The weekly Retail Tech Roundup compiles technology news across the supply chain, manufacturing, retail, e-commerce, logistics and fulfillment sectors.
Model management agency iCloudModel has launched a solution that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to make realistic and high-quality images for fashion e-commerce designers and brands in China.
iCloudModel (ICM) partnered with computer vision and AI startup Mad Street Den (MSD). With the technology, users can shoot the international models at their location without having the models in China by shooting footage of their own garments on a mannequin anytime at their location.
The turnover can be as quick as 24 hours and cost 25 percent of traditional shoot production, said ICM founding CEO David Lim.
According to Dr. Costa Colbert, chief science officer of iCloudModel, the technology, called the Generative Adversarial Network (GAN), understands what a garment looks like, visualizes it on a model and shows how realistic AI-generated digital models can be. GAN captures features including silhouettes, the type of sleeve, neckline, design elements and patterns.
Each model in the library is based on a real fit model, digitized for the virtual world, including their measurements, shape and posture. Using AI, the technology can morph the garment onto the model’s image taking into account the natural shape, twists and turn of the body position.
Oracle NetSuite unveiled new innovations within the NetSuite platform to help it small and midsized clients adapt to changing e-commerce habits. The latest updates further streamline and enhance financial, inventory and operational management with the addition of new automation, insights and efficiency capabilities.
New automated inventory management capabilities include a Pack Station touchscreen interface aimed at simplifying and increasing the efficiency and accuracy of the packing process, while new functionality enables orders with the same shipping routes to be grouped together so they can be packed together. The feature also adds an extra layer of verification before orders ship to help prevent customer issues and avoid the added costs of reshipping.
The company updated its Warehouse Management System (WMS) so that picking waves can now be organized by delivery times and shipping address. Wave automation enhancements enable organizations to take advantage of off-peak processing.
Additionally, NetSuite added a new feature to its SuiteCommerce webstore manager so that users can now add a full featured blog to their site to help increase SEO, drive webstore traffic, improve time spent on site and reduce the cost of inbound marketing.
NetSuite also upgraded it SuiteAnalytics and SuitePeople Performance Management platforms, enhancing the former by enabling users to add calculated fields on aggregated columns in a workbook allowing them to gain real-time insights tailored to their business. Conditional formatting has been added as well, allowing for customized highlighting of values to notify users of the data that is most in need of their attention.
Eight new interactive charts with SuiteAnalytics Workbooks provide HR leaders visibility into how groups of employees or individuals are performing. A new goals portlet has also been added so goals are more visible to employees, helping them stay focused and engaged, and managers can easily view how employees are tracking to set goals.
NetSuite also now offers centralized purchasing and billing in an effort to improve spend management, increase productivity and reduce PO volume by consolidating purchases across multi-subsidiary organizations, generating vendor payments from a single location and automating cross-charges.
And with SuiteApprovals Email Approval, organizations can click an email link to review, approve or reject transactions. In addition, an email approval log is available so that all approvals can be reviewed and audited before they are updated in the system.
Unity, a platform for creating and operating real-time 3D content, has made its Unity Computer Vision Datasets available in an effort to help manufacturers and retailers reduce the cost of developing computer vision applications. Unity wants to eliminate the barrier in obtaining high-quality synthetic datasets that can accelerate AI and machine learning training.
Synthetic data is generated to meet specific needs or conditions that are not available in existing data. This can be useful in cases such as when privacy requirements limit data availability, or dictate how it can be used. One common use for synthetic data is for testing a pre-released product, when data either does not exist or is not available to the testers.
Dr. Danny Lange, senior vice president of AI and machine learning at Unity, said that these datasets empower companies to plan for and simulate scenarios they haven’t yet experienced. This is presently enabling smarter indoor environments, such as cashierless grocery stores, and more customers discover new applications, he said.
Retailers are using data simulations in additional ways, such as determining the best option to lay out clothing displays while considering factors like whether shoppers are looking for themselves or a family member. Shop owners can run simulations to find the optimal location for the store, accounting for factors like where and how many people could stand in line during peak times.
Unity’s Computer Vision Datasets make use of a technique known as “domain randomization” to create diverse datasets designed to improve quality and control bias in applications. The process outputs permutations of how objects of interest are positioned and orientated, including variances on lighting and camera angles.
The datasets are also designed to avoid the privacy pitfalls and uncontrolled biases that arise from processes that often include images of real people and places scraped off the Internet or manually captured from the real-world using labor-intensive operations.
Unity offers one low price for any label type ensuring that customers pay the same price for simple and complex industry standard label types such as 2D and 3D bounding boxes, class segmentation or instance segmentation. Datasets for purchase are available in a tiered pricing model that sees the price per image decrease proportionality to the increased need for more synthetic images.
