pay later

Klarna

Swedish fintech company Klarna has cut its valuation more than 85 percent from its peak of $45.6 billion as the impacts of the uncertain macroeconomic environment continue to disproportionately hit the technology sector.

Klarna, which offers buy now, pay later (BNPL) and banking services for consumers, is now valued at $6.7 billion after an $800 million financing from investors including Sequoia, Bestseller, Silver Lake and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. New investors include the U.A.E.’s Mubadala Investment Company, and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPP Investments).

The firm already laid off 10 percent of its total workforce in May. Although its global consumers grew at a 60 percent pace year over year to 150 million, the company saw net losses amount to $243.4 million in its first quarter.

Despite the losses, Klarna sought to highlight its growth throughout the pandemic, noting that its market cap has grown 219 percent since 2018, when it was valued at $2.1 billion.

The funding will primarily be used to expand Klarna’s market position in the U.S., where more than 30 million consumers use the platform and gross merchandise volume (GMV) more than tripled year over year from 2020 to 2021. The company said 30 of the top 100 U.S. retailers have adopted its services, which Klarna claims is more than rivals Affirm and Afterpay combined.

Klarna’s decline comes as Affirm has seen market value tumble from a $46.8 billion peak in November 2021 to approximately $6.4 billion on Tuesday. Block, the owner of Square, has seen its market cap drop from $125.4 billion in August 2021 after it acquired Afterpay, all the way down to $38.1 billion on Tuesday.

The payments company has 147 million global active users and 400,000 retail partners, including Macy’s, Nike, H&M, Saks and Ikea.

Klarna and its BNPL peers are navigating largely uncharted waters in that they’re fending off soaring inflation, higher interest rates and potential recession pressures that could cause defaults to spike. Unlike typical lenders like banks, they do not have other income sources to counterbalance a fall in discretionary spending. Additionally, these firms are now in the middle of a regulatory probe in the U.S. amid concerns that users could rack up debt too quickly.

Retail innovation

Aptos

Retail technology solutions provider Aptos has opened a new innovation center in Bengaluru, India. The company says it will host more than 200 employees in India by the end of 2022.

Already having hired more than 100 employees in India, Aptos is recruiting employees across positions including engineering, consulting and customer operations.

The company says it has reinvested up to 20 percent of its revenue into R&D to build out its next-generation retail solutions since its strategic capital commitment from owner Goldman Sachs Asset Management in 2020.

In October 2021, Aptos launched Aptos India to further enable expansion in the Asia-Pacific market and to augment development and delivery capabilities globally.

According to Aptos CEO Pete Sinisgalli, the launch of Aptos India plays a vital role in the company’s trajectory to continue growing its unified commerce solutions and services suite worldwide.

To lead Aptos’ expansion in the region, Prashant Kamat has joined as vice president and managing director of Aptos India. Kamat has over 25 years of experience in the IT industry, having worked for global product and services companies, including SAP, IBM and Capgemini.

Product reviews

Bazaarvoice

Bazaarvoice has launched a new app for Influenster, an online community of 7 million shoppers looking to discover new products and share their authentic experiences.

With its proprietary personalization algorithm, the Influenster app matches shoppers with brands seeking honest feedback on their products through authentic reviews, photos and videos.

Using the personalized in-app feed, members can discover brands and products that interest them, and learn more through the experiences shared by other shoppers on the platform. The app provides access for members to try recommended products, share opinions, leave text, photo, and video reviews, as well as connect with shopping enthusiasts and brands.

Brands can segment and target audiences via first-party data to potentially drive incentivized word-of-mouth marketing to power their content strategy, while simultaneously reducing their costs of customer acquisition and content production.

According to the company’s research, 78 percent of shoppers say the most influential factor in driving purchase decisions is an authentic review from another shopper.

Bazaarvoice acquired Influenster in August 2019 in an effort to enhance product reviews and its own user-generated content (UGC) solutions.

