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Retail Tech: Pacsun Optimizes Store Fulfillment, Vera Bradley Taps AI Assortment Planning

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

Fulfillment

Pacsun/Antuit.ai

Pacsun partnered with AI-powered demand forecasting and inventory optimization technology provider Antuit.ai to better leverage its stores as e-commerce fulfillment centers. The California-based lifestyle brand says it doubled its completed shipments by better anticipating online demand and expanding its fulfillment network.

After omnichannel-based allocation, Pacsun was able to reduce the median number of miles needed to fulfill an order by 96.7 percent, reduce fulfillment costs and improve the speed of delivery. It also resulted in more accurate forecasting for the retailer’s in-store and online demand, and a balanced inventory between stores and its e-commerce distribution centers, delivering higher sell-through rates, reduced markdowns and improved margins.

With 330 stores globally, Pacsun’s digital fashion offering, available in both the U.S. and U.K., now accounts for 40 percent of its sales.

As online demand grew, the incremental fulfillment costs associated with each online order began to put pressure on margins. Meanwhile, Pacsun’s online business was seeing significant spikes in demand, particularly ahead of Christmas trading, that meant it not only needed to optimize inventory across its channels to meet this demand, but intelligently allocate stock to lessen the impact of supply chain disruption, shipping costs and cost-intensive split-shipping of multi-item baskets making up more than 50 percent of e-commerce orders, during fulfillment.

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“Pacsun wanted to proactively manage the costs created by the increase in our online sales,” said Mike Relich, Co-CEO of Pacsun. “By adding more intelligence to our allocation processes with Antuit.ai, we allocated inventory for the omnichannel demand and minimized split shipments.”

Using the Zebra Technologies-owned Antuit.ai solution, Pacsun was able to predict, shape and fulfill based on demand, building wall-to-wall granular demand to optimize fulfillment and allocation. Antuit.ai’s Forecasting, Allocation and Replenishment solution suite employs AI and machine learning to anticipate consumer demand at granular levels across all fulfillment channels by leveraging internal and external data to evaluate all demand drivers.

By triangulating stock availability levels, picking and packing costs, shipping costs based on the location and proximity to the customer, markdown liability (fulfilling from inventory with low sell-through items or locations to avoid future markdowns rather than allocating from stock that can be sold at full price) and probability of returns rates, Pacsun has more leeway choose the best fulfillment option to meet the needs of the shopper, while meeting the operational requirements of the business.

Retail planning

Vera Bradley/Impact Analytics

Vera Bradley partnered with Impact Analytics, a provider of AI-driven retail solutions, to provide a unified retail planning platform to optimize decisions across merchandise financial planning, assortment planning, pricing, allocation and replenishment.

Vera Bradley offers a wide range of styles and print options in bags, luggage and backpacks. Prior to choosing Impact Analytics, many of Vera Bradley’s planning, assortment and allocation processes were somewhat disconnected and required manual work. Vera Bradley sought a platform that leverages AI algorithms to help data-driven and more automated decisions.

“We are excited to partner with Impact Analytics in deploying their unified Merchandise Platform at Vera Bradley,” said Daren HullVera Bradley brand president. “Impact Analytics’ unified solution will help enhance decision making.  By leveraging machine learning, our teams will be able to uncover opportunities that traditionally were a challenge to find, opportunities that can make a bottom-line impact.”

Impact Analytics will service Vera Bradley’s full-price stores, factory stores, e-commerce and wholesale business. By implementing Impact Analytics solutions, Vera Bradley will have the opportunity to optimize omnichannel decisions through machine-learning generated forecasts and recommendations leading to improved revenue and profits.

“Impact Analytics stood out as an innovative and highly-collaborative partner during our evaluation process,” said Dave Farrell, vice president of planning at Vera Bradley in a statement. “The Impact Analytics team brings a wealth of data science and retail knowledge to the table for a successful implementation.  We believe their integrated solutions will provide improved efficiencies and enhance our technology capabilities at Vera Bradley.”

Accelerator

Avery Dennison

Avery Dennison launched AD Stretch, an accelerator program designed so the materials science company can partner with more startup innovators to solve key challenges and create new opportunities within sustainability, customer experience and value chains.

The company intends to engage with startups to further enable disruption and evolution in labels and packaging while strengthening innovation capabilities across the industry. The aim is to address some of the industry’s most urgent business challenges by matching Avery Dennison’s experience and scale with promising startups and inventors to collaborate and grow together.

The program will be launched by regional cohorts starting in Asia Pacific and Latin America, then roll out in Europe and the U.S. later this year. With the end goal of solving a specific problem, each cohort will have a region-specific brief that draws on regional challenges.

The core themes will focus on connecting consumers to brands through new experiences, creating sustainable, responsible and efficient value chains and the development of materials and packaging 2.0.

