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Retail Tech: Panasonic Acquires Blue Yonder, PTC Teams with VNTANA

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

Supply chain

Panasonic/Blue Yonder

Panasonic has acquired the remaining 80 percent of digital fulfillment and supply chain software platform Blue Yonder for $5.6 billion, giving the Japanese tech company full ownership. Including repayment of outstanding debt, the investment totals $7.1 billion, valuing Blue Yonder at $8.5 billion.

This acquisition builds on the companies’ strategic relationship, which was first established in January 2019 when Blue Yonder was known as JDA. The companies created a Japan joint venture in November 2019. In July 2020, Panasonic took a 20 percent minority ownership stake and one seat on Blue Yonder’s board of directors.

The deal strengthens Panasonic’s portfolio and accelerates the companies’ shared autonomous supply chain mission to help customers optimize their supply chains using the combined power of AI/machine learning and Internet of Things (IoT) and edge computing devices. Additionally, it gives Blue Yonder even greater opportunity to expand its supply chain software solutions into Asian markets.

Panasonic is a leading manufacturer of consumer electronics and also supplies hardware for other manufacturers. Blue Yonder is largely known for its cloud-based platform, Luminate, that’s used by manufacturers, retailers and logistics providers to manage their supply chain operations. Just last year, Blue Yonder acquired SaaS commerce and fulfillment microservices provider Yantriks to integrate its order fulfillment capabilities into the Luminate platform.

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Brands and retailers can use Luminate to estimate future customer deman, plan production volume accordingly, and determine how much of a given product they should purchase from suppliers. The logistics companies that shuttle merchandise from factory operators to retailers can also deploy Luminate in their operations to assist them with tasks such as orchestrating shipments.

Luminate consists of numerous individual modules that provide capabilities for a range of use cases, from planning store designs to tracking the performance of warehouse robots.

Panasonic hopes that by unifying supply, demand and commerce solutions with its own IoT and edge technologies, clients can better use predictive business insights to pivot their operations in real-time.

Additionally, the companies believe customers will gain a competitive advantage to drive more automation and actionable, real-time business insights that can reduce waste and improve operations, while creating a more sustainable world.

Blue Yonder brings a consistently growing operation under Panasonic as well, with the company’s total revenue for 2020 surpassing $1 billion, 67 percent of which was recurring revenue. As of December 31, 2020, SaaS-based annual recurring revenue was $343 million and SaaS net revenue retention rate was 120 percent.

This acquisition also enhances Panasonic’s own digital transformation and customer-centric focus. On April 1, 2022, the Panasonic Group will shift to a holding company system concentrating management resources on strategic businesses in key areas such as providing supply chain innovation and automation.

Yasuyuki Higuchi, CEO of Panasonic’s Connected Solutions Company (which will become Panasonic Connect Co., Ltd. on April 1, 2022), leads this business area. Blue Yonder CEO Girish Rishi and the extended leadership team will join the new organization. The Blue Yonder brand will be retained, and business will function within the Panasonic Connected Solutions Company umbrella.

The transaction has been approved by the boards of directors of both Panasonic and Blue Yonder. The deal is intended to close by the second half of this fiscal year and is subject to customary regulatory approvals.

Panasonic purchased the remaining shares of Blue Yonder from existing shareholders New Mountain Capital.

PLM/3D

PTC/VNTANA

Bringing together the power of product lifecycle management (PLM) and 3D platforms, PTC and VNTANA are collaborating to help retail, apparel, footwear and accessories companies scale their use of 3D in product design, development and downstream consumer experiences.

Together, PTC’s FlexPLM leverages VNTANA’s patented algorithms to enable automatic optimization of 3D assets, and making it easier to use and collaborate with those assets than previously possible.

With this collaboration, FlexPLM users can collaborate on 3D models and instantly share a web-standard version that can be used for in-house design reviews and supply chain collaboration, and also across social media, e-commerce and digital advertising, according to Ashley Crowder, co-founder and CEO of VNTANA.

With the PTC/VNTANA collaboration, users can view and annotate 3D assets alongside product spec data, enabling users to provide feedback and take action all in one system. Users can drop a pin right on the 3D file to communicate changes, and tag a specific user in a comment to ensure they are notified about the request.
With the PTC/VNTANA collaboration, users can view and annotate 3D assets alongside product spec data, enabling users to provide feedback and take action all in one system. Users can drop a pin right on the 3D file to communicate changes, and tag a specific user in a comment to ensure they are notified about the request. PTC/VNTANA

The tech companies want to solve some of the common problems seen within 3D asset creation. 3D assets created for internal and supply chain collaboration are often unsuited to use elsewhere, and can be stored in incompatible file formats and different, disconnected data sources. The file sizes of these 3D assets can be so large that their use in product development and sales and marketing scenarios is hindered without extensive manual rework.

