The weekly Retail Tech Roundup compiles technology news across the supply chain, manufacturing, retail, e-commerce, logistics and fulfillment sectors.
Kohl’s has expanded its partnership with augmented reality (AR) experience technologies and services provider Nextech AR Solutions Corp. to further leverage AR and 3D modeling via the Threedy.ai platform on its e-commerce site.
The department store implemented Threedy.ai and its 3D WebAR for Ecommerce solutions to showcase furniture within its online AR experiences before Nextech acquired the platform provider in May. With Nextech’s 3D WebAR for Ecommerce solutions, Kohl’s customers can review products dynamically within any desired backdrop.
Starting the relationship with product testing at its Innovation Center, Kohl’s and Nextech are now scaling WebAR for Ecommerce, creating “thousands” of new 3D models that will enhance the AR experience for Kohls’ customers, the AR tech provider says.
Nextech also recently unveiled that it was selected as an Early Access Partner with Google’s 3D AR Search Program, strengthening the value proposition of WebAR for e-commerce for large retail customers such as Kohls. Kohl’s 3D models will soon appear in organic Google search results, allowing shoppers to dynamically interact with and review the retailer’s products.
Buy now, pay later
Fintech and payments giant Klarna has expanded its partnership with cross-border e-commerce platform Global-e, to offer flexible payment options to consumers across major markets such as the U.S., the U.K., France, Spain, Italy and Australia.
Klarna’s payment solutions will now be available to all merchants selling internationally via Global-e’s cross-border e-commerce platform. Global-e’s international merchants can offer Klarna to further enhance their offering of a localized online shopping experience.
Global-e’s end-to-end, localized cross-border e-commerce platform is designed to allow merchants to tailor the online shopping experience to the preferences and behaviors of shoppers in different markets to enhance and accelerate online sales and conversions. Perks include local pricing in more than 100 currencies, local messaging and a seamless checkout experience supported in over 25 languages.
The Global-e platform also offers multiple shipping options, including free shipping over a specified threshold, as well as pre-paid and local returns. Additionally, the company calculates local import duties and taxes for a guaranteed landed cost with the option of prepayment at checkout.
This expansion follows the success of the Global-e and Klarna partnership launched in 2017 across the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Belgium and Austria. Global-e’s international merchants range from fashion retailers to ultra-high-end brands, including, among others, Marks & Spencer, Forever 21, Reformation, La Perla, Harvey Nichols, Hugo Boss, Skims, Anastasia Beverly Hills, Never Fully Dressed, Vincero Watches and Etam.
Valued at $45.6 billion, Klarna works with more than 250,000 retail partners, including H&M, Nike, Macy’s, Ikea, Asos and Abercrombie & Fitch among many others. Earlier this month, Klarna announced that it had doubled its customer base in the U.S. since June 2020, with 20 million people using its service, largely because of the Klarna app, which has four million active American users. Klarna said that installations for the app were up 115 percent year over year.
Avery Dennison has completed the acquisition of pricing and branded labeling solution Vestcom for $1.45 billion, adding another offering into a business that already manufactures and distributes pressure-sensitive adhesive materials, apparel branding labels and tags, RFID inlays and specialty medical products.
Vestcom’s labeling solutions are designed to be placed in full customer view on a retailer’s shelves, using data management capabilities to synthesize and streamline store-level data and deliver item-specific, price-integrated messaging at the shopper’s point of decision.
With the acquisition, the companies will aim to drive innovation and provide solutions that combine shelf pricing, promotion and intelligent labeling capabilities.
The companies said in a statement that they want to combine inventory availability, price management and frictionless checkout to offer a complete solution across multiple U.S. retail channels, including grocery, drug and dollar.
Although the businesses alluded mostly to the deal’s benefits in the food industry, the new, combined capabilities could be felt across all brick-and-mortar retail operations including apparel and footwear.
For example, in bringing physical data from every product and shelf into the digital world, retailers have an opportunity to build digital capabilities for price, inventory optimization and the consumer experience. Additionally, they can connect inventory availability with price and promotion optimization to drive labor efficiency in store.
Fashion analytics and insights software Omnilytics said it will acquire and partner with data labeling platform Supahands, in a deal valued at $20 million. Omnilytics plans on more deals ahead, with the Singapore-based software platform saying it is embarking on an “ongoing strategic acquisition drive” to bolster its core functions and technological capabilities.
Omnilytics’ proprietary Product Match solution is designed to enable brands and retailers to compare the same or similar SKUs across multiple platforms, effectively giving them insights into how the market is pricing the same products. To date, Omnilytics customers include Adidas, Uniqlo parent Fast Retailing, emerging markets-focused e-commerce seller Global Fashion Group, Southeast Asian online retailer Zalora, Australia’s largest fashion and sportswear online retailer The Iconic and South Africa’s leading retailer Mr Price.