Avery Dennison built the program in partnership with venture studio Highline Beta. Following a period of review and consultation, startup applicants will be narrowed down to 10 finalists that will go on to execute a pilot project.

Selected startups will get funding and support for their pilot execution, as well as access to experts and mentors in manufacturing, operations and materials science. Additionally, Avery Dennison’s professional venture team and partners will help the participating companies with custom programming and support, as well as scaling.

3D/AR

Vntana

Vntana, a 3D and augmented reality (AR) content management software (CMS) provider, saw a 500 percent expansion in customers and partners in 2021, on what it called a record year for customer, revenue, partnership and employee growth.

The company’s patented optimization algorithms help companies like Hugo Boss, Deckers Brands, and Diesel use their existing 3D designs to create high-fidelity, fast-loading 3D assets that are automatically optimized for use across web, social media, advertising, game-engines and the metaverse. The technology is used by brands across fashion, footwear, furniture, tools, sporting goods and more that are looking to optimize the consumer shopping experience.

Vntana doubled its staff in 2021, with plans this year to expand its sales, marketing, customer success and engineering teams. Vntana’s 3D Scanning Partner Program is also projected to increase company partnerships in the coming year.

The company also announced three new strategic partnerships in the last year with Browzwear, PTC, and Joor. Vntana added its first new partnership in 2022 with Virtuality.fashion, a company that aims to make 3D virtualization accessible, affordable and easy for anyone to use. Virtuality.fashion offers fashion design, collaboration and virtual showroom applications based on the concept of 3D-as-a-service.

PLM

Backbone PLM

Backbone PLM has launched an Adobe Illustrator plugin helping designers create technical sketches, colorups, detailed component renderings and other assets for product specifications.

The company’s product lifecycle management (PLM) platform helps brands make products smarter, faster, and at scale—providing a centralized system that houses product, component, design, and production data for fashion, apparel, footwear, outdoor, home goods and accessories companies.

With the plugin, assets are synced from Illustrator directly into Backbone, which can save time by eliminating manual uploads. Designers can also work in Illustrator to actively capture changes to artboard revisions used to populate reports and tech packs through Backbone’s dynamic system of interconnected libraries.

Design, technical and production teams can collaborate on new products in real-time directly through Backbone’s cloud-based user interface to encourage more communicative interactions with factories, vendors, merchandisers, retail teams and customers. From design to production, Adobe Illustrator and Backbone PLM can help brands manage style libraries and increase coordination, communication, and innovation throughout the various stages of product development.

Serving as a graphics solution for illustration, design, sketching and typography, Adobe Illustrator provides a platform for designers and developers to create the products made by most brands on the Backbone platform. The new Adobe plugin can streamline each step of the creative process, enabling users to upload multiple design iterations and keep track of version history. It also helps production teams access and share product-related detail as it becomes available from designers within Backbone and ensures teams always have the most current artboards during each stage of the design cycle.

Eigerindo/Aptos

Indonesian outdoor apparel retailer Eigerindo MPI has deployed Aptos’ next-generation PLM solution. The cloud-based application helps Eigerindo streamline critical processes involved in the creation and management of its collections, resulting in accelerated time to market, improved collaboration and other benefits.

With its store count increasing fivefold in less than a decade, Eigerindo now operates more than 250 stores in Indonesia alongside e-commerce.

“With Aptos PLM, we are bringing greater levels of efficiency and automation to every step of the product lifecycle, enabling us to deliver new, on-trend collections to our customers even faster,” said Agnes Lukito, product general manager at Eigerindo MPI, in a statement. “By bringing together all aspects of creative design, collection development and sourcing on a cloud technology platform, we’ve reduced production times and costs while increasing speed and productivity.”

Following the successful adoption of Aptos PLM, Eigerindo will next focus on onboarding Aptos’ Assortment Planning solution.

Once deployed, Aptos Assortment Planning will enable Eigerindo to align its product offerings with the needs of its customers, markets, channels and locations.

“With the tool, we also have the ability to track the quality of orders from our suppliers, which is extremely important to us,” Lukito added. “As we manage large volumes of supplies, we need to ensure that orders received are compliant with our standards. With the objective to minimize waste and promote sustainable practices, Aptos PLM helps ensure we are producing only those items that meet our strict requirements and are best positioned to reach the shelf.”

According to Christian H. Sarsono, deputy CEO at Eigerindo MPI, “The deployment of Aptos PLM represents a giant leap forward for all our teams that are involved in the development of collections. The system offers one version of the truth, advanced functionality that was a best match to our needs and a user interface that is highly intuitive, promoting user adoption from day one. We are extremely satisfied with our implementation of Aptos PLM.”

Shopper analytics

Sensormatic Solutions/Unacast

In-store retail analytics platform Sensormatic Solutions expanded its collaboration with Unacast, combining consumer mobility data with in-store traffic data to help retailers build shopper insight capabilities that span the entire path to purchase. The enhanced collaboration gives retailers a better understanding of how far their customers travel to stores and where they go before or after their visits.

