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Retail Tech: Microsoft Debuts Smart Store Solutions, M&S Adds Virtual Try-On, Walmart x Salesforce Fulfillment Tie-Up

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

Retail analytics

Microsoft

Microsoft is adding new updates to its Cloud for Retail solution with two new offerings: Smart Store Analytics and Store Operations Assist.

The tech giant partnered with AiFi, a computer vision-powered autonomous store operator with 100 locations deployed worldwide to develop Smart Store Analytics.

With Smart Store Analytics, Microsoft aims to provide retailers with e-commerce level shopper analytics for the physical space. The company defines a “smart” store as a brick-and-mortar retail establishment that uses a variety of smart tech to track shoppers and shopping behavior all the way from product discovery through purchase.

As retailers introduce new smart store formats, new customer signals and insights emerge. Through these insights, they can better optimize various aspects of the brick-and-mortar experience, from store layout and product recommendations to shelf placement and inventory.

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For example, the deep learning solution can track the entire customer shopping funnel in real-time—how customers interact with the products on shelves, how they react to promotions and communications and what they choose to take off the shelf and purchase.

Store Operations Assist equips store associates to better serve and engage customers and be more productive by providing a single pane of glass with access to all the operational day-to-day activities—from curbside fulfillment to customer service scenarios—in the physical store. This application also allows store leadership to manage these operational store activities with dashboard-based analytics and insights.​

Store Operations Assist
Store Operations Assist

PLM/planning

PVH Europe/Centric Software

PVH Europe, home of the global headquarters of Tommy Hilfiger and European offices of Calvin Klein, has signed a partnership with product lifecycle management (PLM) and assortment planning solutions provider Centric Software.

Centric Software provides enterprise solutions to plan, design, develop, source and sell products such as apparel, footwear, sporting goods, furniture, home décor, cosmetics, food and beverage and luxury to achieve strategic and operational digital transformation goals. 

PVH Europe will use Centric Planning to empower teams to optimize merchandise financial planning, assortment planning and in-season forecasting. Products, stores and DTC channels will reside in the single solution to unify stock management, increase product availability and drive sales. 

Centric Software was selected based on its retail planning solution functionalities, demos, client references, technology and implementation approach. 

Delivery

DispatchTrack

DispatchTrack, a last-mile delivery solutions provider, has debuted Track & Trace, a feature that provides real-time delivery run or service call information. Leveraging GPS tracking and delivery status updates, Track & Trace provides an audit trail that can allow businesses to track the location of orders and service units across the last mile both during and after delivery, resulting in improved delivery transparency.

The solution is also designed to combat false liability by enabling businesses to see when and where deliveries occurred including capturing location data in areas where GPS and cell connectivity is unreliable. 

Track & Trace is able to capture massive amounts of data, organize it and display it so users have access to the “exact data they need, when they need it,” DispatchTrack says. This could be either real-time delivery data or information required for troubleshooting deliveries. This real-time visibility is designed to enable businesses to identify where problems may exist so they can take proactive, corrective action to optimize their routes and ensure customers’ expectations are met.

DispatchTrack’s proprietary AI-powered routing algorithm is programmed to ensures 98 percent ETA accuracy in last-mile deliveries, serving more than 2,000 global customers, including Walmart, Coca-Cola, Ashley Furniture, Ferguson Enterprises, Cargill, McCain Foods and many others.

Virtual try-on

Marks & Spencer/Zyler

British retailer Marks & Spencer has partnered with Zyler to deliver an in-store virtual try-on experience for their Jaeger fashion brand. M&S has brought the technology to its Pantheon and Harrogate stores.

The pilot is designed to provide a personalized shopping journey where customers can “become the model.” It allows shoppers to add a head and shoulders photo and basic measurements to see themselves digitally in the Jaeger collection. Sales assistants guide customers through the process and give style advice.

Alexander Berend, CEO of Zyler, described the partnership as “a wonderful opportunity to get customers excited about shopping in-store.” Virtual try-on technology has been steadily rolled out across the fashion and beauty sectors, but mostly reserved for online.

Shoppers can see themselves in the entire Jaeger range, including items not in stock at that location, to find the best items for them, according to Berend.

