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Retail Tech: Zebra Leads $25 Million Investment in Optoro, Mastercard Acquires Dynamic Yield

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

Personalization 

Mastercard/Dynamic Yield

Mastercard has acquired personalization platform and decision engine company Dynamic Yield from McDonald’s for an undisclosed sum.

Dynamic Yield’s technology will complement Mastercard’s existing suite of services designed to help brands deliver more effective and trusted customer experiences across channels.

The transaction is expected to close in the first six months of next year. Upon close, current chief technology officer Ori Bauer will take the helm as CEO. Liad Agmon, Dynamic Yield’s current CEO, will stay on in an advisory capacity.

Dynamic Yield is built to deliver individualized product recommendations, offers and content across online and offline channels based on a range of factors, including past purchases, page views, time of day, current store traffic and trending products.

With Dynamic Yield’s technology, Mastercard aims to help its customers and partners meet consumers’ growing demand for more personalized experiences, namely via the creation of a unified consumer engagement and loyalty hub. The deal also builds on the credit card giant’s track record of providing data-driven loyalty, analytics and marketing services, including the SessionM merchant loyalty platform and Test & Learn experimentation software.

Meanwhile, Dynamic Yield’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform uses advanced AI to support more than 400 brands across the retail, financial services, travel and restaurant industries, among others.

The deal comes just two years after McDonald’s acquired the startup for more than $300 million. Under the fast food giant’s ownership, Dynamic Yield doubled its revenue and expanded its customer base across verticals.

To date, Dynamic Yield’s technology has been deployed to McDonald’s drive-thrus and ordering kiosks in several markets around the world, and is credited for revamping the burger chain’s personalization capabilities in its restaurants. McDonald’s installed the Dynamic Yield suggestive-selling technology within the kiosks, recommending additional menu items for customers to buy upon placing their order.

Both companies will remain partners after the sale, with McDonald’s planning to further scale and integrate Dynamic Yield’s capabilities globally and across ordering channels.

Returns

Optoro/Zebra Technologies

Retail returns and reverse logistics technology provider Optoro has secured a $25 million strategic investment led by enterprise visibility solutions provider Zebra Technologies.

The investment comes in the wake of a recently released report from Optoro and commercial real estate group CBRE, estimating that post-holiday returns could amount to $66.7 billion. And in 2021, the holiday season will be even more expensive, with the research estimating that the average return cost for a $50 item will total $33, or 66 percent, of its original MSRP, taking into account transportation, processing, and discounting or liquidation. These costs have skyrocketed by 59 percent from the same period in 2020.

The company has previously been backed by investments from retailers such as IKEA’s investment arm in 2019. Following that move, Ikea implemented Optoro’s technology in 10 distribution centers, 50 stores, and its U.S. customer support center.

Circular solutions-focused investor, Volta Circle, along with previous investors, including eBay and UPS, also participated in the strategic funding round. J.P. Morgan Securities LLC acted as the exclusive financial advisor to Optoro.

Optoro’s returns technology platform is designed to help retailers such as American Eagle, IKEA, Target and Best Buy turn returns into a strategic advantage by using data science and real-time decision-making automation to determine the best path for each returned item. Technology-powered returns solutions like Optoro are built to decrease inefficiencies, maximize repurchases and recovery, and reduce environmental waste—allowing retailers to instead focus on forward fulfillment and offering the best customer experience.

Zebra’s own recently launched Global Shopper Study indicated that eight in 10 North America shoppers prefer retailers who offer easy returns, while only six-in-10 retail associates say their companies are highly experienced with online returns.

Together, Zebra and Optoro, which is already an independent software vendor for the edge computing provider, aim to further deliver hardware and software to offer an end-to-end reverse logistics solution that can optimize retail returns processing.

Alongside the investment, the companies will also pursue new solutions and technology to further innovate returns management, cutting waste and driving more profitable growth for retailers.

Package delivery

Veho

Veho, a technology company that wants to enable personalized next-day package delivery, has secured $125 million in a Series A financing led by venture capital firm General Catalyst, valuing the business at a $1 billion. The funding will be used to grow the team, expand from 14 to 50 U.S. markets by the end of 2022, and continue to improve and deepen the consumer experience through technology advancement.