The companies cited a survey from Kalypso, The Interline, and the Indiana University Kelley School of Business Center in late 2020, pointing out that 90 percent of brand and retail leaders believe that the pandemic accelerated the need for digital product creation.

The 3D demand has only been compounded by pre-existing market forces such as digitally native consumers, increased social media shopping and a timeline for capitalizing on trends that can be measured in weeks rather than years. Due to that demand, 3D’s abilities have grown from simply replacing physical samples with digital alternatives, to transforming line reviews and fit sessions, and bringing products to life on e-commerce websites with augmented reality applications.

PTC is the PLM partner to more than 150 apparel, footwear, fashion, and retail customers and more than 1,000. Today, in excess of 211,500 people use PTC FlexPLM on a daily basis, the company says, with more than 50,000 of them in the global supply chain. VNTANA will now be able to reach these clients with the partnership.

VNTANA is built to brings products to life across web, augmented and virtual reality platforms. VNTANA’s 3D Collaboration Platform is designed to unify and automate 3D workflows, giving teams a centralized place to optimize, share, review and distribute 3D models to any stakeholder or endpoint.

Sustainability

Bringg

Bringg, a delivery and fulfillment cloud platform provider, launched a new suite of solutions helping retailers reduce carbon emissions, meet net-zero pledges and provide green delivery experiences to shoppers prioritizing sustainability.

This Bringg Green Sustainability Tech Practice includes solutions focused on green fleet selection, carbon reporting, transparent internal and external sustainability communications and business innovation.

The Practice rolled out on Earth Day, and will offer green product features including routing that optimizes for lower fuel consumption, eco-friendly fleet selection for retailers prioritizing green vehicles, order batching to decrease routes driven and 3D load optimization to ensure that delivery vehicles carry to full capacity.

Bringg also included carbon emission visibility and tracking, which enable consumers to communicate a preference for green delivery at checkout, while allowing brands to notify the consumer about the carbon emission related to their delivery.

The suite also includes Green Last Mile Best Practices to help companies execute, track and report on carbon dioxide emissions and the number of green deliveries with pre-defined KPIs and real-time business intelligence. Additionally, Bringg is offering a Business Innovation and Education Program, offering workshops on how to report and track carbon dioxide savings to help retailers communicate metrics with consumers and incentivize sustainable behaviors.

Onfleet

Last-mile delivery management software Onfleet unveiled a major initiative to offset the impact of carbon dioxide emissions resulting from its deliveries. Dubbed Onfleet Offset, the program will calculate the CO2 impact of its customers’ delivery operations and share in the cost of offsetting emissions by investing in verified nature conservancy projects such as reforestation and old forest protections.

Onfleet’s partner, Pachama, will verify and monitor the impact of these projects using computer vision and machine learning technologies. Pachama’s core technology harnesses satellite imaging with artificial intelligence to measure carbon captured in forests.

The conversancy projects are verified by third-party certification programs such as Gold Standard, Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), Climate Action Reserve (CAR) and American Carbon Registry (ACR).

Onfleet hopes to offset 5,000 tons of carbon dioxide per month by the end of 2021 and expects to have offset a total of more than 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide by the end of 2022, the equivalent of taking 20,000 cars off the road for a full year.

The program, which kicks off on May 1, will offset emissions through carbon credits purchased for $8 per metric ton. Customers that opt into the program will contribute $4 per metric ton of carbon credits for their deliveries, which will then be matched by Onfleet to fully offset customers’ delivery emissions. Emissions resulting from deliveries will be determined through the usage of EPA GHG coefficients and vehicle mileage.

Through efficiency improvements with features such as route optimization and automated dispatching, Onfleet’s software helps customers effectively reduce fleet fuel consumption.

Onfleet Offset aims to takes route efficiency one step further, enabling customers to purchase carbon credits for the remaining emissions and neutralize the environmental impact of their delivery operations, with Onfleet contributing equally to the offset with its own capital.

Digital experience/analytics

Asics/SessionCam

Following a successful three-month pilot program, Asics has announced a strategic partnership with SessionCam, a solution provider offering enhanced digital experience analytics for web applications.

SessionCam’s digital solutions, which encompass conversion rate optimization and in-depth analytics of consumers’ online behavior, will be incorporated into the Japanese athletic brand’s online sites. The solutions will help Asics to anticipate and understand customer needs through real-time analytics and decision-making heat maps.

In the trial, SessionCam provided Asics with customization options with regard to exporting data, setting variables and Google Analytics integration, all which enabled quick data segmentation.

The benefits enabled Asics to respond to site disruptions and build out personalized customer journeys. The data analysis also minimized the time to value and enabled Asics’ teams to consistently add improvements to their development pipeline, the company said.