3D fashion design

Style3D/Assyst

Style3D has acquired Assyst, a fellow 3D design and collaboration platform for fashion brands, for an undisclosed sum.

Headquartered in Zhejiang, China, Style3D is a global company with R&D centers in China and the U.S., and has businesses in Europe, North America and Asia Pacific region. Founded in 2015 Style3D is built to provide a complete digital solution for fashion businesses, providing fabric measurement, simulation design, design review, online modification and visual effect display.

Through this acquisition, Style3D aims to gain a stronger foothold in Europe’s fashion technology market via Assyst, which operates in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and is headquartered in Munich. The move will enable Style3D to extend its 2D and 3D CAD-integration systems and enhance its positioning as a solution provider that offers fashion companies a 3D-centric, all-in-one system.

With the deal, the companies hope to not only shorten development times but also help enhance the efficiency of products to market, thus potentially reducing company costs and associated waste.

Virtual selling

Salesfloor

Salesfloor, a customer engagement platform that combines immersive virtual shopping, clienteling and sales automation, unveiled its total transaction volumes in 2023 surpassed $3 billion.

Salesfloor’s Customer Engagement Platform for Unified Commerce is designed to foster conversations and recommendations that can deliver more sales and customer loyalty, and is adopted by retailers including Fabletics, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, Ben Bridge Jeweler and Chico’s. The Salesfloor platform operates on four continents in verticals spanning across department stores, beauty, luxury, jewelry, apparel, sporting goods and furniture.

Further adding to the personalization tools available, Salesfloor also now offers Maestro, an AI-powered virtual advisor that provides an online sales experience with recommendations for shoppers, based on their input. Maestro ultimately is built to guide shoppers through an intelligent conversational flow to learn about their needs, and provide the right personalized recommendation the first time.

Salesfloor says its retail partners have seen a substantial return on investment over the past year, especially following strong Black Friday through Cyber Monday sales in 2022. The trend has continued throughout December, with Salesfloor’s data indicating year over year sales increased 21 percent in December 2022 vs. 2021. Further, transaction volume increased by 23 percent from the previous year, indicating the growing need for virtual selling due to customers’ preferences to be served by omnichannel experts in-store and online.

The data is driven from an analysis of unidentified customer data from the Salesfloor platform, with a roster of clients spanning a wide range of retail verticals.

Warehouse automation/robotics

Radial/Covariant

E-commerce fulfillment solutions provider Radial has partnered with AI-powered robotics solutions provider Covariant to automate sortation in its batch-picking operations.

As part of the partnership, Radial will install 12 Covariant robotic putwalls in its Louisville, Ky. to sort a high variety of health and beauty items for an undisclosed retailer.

The integration of Covariant’s Robotic Putwalls into the existing facility operations is designed to deliver more optimal e-commerce fulfillment performance and accuracy—providing high quality, reliable and consistent customer experience for Radial’s clients.

With a more automated order sortation system, Radial aims to reduce worker strain and fill gaps in its workforce, while improving overall facility output and delivery times, specifically around high-demand periods.

Each of the 12 robotic u-shaped putwalls average approximately 100,000 picks per month with a throughput of 425 pieces per hour, a performance that Radial says is higher than its manual alternative. While working side-by-side with Radial’s staff, the autonomous robots can successfully pick 100 percent of the stock-keeping units (SKUs) at the Louisville fulfillment center, Covariant claims.

The Covariant Brain, a universal AI that enables robots to see, think and act, powers this autonomous performance. Pre-trained on millions of SKUs from connected robots around the world, the Covariant Brain is built to allows robots to pick and place virtually any item on day one while adapting and learning from the new items the robots experience.

Opex

Opex Corporation, a warehouse, document and mail automation solutions provider, is expanding the capabilities of its Sure Sort Warehouse Automation technology to incorporate radio frequency identification (RFID) scanning to meet client needs and increase operational speed and efficiency.

A scalable, reliable, high-throughput sorting system, Sure Sort has can be deployed within distribution centers, retail stores and third-party logistics companies that look for cost-effective and accurate order handling, cross-docking and reverse logistics.