With logistics and parcel delivery experiencing major setbacks in recent years, from 2020’s “shipageddon” to supply chain delays currently plaguing the industry, Veho says its platform is equipped to handle delivery needs for today’s e-commerce brands and their customers. Touting claims of a 99.9 percent average on-time performance for next-day delivery, Veho’s technology is built to provide a personalized delivery experience that can increase overall satisfaction of package recipients and facilitate deeper trust between consumers and the e-commerce brands served.

Existing Veho brand partners, ranging from apparel and accessories companies to food and packaged goods brands, have seen a 20 percent increase in customer repurchase, a 40 percent jump in customer lifetime value, and an eight-point boost in net promoter score (NPS) compared with customers who received their box from a traditional shipping company.

Veho also informs consumers of the time of day when they will receive their package, when the driver is en route, enabling real-time rescheduling, address changes and personal delivery instructions. More than seven in 10 recipients using the platform will interact with Veho about their package delivery via live customer chat and ratings functions.

Powered by a crowdsourced driver marketplace, Veho’s technology matches demand for package delivery with qualified driver partners, ensuring that packages are delivered on time and correctly.

Fit technology

Volumental

Volumental, a computer vision company that builds fit technology solutions for footwear retailers and brands, has raised $13 million in new capital. The minority equity investment is the company’s largest financing round to date and paves the way for the expansion of global sales, marketing and product development efforts to accommodate the pipeline of brands coming onto the platform.

The financing was led by CNI, a growth-oriented private equity firm based in Stockholm focused on investing in businesses that create true and sustainable shareholder value as they scale.

Volumental’s integrated suite of 3D scanning and data tools are designed to optimize fit for shoppers. The company’s retail scanning, mobile scanning, personalized recommendations and digital marketing tools are leveraged by approximately 100 brands and retailers across mobile devices and in more than 3,000 retail stores globally. Top clients include Bauer, Hoka, Canada Goose, Red Wing, The Athlete’s Foot, Fleet Feet and New Balance.

An in-store setup for Canada Goose, with the Volumental foot scanner on the left.

An in-store setup for Canada Goose, with the Volumental foot scanner on the left.

Alper Aydemir, co-founder and CEO at Volumental, said in a statement that the company is continuing to grow rapidly in the U.S., as well as in its expanding markets such as Europe and Asia.

Volumental includes a team of PhD-level engineers, data scientists, UX researchers, and retail experts on its staff, all in an effort to provide the most accurate fitting recommendations using 3D scanning and AI.

Known for its in-store foot scanner and integrated FitTech suite of 3D scanning and data tools designed to capture the dimensions of shoppers’ feet to provide them with accurate shoe recommendations, Volumental recently extended the same capabilities to individual shoppers via a mobile app rollout.

Users can create “smart foot” profiles by capturing measurements with their mobile devices. Their unique foot shape is then compared with the purchase data and measurements already captured from other customers to provide personalized recommendations, accounting for nearly a dozen critical measurements including length, width, arch height, forefoot height, heel width and more. Overall, Volumental estimates that it has secured measurements and purchase data from approximately 10 million shoppers.

Volumental’s recommendation algorithm is designed to becomes smarter and more accurate with each scan and purchase decision a user makes, accounting for preferences such as tighter- or looser-fitting footwear.

CNI was joined by new investors Backstage Invest, Abanico Invest and other existing partners in this financing round.

Last-mile delivery

Ohi

Same-day delivery startup Ohi has launched a new scheduling option designed to help brand partners improve the timing and flexibility of their delivery capabilities.

The new feature allows customers to choose the delivery window that is most convenient for them within seven days of ordering from an Ohi merchant partner and then track and even reschedule their delivery, if needed. All Ohi brand partners can now offer these extended delivery times to their customers, in addition to the already available “Rush” option to receive delivery in under two hours.