Bridgeline Digital, Inc., a provider of cloud-based marketing technology software, is powering the digital strategy for an undisclosed military apparel provider.
Started more than five decades ago, the military apparel seller began with a single contract to make the iconic white Dixie Cup hats for the U.S. Navy. That successful commission became a national business serving the apparel needs of various branches of the military, law enforcement and public safety communities. The company now sells merchant tactical apparel and gear as well.
Bridgeline will revamp the company’s search technologies with Celebros, an e-commerce site search technology that improves navigation and checkout.
Soona, a content creation platform for e-commerce that powers virtual photo and video shoots, has raised $10.2 million in Series A funding, led by Union Square Ventures.
The company will use the funding to expand its proprietary “camera-to-cloud technology” and introduce a subscription product with more collaboration tools and more data about what kinds of visual content is most effective. The company said its revenue grew 400 percent in 2020 and it is on track to do the same again in 2021. The business works with 4,000 clients across fashion and footwear, beauty and cosmetics, home goods and pet care.
Soona attacks three problems associated with brand content by delivering high-quality creative from professional crews, a quick 24-hour turnaround time and transparent pricing in a collaborative and intuitive platform.
Clients book a shoot online using Soona’s self-service software, choose from curated designs or take a style quiz to uncover their brand’s visual personality and select from its network of models, stylists and props.
Retail customers can then ship their products and view their shoot online in real time. Clients can give feedback to the crew as they would on an in-person set and see immediate changes and improvements on the dashboard. Clients only pay for the photos (priced at $39 each) and video clips ($93 each) that they actually want.
Brands can organize content on the platform, revisit previous shoots, download any of the content they’ve previously purchased and shop their past shoots for more content at any time.
The investment round includes follow-on investments from Matchstick Ventures, Starting Line Ventures, 2048 Ventures and Range Ventures. The new funding follows a $1.2 million seed round in May 2019.
Signifyd, a provider of e-commerce fraud protection services, raised $205 million in a Series E growth equity financing round led by Owl Rock Capital, with participation by financial services provider FIS and investment management organizations Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPP Investments) and Neuberger Berman Investment Advisers
Their investment values Signifyd at $1.34 billion and will help the company expand its Commerce Protection Platform and identity graph globally, across digital shopping and payments. Signifyd designed the Commerce Protection Platform to provide comprehensive fraud protection, abuse prevention and payment optimization, with the technology providing merchants with an average 5 percent to 7 percent revenue lift or higher in many cases.
In the past year, multiple divisions across Walmart, Lacoste, Quiksilver and Mango onboarded the platform, which has helped increase conversion rates up to 20 percent, doubling revenue year over year. Signifiyd expects to reach $200 million in revenue in the next year.
Signifyd already tripled its team in Europe and launched in Latin America in 2020, but the investment will help Signifyd accelerate its expansion in the latter and continue its growth in EMEA. The global footprint will include ongoing additions to Signifyd’s product, customer success, risk intelligence and data science teams while expanding its development and engineering teams.
The funding comes as e-commerce continues its rapid growth and payment regulations such as PSD2 become even more complex, while retailers require even more detailed data from consumers.
Buy now, pay later
U.K.-based buy now, pay later platform Zilch has raised $80 million in a Series B funding round, bringing the its valuation over $500 million. Gauss Ventures and M&F Fund led the round, among other unnamed investors. The technology provider would use the funding to expand beyond its current market in the U.K. into more countries, including the U.S.
Zilch doesn’t charge fees on its service, and instead makes a cut in the transaction from the retailer’s fee in every card transaction.
Shoppers using the platform can pay in installments by starting with a 25 percent down payment before paying for the item in full in 25 percent installments over the next 6 weeks. Shoppers who miss a payment are barred from using the service again until they settle up but Zilch doesn’t charge late fees.
While many buy now, pay later companies integrate in the online retailer’s checkout process alongside other payment companies, Zilch exclusively partnered with Mastercard and created a payment card with it so that when a person wants to pay using Zilch, they use the Mastercard number in the checkout. This action then triggers the option to them to either pay in installments or pay as you would with a normal credit card.
Zilch is the first installment payments player to be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, the financial services regulator in the U.K. that has run an investigation of the sector competitors and appears to be preparing tighter regulation around how they can work.
The platform has more than 500,000 users and is seeing sign-ups of around 4,000 a day on its app, according to CEO and founder Philip Belamant.
The funding comes as more people in the U.K. gravitate to buy now, pay later options. A recent report from Worldpay estimated that the payments method will account for 10 percent of all sales by 2024 in the U.K., when the overall e-commerce market will be worth 264 billion pounds ($366 billion).