Opex has added the option of RFID-scanning capabilities to meet growing needs from clients, especially apparel manufacturers and retailers. Bar codes sometimes get hidden in garments and require additional operator handling, which can slows operations. Because RFID employs radio waves, scanning does not require a visual connection. Beyond apparel use cases, RFID scanning is popular for cell phone and pharmaceuticals processing to name a few applications.

With increasing labor costs and supply chain challenges, the demand for more responsive warehouse automation technology has never been more crucial. Sure Sort robotic delivery vehicles, iBots, can process up to 2,400 items each hour with as little as three operators, and have the ability to recharge as they travel through the system.

Opex also unveiled a new partnership with connected intralogistics solutions designer and integrator Transitic.

Two Opex warehouse solutions that complement Transitic’s customer base are Sure Sort and Perfect Pick, a goods-to-person automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) that is built to improve speed, efficiency and reliability.

In partnering with Transitic, Opex sought an intralogistics partner with a strong presence in France that had expertise serving industries that could benefit from its solutions, according to Nicolas Dewit, head of business development, Europe, Middle East and Asia (EMEA), Opex Warehouse Automation. Dewit said Transitic’s customer base in the fashion, health, and beauty products industries “ideally complements our product offerings.”

GreyOrange

GreyOrange, a provider of automated robotic fulfillment and inventory optimization software, has launched the GreyMatter open API. The API is built to enable any vendor’s robotic solution to connect to the GreyMatter fulfillment orchestration platform.

GreyMatter uses the API to orchestrate autonomous mobile robots (AMR) and other execution agents from companies that have joined the GreyOrange Certified Ranger Network (CRN) ecosystem. This includes vendors such as Hai Robotics, Fetch Robotics (now Zebra), Mushiny Intelligence, Technica International, Vicarious and Youi Robotics, among others.

The Certified Ranger Network (CRN) ecosystem enables GreyOrange to serve as a go-to-market partner for all vendors within the network, as well as the single point of contact responsible for customer satisfaction with the multi-vendor system operations.

The open API was created to eliminate potential integration headaches as GreyMatter orchestrates the disparate robotic solutions, providing customers with continuous access to automated robotic fulfillment technologies.

The GreyMatter fulfillment orchestration platform coordinates and assigns the work activities of warehouse robots to maximize productivity, speed, accuracy and safety in end-to-end inventory fulfillment operations. GreyMatter matches robot agents according to work needs, including capacity and demand peaks, for seamless inventory orchestration.

GreyMatter uses real-time data and machine learning insights to orchestrate fulfillment operations based on service levels for efficient movement of inventory in a fully integrated, end-to-end solution.

The platform connects AI software, smart robots and humans and is built to model the best decisions to drive optimal workflows and fulfillment. It considers outcomes and operational factors such as order patterns and resource availability to make real-time fulfillment decisions. Functions include assisted picking, vertical space use and autonomous picking.

Omnichannel fulfillment

Walmart/Salesforce

Walmart is teaming up with Salesforce as part of the retail giant’s effort to share its fulfillment technology to other merchants, ultimately offering shoppers more personalized commerce experiences with real-time order visibility and powering local pickup and delivery.

As part of the deal, the Walmart Commerce Technologies Store Assist local fulfillment app and Walmart GoLocal local delivery solutions will be available through Salesforce AppExchange.

The Walmart Commerce Technologies Store Assist app is designed to help retailers leverage their local stores as fulfillment centers, giving them the opportunity to optimize in-store fulfillment by increasing picking accuracy, speed and efficiency. The app aims to provide a “handoff experience” between employees and customers or third-party delivery drivers.

“Through this partnership, retailers can leverage the same innovative and scalable technologies that power Walmart’s pickup and delivery experiences,” said Anshu Bhardwaj, senior vice president, technology strategy and commercialization, Walmart Global Technology. “The same technology that powers Store Assist has enabled Walmart to fulfill over 830 million orders across over 4,700 Walmart stores. Together with Salesforce, retailers can scale their business and deliver the personalized, convenient experiences shoppers expect.”

With Walmart GoLocal, retailers of all sizes will have access to white-label, scalable delivery-as-a-service technology that enables them to keep the customer experience under their brand.