Robotics

Geek+/Systemex Automation

Geek+, an autonomous mobile robot (AMR) technology, has entered into a strategic partnership with Systemex Automation, a Canadian systems integrator. Through the partnership, Systemex Automation will offer its customers Geek+’s full portfolio of picking, moving, sorting and storage/ASRS AMR solutions.

The agreement with Systemex Automation comes hot on the heels of a series of new additions to Geek+’s multitude of AMR solutions. The robotics company has introduced its latest goods-to-person solution, PopPick, which made its North American debut at Modex 2022, as well as Sky-Storage & Ground-Pick, which combines four-way shuttles for reserve pallet storage with Geek+’s P-series picking robots for forward picking.

With Geek+’s full suite of AMR technology at its disposal, Systemex Automation can provide its wide range of manufacturing, retail and distribution customers with automation technology that augments the logistics processes, but also can improve operational efficiency, lower costs and address the current labor shortage challenges.

The partnership also complements Systemex Automation’s growth strategy in automated warehouse operations for the Canadian and U.S. markets, according to the company’s president, Serge Tousignant.

Warehouse management

ShipBob

ShipBob, a global omnifulfillment platform, has launched the Merchant Plus solution, a stand-alone warehouse management system (WMS) that enables independent merchants that have their own warehouse in the U.S. to power fulfillment operations themselves while leveraging ShipBob’s global network.

Built by ShipBob, this solution includes access to the company’s carrier infrastructure, support team, fulfillment experts and the same all-inclusive platform brands that outsource fulfillment to ShipBob receive. This includes a full suite of tools to run their entire supply chain, while using ShipBob’s network of warehouses across the United States, Europe, Australia and Canada.

Fast-growing companies can use Merchant Plus to power B2B and DTC fulfillment in the U.S., while also leveraging ShipBob’s European fulfillment services.

Merchant Plus offers a variety of benefits such as white-glove implementation. Brands have gone through on-site onboarding, getting fulfillment teams up-to-speed with as little as one week of training, including the setup of computers, printers, iPods, scanners, shelves and other equipment.

Brands also can access customizable pick-and-pack workflows such as cluster and batch picking to increase efficiencies, customizable setup options for on-the-floor inventory and enhanced transparency to manage warehouse employees, orders and inventory from anywhere, while driving operational improvements.

ShipBob also touts fulfillment cost and time savings, with brands able to spend 25 percent less time on fulfillment, so they can focus on other parts of their business, the company said.

Additionally, ShipBob claims brands have reduced their error rate by as much as 35 percent with checks and balances for receiving and storing inventory, and picking, packing and shipping orders. Users will receive continued account management from the ShipBob team for a sustainable partnership.

In addition to the WMS, brands with their own warehouse can get the same tools as brands that outsource fulfillment to ShipBob.

The technology offers a variety of carriers and services for standard and expedited shipping across domestic and international deliveries, and other cross-border solutions, and has tools for managing and shipping orders and returns.

Brands can fulfill DTC and B2B orders (including EDI compliance with major retailers), and can access analytics and reporting capabilities to have a more complete view of their businesses. They can also access customer support, with each company getting a dedicated account manager.

The ShipBob platform includes integrations with e-commerce platforms, online marketplaces, EDI providers, help desks, returns management platforms and other tools in ShipBob’s App Store.

Payments

Hatley/Nuvei

Hatley, a children’s apparel, swimwear, rainwear and sleepwear brand, is leveraging payments platform Nuvei to streamline and enhance its payment offerings.

The Montreal-based retailer is working with Nuvei to handle its in-store card payments across more than 40 retail outlets in North America, manage its business-to-business (B2B) and e-commerce payment processing for major retailers in Canada and the U.S. and run its payment processing needs for online sales in Europe.