With Product Match, Omnilytics seeks to make global trade more efficient by providing retail with connected data and actionable insights. By using a singular set of naming conventions, Omnilytics seeks to help retailers make accurate data-driven decisions at both the product and market level and reduce the risk of inconsistencies and misclassifications in their product database.
The Supahands acquisition helps fill a critical gap in Omnilytics’ tech capabilities and is designed to open doors to future partnership and innovation endeavors across the e-commerce landscape, according to the company.
Founded in 2014 and headquartered in Malaysia, Supahands is an end-to-end data labeling platform that develops training data that helps enable clients to launch and scale artificial intelligence applications for their business. Supahands’ global clientele includes online consumer marketplace Carousell, SaaS customer experience management platform Sprinklr, and retail automation solutions provider Badger Technologies.
Investors include 500 Startups, Patamar Capital, Cradle Seed Ventures and Axiata Digital Innovation Fund.
Mark Koh, CEO and co-founder of Supahands, will join the Omnilytics board following the acquisition, taking on the role of chief strategy officer as the fashion analytics software solution embarks on an accelerated growth plan for 2022.
Retail, logistics and supply chain solutions provider Zebra Technologies said it will acquire Antuit.ai, a provider of AI-powered demand forecasting and merchandising solutions for retailers and CPG companies. Terms of the all-cash transaction were undisclosed.
Zebra has been on a shopping spree lately, acquiring graphical machine vision software Adaptive Vision in May and then scooping up Fetch Robotics for $290 million in July. The acquisitions came as Zebra launched a fixed industrial scanning and machine vision portfolio in May. The year prior, Zebra acquired workforce management software solutions provider Reflexis for $575 million.
Antuit.ai, owned by a consortium led by Goldman Sachs Asset Management, uses AI and machine learning algorithms with the intent to provide customers with the right product in the right place, at the right time, at the right price based on the current state of the supply chain, store inventory and consumer demand.
With Antuit.ai’s demand forecasting solution in its SaaS portfolio, Zebra aims to enable retailers and consumer products companies to combine planning and execution to optimize margins and drive revenue growth.
Antuit.ai is designed to enable retailers to deliver on their omnichannel strategy by increasing margins with effective prices and promotions, as well as optimizing inventory allocations and order fulfillment. Consumer products companies can use Antuit.ai to improve forecast accuracy; anticipate consumer demand to meet retailers’ service level, shelf-level, store-level, and e-commerce orders; optimize pricing and trade promotions; and unify sales, trade and demand planning.
The demand forecasting solution counts Neiman Marcus, JCPenney and PepsiCo as some of its clients.
The deal will be subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approval and is expected to close in 2021. Zebra expects this transaction to have an immaterial impact to earnings in 2021.
Leap, an omnichannel retail platform that is built to help digitally native brands expand their presence in physical retail, said it is set to expand its fleet of stores by 300 percent this year with a projected 50 locations by the end of 2021.
And by the end of 2022, Leap projects it will have opened 250 stores for its partner brands—an additional 400 percent growth.
Brands on the Leap platform can leverage Leap’s infrastructure, operations and technology to launch stores in desirable locations such as highly trafficked malls, shopping centers and other prime locations. The partnerships are designed to take risk away from the brand—Leap signs leases with landlords and covers upfront costs for both short- and full-term stores.
“We’re excited to work with Leap to bring new brands to our portfolio,” said Gabrielle Licht, leasing manager at Macerich in a statement. “Their data-driven platform brings value to our partnership by helping brands access the strong demographics at our centers that mirror those of their online shoppers, which sets these brands up for success with us.”
Leap, which has raised $15 million in funding since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, dedicates internal resources to additional retail areas such as store design and staffing so that brands can invest capital elsewhere.
Apparel brands such as Goodlife, Faherty, Birdies, Mack Weldon, Naadam, Public Rec, Something Navy, UpWest, Pact, Ashley Stewart and more are using Leap in an effort to grow their retail footprint, increase omnichannel customer lifetime value and reduce customer acquisition costs. Leap currently operates stores across New York City; Chicago; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Dallas; Austin, Texas; Scottsdale, Ariz.; and southern Florida.
“Stores are core to our strategy for building our brands and driving overall growth,” said Matt Scanlan, CEO of Naadam and Something Navy in a statement. “But developing and managing the complex infrastructure required for physical retail isn’t where we want to invest. By leveraging the Leap platform for stores, we can scale more rapidly with more flexibility and less risk, all while focusing on what we want to be best in the world at—creating awesome products and deepening connections with our customers.”
Leap says its Platform is built on millions of data points across its network of stores, locations and brands. The company leverages proprietary algorithms in combination with operations, local market expertise and efficiencies from store clustering to help drive success for brands.
“It’s vital to meet customers where they are, whether that’s online, on social media, or in stores,” said Marisa Sharkey, Birdies co-founder and president in a statement. “Leap enables us to reach new customers, capture real world insights and connect more deeply with our customers in premium locations like Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Los Angeles.”