“Retailers are looking for ways to improve cost efficiency while meeting their customers’ needs, no matter where or how they choose to shop. Fulfillment from stores is an effective way to achieve these goals and serve customers quickly and reliably through local delivery,” said Harsit Patel, vice president and general manager of Walmart GoLocal. “We look forward to connecting more retailers with the customizable, local delivery solutions they need.”

With Walmart and Salesforce, retailers will be able to enable buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) functionalities. The partnership also enables retailers to gain access to Salesforce Commerce Cloud and Order Management. This allows these merchants to manage their customers’ omnichannel shopping experience across one platform while leveraging AI and real-time data, ideally giving customers connected, personalized experiences.

Position Imaging/NCR

Position Imaging, a provider of package logistics and advanced asset tracking, has signed a multinational service provider agreement with NCR EMEA to become the company’s global installation, service and support partner for its iPickup Point retail fulfillment platform.

The agreement provides Position Imaging with a scalable multilanguage service and support foundation to handle installations efficiently, and offer customer service and technical support for its iPickup Point platform globally.

Under the terms of the agreement, NCR will service Position Imaging’s deployments throughout the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany and Switzerland, with more international markets planned for 2023. NCR was selected for its deep retail expertise, global service and support network.

The iPickup Point platform is a secure package management system that uses AI-based computer vision technology to provide a self-service package Pick Up and Drop Off (PUDO) service to retail customers. Retailers adopt the iPickup Point solution to automate retail fulfillment tasks, including click and collect, without needing bulky, inefficient lockers or additional staff.

Nextuple

Nextuple, a company that aims to help retailers create and scale omnichannel fulfillment by using a microservices architecture, said it has gone live with five undisclosed national omnichannel retailers comprising $50 billion in annual revenue and 7,000 store locations.

The national chains will use Nextuple Fulfillment Studio, a composable suite of microservices launched in October 2022.

Nextuple Fulfillment Studio is designed to allow omnichannel retailers to quickly respond to consumer demands for speed and convenience. One national retailer is providing an estimated delivery date promise on product listing pages at “sub-second performance.” Another was able to prioritize the movement of $1 million of aged inventory in a two-week period through improved sourcing rules.

Nextuple says it offers a set of domain-driven microservices across the omnichannel value chain. Offered as Nextuple Fulfillment Studio (NFS), these include Promising Engine, Sourcing Engine, Order Repository and Same-Day Delivery microservices. The entire NFS offering provides a total of 14 composable microservices across the Promise, Orchestrate and Fulfill areas.

In addition, NFS offering also includes platform components such as Omni Control Center, UI Framework and Notifications Framework. NFS is built leveraging an open-source technology stack, and is cloud native and cloud agnostic.

With NFS, Nextuple aims to disrupting the omnichannel software and services industry by providing the flexibility to own and modify the underlying source code for these microservices. This can be attractive for retailers planning to in-source omnichannel technology as part of modernization efforts. NFS is also available for traditional licensed and SaaS deployment models to help clients pace modernization based on their IT roadmap.

Merchandising

Coveo

Coveo, a provider of search engine, personalization and recommendation platforms, has released the new Coveo Merchandising Hub.

Designed to empower merchandisers to create personalized experiences that convert, the Hub provides a feature set that can enable brands to deliver a more relevant shopping journey in an effort to build loyalty and increase profitability.

The Merchandising Hub’s interface enables merchandising teams to operationalize campaigns, gain insight on revenue opportunities, customize product discovery and create recommendation strategies for different audiences and geographies at scale without relying on IT.

The technology powering the Coveo Merchandising Hub is the culmination of Coveo’s October 2021 acquisition of Qubit, a provider of AI-powered personalization technology for fashion brands and retailers. The integration of Qubit’s technology into the Coveo Relevance Cloud platform enables Coveo to offer a more comprehensive commerce product discovery suite.

“Working with Qubit and now Coveo has been tremendously rewarding,” said Gareth Rees-John, chief digital officer at footwear and accessories brand Kurt Geiger. “With social proof experiences alone, we achieved 11 times our return on investment. Their continual innovation has enabled us to provide better and increasingly more relevant shopping journeys to our global customer base.”

The Coveo Merchandising Hub includes an array of easy to use features and provides detailed insights on how shoppers interact with retailers’ product catalogs, enabling merchandisers to quickly adapt and deploy the winning strategies to optimize campaigns and revenue per visit, boost specific products for revenue, and showcase higher-margin products.