Hatley is known for its PVC-free raingear and children’s colorful clothing made from natural products with designs often inspired by scenes of nature from the Canadian countryside. The growing international business now maintains 3,200 points-of-sale worldwide, with key retail business partners including Costco, Nordstrom, Canadian luxury goods department store chain Hudson’s Bay, John Lewis and Next in the U.K. and Australia’s David Jones.

Nuvei omnichannel payments enables clients to have one partner enhancing their customers’ cross-channel purchasing experience wherever they are with a single platform that centralizes payment management whether it is in-store, in-app, on mobile or online. Global acquiring, dynamic currency conversions, smart transaction routing and foreign exchange solutions are part of Nuvei’s omnichannel payments offering.

“Simplifying and scaling our approach in North America and our international markets with a seamless omnichannel payments experience is really important to us. It’s a part of our broader approach as we strive every day to innovate all aspects of our business to support both the major retailers we work with and customers who come to us direct either in store or digitally,” said Hatley CEO Jeremy Oldland.

“Working with Nuvei has given us payment solutions and digital payment experts that help us accelerate our business at every level in our home and neighboring markets and new countries we are introducing Hatley to,” added Oldland, who runs the business, alongside his brothers Nick and Chris.

Nuvei says it connects businesses to customers in more than 200 markets, with local acquiring established in more than 45 markets, 150 currencies and 550 alternative payment methods, including cryptocurrencies.

Mobile experiences

Vibes/Salesforce

Vibes, a technology designed to power mobile brand experiences across the consumer journey through SMS, digital wallets and push notifications, has launched its platform on Salesforce AppExchange, an enterprise cloud marketplace built to connect customers across industries with ready-to-install or customizable apps and Salesforce-certified consultants to solve business challenges.

By joining the Salesforce AppExchange partner marketplace, Vibes joins a community of more than 7,000 partners and 10 million customers, making the Vibes platform instantly available for Salesforce’s customers looking to make mobile marketing, loyalty, and servicing part of their integrated customer experience. Now, brands can reach consumers instantly through SMS, MMS, mobile wallet and app push notifications and inbox.

On average, with the Vibes platform, brands see rapid subscriber growth with a 98% retention rate and a 40x ROI for their Vibes-led mobile messaging programs. Vibes works with brands across retail, restaurants, hospitality, financial services and health care industries with the aim to boost in-person and online revenue, increase consumer engagement, and grow loyalty through the delivery of timely, personalized messages.

Customers like Ralph Lauren, Dollar General and Dick’s Sporting Goods also benefit from being able to deliver SMS messages at scale within a highly specific timeframe through the combination of Vibes’ platform message delivery optimization, high velocity global network and status as one of four U.S. Tier 1 aggregators with direct carrier connections.

This launch on Salesforce AppExchange comes after Vibes’ integration with Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s (SFMC) Journey Builder in 2021. By unifying Vibes’ mobile messaging platform with Salesforce’s leading customer journey building solution, brands using SFMC Journey Builder can now deliver SMS messages with personalized customer experiences, including mobile wallet passes, at scale and map new automated paths in individual journeys using mobile engagement message data to trigger decision splits.

As a result, the Vibes SFMC Journey Builder integration increases engagement and conversion by optimizing the creation of automated, one-to-one omnichannel customer journeys using SMS in Journey Builder.

The integration offers enhanced personalization, which can combine SFMC personalization tags, personalized mobile wallet passes and unique landing pages delivered through Vibes SMS messaging to deploy end-to-end personalized consumer experiences.

Additionally, audience segmentation enables users to create SMS engagement decision splits that are triggered by Vibes’ mobile engagement data, enabling brands to map new personalized paths using SMS as part their customer journeys.

Users can optimize conversion with new content, campaign and journey stage insights through Vibes’ SMS engagement tracking and mobile wallet with in-store and online transaction attribution. Access mobile compliance expertise from Vibes and stay compliant with SMS campaigns using embedded controls and guardrails in the platform.