Radial has opened up its holiday hiring to fill approximately 27,000 seasonal positions in fulfillment and customer care. The order management, fulfillment and transportation solutions provider is gearing up for what it projects to be an even bigger e-commerce spending season in 2021.
According to the company’s recent consumer survey, 65 percent of shoppers plan to spend the same or more in e-commerce purchases this holiday season compared to 2020.
For seasonal associates looking for long-term career growth opportunities, Radial plans to offer significant opportunities to convert to full-time positions this year and is actively accepting seasonal candidates from all backgrounds.
Seasonal associates at Radial’s more than 25 warehouses will be primarily responsible for picking, packing and shipping orders to ensure packages arrive to customers in time for the holidays, the company said.
Other responsibilities include working with lighter carts and robotic assistants that can collaborate with pickers and enhance ergonomics easing the pull and push of a cart, or carry the full weight of items and work alongside associates improving the overall experience.
Additionally, Radial is increasing multilanguage capabilities and technologies to improve the training and onboarding experience for non-English speakers. With real-time translations of learning materials in the classroom, Radial says it can train associates in over 40 different languages during onboarding. In addition, Radial is steadily building out a suite of multiple language options for associates to select as the primary user-interface language of the tool they will be using to receive, pick, pack or ship. Languages range from popular ones like Spanish and French to less prevalent languages like Swahili.
Since the onset of the pandemic, Radial has increased the number of remote positions at its customer care centers, with the company saying it has plans to have approximately 60 percent of its workforce remote/virtual this holiday season.
For the 2021 holiday season, Radial is looking to onboard more than 3,000 customer care associates with 1,700 of those roles being remote. Virtual positions are available to residents in Florida, Georgia, Colorado, Virginia, Tennessee and Wisconsin.
Radial, which works with apparel brands including Aeropostale, Gymshark, Rue21, Cole Haan, The Children’s Place, Ashley Stewart and Untuckit, said it fulfilled nearly 330 million packages in 2020, 82 million of which came in November and December—a 34 percent increase over the 2019 peak season.
Flip, a social commerce app designed to connect shoppers to products, content and community through video reviews, closed a $28 million Series A round led by early stage investment firm Streamlined Ventures.
The platform provider will use the funding to scale its brand offering and creator ecosystem, while deepening its end-to-end logistics platform.
Flip is designed to streamline what is often a disparate shopper journey—where discovery and checkout can take place on different channels—into a cohesive app experience, merging social discovery through interactive user-generated reviews and live shopping shows, alongside e-commerce, same-day shipping and back-end logistics.
With the funding secured, Flip also revealed it was opening commissioned video reviews for all users. Shoppers who share videos of their purchases can monetize their content when others engage with or make purchases through their reviews, and can either translate earnings into “Flip credits” or transfer funds to their bank accounts.
Instead of having creators rely on deals with third-party brands to monetize their social activity and only post positive reviews, Flip will give all creators dashboards to manage their content so they can further directly engage with their followers, generate authentic reviews and monetize their content.
Mubadala Capital Ventures and BDMI also participated in the round, alongside early backers and angel investors. Individual investors included Ruby Lu, an early investor in Chinese social commerce platform.
Balance, a self-serve digital payments and checkout platform for B2B e-commerce, today announced it has raised $25 million in Series A funding led by Ribbit Capital.
The platform is designed to deliver a consumer-like experience on a B2B checkout platform for merchants and marketplaces. The funding comes at a time when more B2B marketplaces and e-commerce businesses have emerged throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, accelerating the digitization of B2B commerce. But as major retail marketplaces like Amazon, eBay and Shopify deliver convenient experiences with flexible payment methods and convenient pricing, B2B platforms now have a larger expectation to live up to.
With Balance, buyers can pay via numerous methods including ACH, card, wire transfer and check and can manage credit and net financial terms at checkout. Merchants can benefit from getting immediate payouts, which are always reconciled like with credit cards; and marketplaces are enabled with automated vendor disbursement, a full compliance umbrella and reconciliation management.
Deals of up to $5 million can be managed and viewed in real time.
Balance is already partnering with BigCommerce to power its B2B platform and enable merchants to build their self-serve checkout, as well as Magento, leading B2B eCommerce agencies, and soon to include Salesforce. Balance’s customer base varies from startups to publicly traded marketplaces and e-commerce enterprises across industries such as apparel, freight, construction, food ordering, medical supply, steel and more.
Additional participation in the investment came from Avid Ventures as well as existing investors Lightspeed Ventures, Stripe, Y Combinator Continuity Fund, SciFi VC and UpWest. Other individual investors participating include former head of Square Capital Jacqueline Reses as well as additional early employees and executives from Square, Plaid, Coinbase, Stripe and PayPal.