AI and merchandising innovations within the hub include one-to-one personalized search results, which are designed to deliver relevant and personalized product rankings in real time based on shopper intent, without the need for high volumes of data, pre-defined persona segments or logged-in user profiles.

An Intelligent Facet Generator is incorporated to help retailers with large and complex product catalogs that may span thousands of product attributes. With the Facet Generator, customers can see relevant filtering options for each search query, which could help reduce friction and improve conversion.

A product listings manager allows merchandisers to manage product rankings on listing pages with a visual editor, which helps merchandisers benefit from the power of AI while being able to tailor results for specific objectives such as boosting special promo brands.

Personalized content within the hub enables merchandisers to deploy campaigns and promotional content at any point in the customer journey with a drag-and-drop capability.

The hub also includes advanced decisioning, offering merchandisers accessible insights and controls for recommendations and audience prioritization so that they can explicitly layer business logic on top of AI. These strategies can scale for multiple regions, catalogs, and audiences. 

IoT

Wiliot

Wiliot, an Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled product tracking startup, has launched an innovation kit, giving companies an onramp to begin exploring and building ambient IoT solutions that can solve challenges facing supply chains, retail, CPG, healthcare, agriculture and more.

The kit includes Wiliot IoT Pixels, which are tiny, postage-stamp-sized computers that can sense temperature, location and more, and power themselves by harvesting radio waves—thus attaching to goods and assets that enable intelligence and produce actionable insights on the status of every product at a given moment.

The kit also includes Edge Devices that energize and relay IoT Pixel data, and offers access to Wiliot Cloud Services. Additionally, the kit offers Digital Solution Guides to illustrate to users  how ambient IoT can solve business challenges.

Wiliot’s mission—now accelerated by the launch of the innovation kit—is to make every single thing an agent of change, unlocking access to an ambient IoT that adds intelligence and connectivity to reusable packaging, apparel, pharmaceuticals, food and nearly any other product.

The innovation kit is now offered alongside Wiliot’s starter kit, which is a plug-and-play experience using an IoT Pixel-ready coffee cup that can demonstrates item-level temperature monitoring. The innovation kit moves one step further into the world of ambient IoT by providing a more “hands on” experience with the Wiliot Platform, and IoT Pixels that can be attached to items selected by the kit user.

Fraud prevention

ChicMe/Forter

Online women’s fashion brand ChicMe selected fraud prevention platform Forter to support its global expansion by improving payment processing, reducing fraud and increasing order fulfillment efficiency.

As a result of the partnership, the retailer has already reduced fraud-related payment refusals, increased payment transaction rates and significantly improved the manual review process for uncertain orders.

ChicMe, a subsidiary of Shanghai-based women’s fashion company Geeko Tech, says it experienced rapid growth throughout 2022 in Latin American markets such as Mexico and Brazil.

The brand decided to seek out a fraud prevention solution after encountering challenges with its payment and risk control processes in its emerging markets. An increase in fraudulent transactions in Latin America, for instance, directly impacted its profit margin and compromised its banking channels.

According to Forter’s research, denying legitimate transactions can cause up to 75X more lost revenue for merchants than fraud. Known as “false declines,” these occurrences are more likely to hit new customers.

New shoppers are 5-7X more likely to be declined by legacy fraud tools than returning customers, the company said. Forty percent of those shoppers who are falsely declined will then move on to purchase from a competitor instead. Knowing this risk, ChicMe sought to reverse these challenges, improve the user experience across all regions and ultimately set the business up for success.

The brand selected Forter for its understanding of identity, better accuracy in declaring legitimate transactions trustworthy and use of automation to prevent fraud and improve the overall digital user experience. The fashion brand says it saw results “almost instantly.”

“Customer satisfaction, experience and security are a key priority for us. Balancing these priorities with our plans for market expansion became a growing challenge,” said Li Feng, chief technology officer, Geeko Tech, in a statement. “Working with Forter has empowered us to scale our business while maintaining superior customer experience and blocking fraud. In fact, we’ve already increased our payment success rate by 5 percent, and payment refusals due to fraud dropped by more than 50 percent—in only four months.”