Helping power Sensormatic IQ, Unacast is a mobility and location data provider leveraging location-based mobile technology, which is contextualized to correlate activity to a location. The collaboration combines this shopper mobility data with in-store traffic and shopper behavior insights from Sensormatic Solutions’ Shopper Experience Solution, helping retailers create more unified experiences and execute across all channels, regardless of whether the ultimate sale happens in-store or online.

As part of the collaboration, a new suite of shopper behavior analytics offerings enables retail decision-making using shopper mobility data. Key insights include when and how often people visit stores, rivals, and complementary destinations, visitation data at the city, state, national or regional level and year-over-year store location visitation patterns.

Checkout

Bold Commerce

Bold Commerce, a technology company that powers checkout and subscription experiences for the retailers and emerging DTC brands, has unveiled its Bold Checkout: Buy Now solution.

Helping retail brands completely customize every part of their checkouts, the new solution gives brands an owned alternative to third-party digital wallets and pay now options.

Bold Commerce says its solution improves on current one-click checkout solutions such as PayPal, Google Pay and Apple Pay, which often hand off their shoppers at the most critical moment in their shopping journey. This can potentially compromise features that are important to customers and the retailer, including in-store pickup or the ability to collect loyalty points as part of the “buy now” experience.

With Bold Checkout’s Buy Now, brands can offer payments to get shoppers through checkout faster without sacrificing customer loyalty, brand or nuanced business requirements. The platform can help brands own the entire checkout experience and maintain full control over the customer relationship during and following purchase.

Brands including Vera Bradley and Harry Rosen have already adopted Bold Commerce’s flexible checkout experience, which now includes Buy Now capabilities.

Using stored address and payment credentials from customers’ accounts, Bold Checkout’s Buy Now can reduce friction for repeat buyers, getting shoppers through checkout faster and increasing conversion rates.

Unlike digital wallets, which often act as a separate tack-on and take over the entire checkout experience, Buy Now is fully integrated into the look, feel and flow of a brand’s experience. Brands retain their customer data and relationships.

The checkout capability is designed to be customizable to the unique needs and requirements of a brand’s business, not just its visual brand. Additionally, users can tailor the checkout experience based on customer context. For shoppers that get to checkout quickly from channels like social media, ads or emails, where they have less context than they would on a brand’s site, it’s critical that they have all the information they need in checkout. With Buy Now, brands integrate with core business logic, shopper profiles and inventory availability, tailoring the experience to the shopper scenario.

Bold Commerce also offers support for complex pricing scenarios and subscription products. Buy Now is powered through Bold Checkout, meaning it supports conditional pricing scenarios such as location-based pricing, B2B or employee pricing; and upsell offers to select customer segments during checkout. In addition, brands can turn one-time shoppers into loyal customers by seamlessly offering subscriptions before and during checkout.

The company also introduced “Donate Now” and “Subscribe Now.”

Bold Checkout has been adopted by users of major e-commerce platforms and can replace or be implemented alongside a platform’s existing checkout to create additional checkout journeys or “flows.” These flows can further be tailored based on origin, device type, and shopper segment to increase conversion and make more customer touch points shoppable.

Marketing/advertising

Bluecore/Criteo

Retail marketing technology company Bluecore has partnered with online advertising solutions provider Criteo, enabling Bluecore’s predictive audience capabilities and Criteo’s performance display ecosystem to engage shoppers across the open web.

Early adopters have experienced an increase in ROAS (return on ad spend) by as much as 109 percent within the first two months of the partnership.

As traditional retailers and digital-first brands compete with each other online, but with other digital experiences, they have to stand out in an increasingly complex, costly and privacy conscious space. This requires going beyond traditional customer acquisition tactics and instead taking a lifecycle marketing approach to communicate with shoppers and drive superior performance in major ad channels.

The partnership between Criteo and Bluecore enables brands to accomplish this by leveraging their owned first-party data to predict what shoppers will buy next on major ad channels. They can now deliberately reach shoppers, create compelling moments that reflect individuals’ unique preferences as they explore and evaluate products digitally, and convert them over and over again.

Effective immediately, retailers can leverage Bluecore on the digital ad channels where their current and prospective shoppers engage, directly from their Criteo interface. Additionally, they can personalize their communications with the same level of shopper-specific context that’s possible through their owned email and e-commerce channels. Using Criteo and Bluecore together empowers brands to focus on long-term retention, regardless of channel.

Nearly 20 brands are already using the joint offering, including Jockey, New York and Company, Lord & Taylor, JTV, Brooks Brothers, Ann Taylor, Mavi, Lane Bryant, Loft and Cabela’s.

Bluecore operates across all major digital channels and the major sources of consumer traffic: email, SMS, Facebook, Google and Criteo. Through its predictive retail AI, Bluecore helps retailers personalize shopper communications in the channel they are most likely to convert.