The delivery scheduling option is now available to all of the company’s merchant partners, following a soft-launch with many brands in November. Approximately 15 percent of subscribers to Ohi brand partners have already used the option to reschedule their subscription deliveries to match their frequency needs, which tend to vary week to week or month to month.

In addition, customers who have used the new feature to schedule their deliveries have given Ohi an average customer satisfaction rating of 4.8 out of 5, a positive indicator of consumer sentiment.

Ohi leverages its nationwide network of micro-warehouses to enable brands of all sizes to offer fully branded post-purchase experiences that not just delivery, but order tracking and unboxing. The process is designed so that brand partners can retain complete control of their customer experience, including their brand story, data and customer relationships, while reducing the need to pay inflated expedited shipping costs.

Ohi’s inventory and order management platform is built to provide actionable insights into SKU-level demand, enabling brands to automate functions for efficiency and savings. Additionally, the company’s emphasis on sustainable packaging and delivery options helps minimize brands’ overall carbon footprints. Ohi merchant partners have seen increases of up to 120 percent in repeat purchases, along with 28 percent higher conversion and 35 percent increases in lifetime customer value.

E-commerce marketing

Rokt

Rokt, a technology platform designed to use AI and machine learning to make online transactions more relevant to each shopper, has closed a $325 million Series E funding round led by Tiger Global, bringing the company’s valuation to $1.95 billion.

The software provider will use the new funding to invest in R&D, international expansion and strategic acquisitions. Already employing nearly 400 people, Rokt has plans to grow staff to more than 550 in 2022.

More than 3,000 brands globally, including apparel and home companies like Lands’ End, Wayfair and Fanatics use Rokt’s technology products to build engagement, revenue and customer acquisition.

The business wants to give online consumers a better chance to engage with relevant products, services and marketing messages at the moment of transaction, particularly by offering highly relevant messages to their customers at the moment they are most likely to convert.

Recently enacted restrictions that both Apple and Google have placed on mobile digital ad tracking have reduced the return on investment that online businesses can get by advertising on search platforms and social media sites, prompting brands to reallocate marketing funds to new solutions.

Rokt aims for e-commerce partners to be able to instead use their own first-party data to deliver more relevant and personalized messages and offers, ideally leading to higher engagement and more revenue.

An $80 million round in 2020 valued the company at about $450 million. But now, Rokt has bigger fish to fry, with the company targeting an initial public offering in the U.S. in 2023, CEO Bruce Buchanan told the Wall Street Journal.

Rokt said it expects to finish the year with $230 million in revenue, up from $100 million last year, when business from marketers in travel and entertainment was hurt by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Other participants in the round included Wellington Management, Whale Rock Capital Management, Pavilion Capital and existing shareholder Square Peg.

Virtual stores

Harrods/Matterport

Matterport, a spatial data company that enables retailers to view 3D and virtual experiences of real-life stores, is expanding its suite of services for its customers.

Using Capture Services On-Demand, Matterport Pro2 cameras, or the Matterport smartphone app, retail customers can create virtual showrooms, curate shoppable digital experiences with e-commerce integration, and ultimately make store operations more efficient.

When creating virtual showrooms Matterport’s retailer customers can illustrate where consumers can shop for holiday gifts, or give foreign customers who can’t travel a taste of what the store experience is like. They can also use digital twins to remotely manage store design and operations. The technology is built to allow influencers and designers to merchandise their products directly to their followers.

In one such example, luxury U.K. department store Harrods used Matterport Capture Services to connect with the company’s capture technicians to scan spaces and create its own virtual showroom. The showroom showcased its new home and furniture department, providing personal shopping consultations and allowsingcustomers to view products so they can better plan an in-store visit, if desired.

“Whilst travel may still be impossible for some of our customers, we wanted to find a creative solution for them to visit the department from the comfort of their home, no matter where in the world that may be,” said Annalise Fard, director of interiors, beauty, fine watches and jewelry at Harrods in a statement. “We also thought Matterport would be a great tool for customers who would rather shop from home through our personal shopping services or for those customers that would like to peruse the showroom ahead of visiting Harrods to help them better plan their visit.”

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