Payments

E.pop

E.pop, a smart receipt fintech platform with a mission to transform the payments ecosystem for merchants and consumers and eliminate paper receipts waste, has secured $1.6 million in seed funding. To date, E.pop has raised more than $2 million in capital.

The New York City fintech startup, which stands for “electronic proof of purchase,” has developed a two-sided platform connecting consumers and retail merchants via a smart digital receipt. The E.pop ecosystem delivers merchants and partners granular insights into consumer behavior as well as new channels by which to engage, advertise and market to existing and new shoppers.

E.pop automatically sends new transactions securely to its mobile app with itemized receipts without consumers needing to share their email information with every merchant.

For consumers, the E.pop solution is designed to provide greater control and security over the use of personal contact data and a single mobile app to receive receipts, discounts, return notifications and track spending across accounts.

With this round, the company can fuel development of its ecosystem, as well as expand partner ships with marquee retail brands, SMBs, carbon initiatives within corporate and government sectors and payment technology leaders. The new capital enables us to achieve this by expanding our talented team of 10 and drive new users in key markets, according to Sunay Shah, co-founder and CEO of E.pop.

E.pop’s solution is built to highlight the items consumers are actually spending money on and provides a trusted and targeted channel to reach them, while vitally protecting customer identity.

Citcon/Klarna

Citcon, a global payment platform in providing in-store, online, and mobile payment solutions, and payments and buy now, pay later (BNPL) giant Klarna, have entered a partnership. As part of the deal, Citcon will integrate Klarna as a featured mobile wallet available within its omnichannel payment platform. Merchants currently using the Citcon payment gateway can now provide Klarna as a payment option for online purchases and in-store payments using Citcon’s payment capability.

The Citcon integration will provide merchants with access to Klarna’s payment offerings including Pay in 4, Pay in 30 and Financing to give consumers more choice in how they pay and drive customer loyalty. Merchants will be able to offer these payment options in-store, as well as online on a global basis. For in-store purchases, Klarna will leverage Citcon’s QR-based payments capabilities that allow consumers to either present or scan a QR code when using the Klarna App to make a payment.

Integrating Klarna at checkout will enable Citcon merchants to realize benefits of offering more payment options, and generate what the BNPL firm claims is an average 41 percent increase in order value from shoppers. The collaboration with Citcon is designed to minimize the commercial and integration work required for merchants to offer Klarna at checkout, and with just one click Citcon merchants can provide popular, flexible payment options to customers.

Klarna joins other popular mobile wallet and payment methods available through the Citcon global enterprise payment platform, including PayPal, Venmo, SquareCash, AliPay, WeChat Pay, Kakaopay, PayTm and Grabpay. Citcon’s solution integrates more than 100 different payment methods from local payment schemes to traditional credit cards, BNPL and cryptocurrency, all through one single integration and reconciliation and dispute management platform.

PopID/Toshiba

Biometric fintech company PopID and retail store technologies and unified commerce solutions provider Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions have partnered to integrate PopPay into Toshiba’s front-end point-of-sale and self-service solutions running its Elera Commerce Platform.

PopPay is built to enable consumers to authenticate their identity for payment and/or loyalty using AI-based facial verification software. Toshiba will distribute the integrated solutions to retail segments including restaurant, grocery, quick service restaurant (QSR), convenience stores and more.

One of the first fully integrated solutions will feature PopPay biometric cameras incorporated with the Toshiba Pro-X Hybrid Kiosk. Customers who opt-in can scan items using the Pro-X scanner and then tender the transaction by selecting the on-screen PopPay button to have their face scanned. PopPay then authenticates loyalty and payment without requiring a card or phone.

Toshiba’s Elera and its suite of solutions can help free retailers from legacy technology constraints, the tech company says. With more control over store operations, retailers can ideally enhance efficiency and productivity at scale. Integration of PopPay for automatic payments can offer a retailer numerous benefits, including: faster transactions; higher throughput; reduced stress at checkout for the shopper leading to larger ticket size; increased loyalty participation driven by automation; as well as lower payment processing fees when integrated into point-of-sale systems, self-ordering kiosks and drive-thru systems at QSR chains.