“SessionCam’s innovative technologies will ensure that Asics is able to offer personalized, uninterrupted and fulfilling journeys,” said Rick Hoving, senior site operations manager of Asics in a statement. “SessionCam has already equipped our teams with an enhanced understanding of the traffic to our online sites, providing easily accessible data to enhance our digital operations. We are looking forward to deepening this relationship and further enhancing the service we provide to our customers.”

SessionCam, which was acquired by digital experience analytics software company Glassbox in October 2020, harnesses its AI-powered technologies to equip enterprises with more visibility over their digital platforms, with the goal of ensuring that all departments across an organization create seamless customer experiences. The company helps retailers and enterprises close the gap between the customer experience they strive to provide and the actual experience consumers face.

Glassbox services hundreds of customers worldwide, including John Lewis and Superdry.

Livestreaming

Aptos/HSE

Retail technology provider Aptos has integrated German live commerce platform HSE within its Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solution. HSE deployed the latest version of Aptos PLM in the cloud to take advantage of a modern user experience that supports dynamic range/collection planning and digital buying.

Aptos PLM integrates with HSE’s existing Aptos Supply Chain Management (SCM) application to more tightly connect product development and supply chain processes and ensure efficient communication with key partners.

HSE is a live commerce provider in Europe, operating across three TV channels (HSE, HSE Extra and HSE Trend), an online shop, a mobile app or via social networks.

HSE has more than 1.4 million active customers who have made purchases across segments including fashion, jewelry, beauty, wellness, household and home and living. Through the TV channels, HSE reaches some 46 million households in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and reaches another 36 million households via the TV station Shopping Live in Russia.

“With a diversified and curated product range like ours and the multitude of channels that we serve, it is essential to maintain a comprehensive view of the collection,” said Rainer Stäbler, chief operating officer at HSE. “Adding to that complexity, we must closely manage a high volume of buying processes and varying suppliers’ lead times to guarantee that each product arrives in time for the TV show and for the launch of our cross-channel campaigns.”

With Aptos’ next-gen PLM solution, Stäbler said HSE had the advanced functionality necessary to orchestrate and digitize its end-to-end collection process and keep it fully under control.

HSE is now using Aptos PLM to help manage all phases of the merchandise lifecycle, including collection planning and open-to-buy, product design and development and detailed costing and buying.

Specific to the range-planning capabilities, HSE can sort the plan by any dimension and attribute (e.g., pricing, materials used, colors and sizes) and examine the plan both from an analytical and visual perspective. This can empower decision-makers to immediately understand how new styles will work together.

Point-of-sale

Kibo

Unified commerce platform provider Kibo has launched Kibo POS to complement its other retail solutions including Order Management and eCommerce. With Kibo POS, the company says retailers can assist shoppers with in-store checkout, show product availability and fulfill orders across locations,.

Kibo says customers using the POS platform can increase revenue generated by each associate, increase efficiency for assisting in-store customers, enable endless aisle for products not in stock at the physical store location, provide quick answers for customers about product and order details and increase average order value and customer lifetime value.

Kibo POS is designed to augment the company’s other major solutions, Kibo eCommerce and Kibo Order Management, so that customers can engage with a complete online shopping and in-store omnichannel experience. Kibo POS enables store associates to centrally manage catalog, inventory, fulfillment through the same administrative module, with roles and permission for added security.

Returns

Schuh/New Look/InPost

U.K. retailers Schuh and New Look have signed up to implement InPost’s recently launched frictionless Instant Returns QR code service that keeps consumers from having to print return labels.

With the label replaced by a QR code scanned at the locker, the self-service experience gives online shoppers control, and takes as little as 10 seconds to complete, the company says.

InPost launched the Instant Returns service to make the returns process quicker and easier for consumers by only asking for a QR code.

“As a business we are constantly looking for ways to operate more sustainably and minimize wastage, so the fact ‘Instant Returns’ is paperless with no need for a printer means it’s the perfect fit for Schuh,” said Alice Cleary, chief marketing officer at Schuh.

The self-service solution is available to use 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “It’s an innovative new service that not only gives customers a locally convenient option, but also offers a more sustainable way to process returns,” said Nigel Oddy, CEO of New Look.

The paperless, frictionless solution is likely to appeal to a more tech savvy, younger cohort of shoppers which InPost has called the “printerless generation.” Research conducted by InPost found that 30 percent of people do not have access to a printer at home they can use to print returns labels, rising to 44 percent of people aged 18-34. Two-thirds (66 percent) of this age group reported that they would prefer to use a code that can be scanned on their phone.

Beyond the benefits of making the returns process quick and convenient for consumers, the new service eliminates the waste of unused printed labels and unnecessary printing. According to InPost, 43 percent of consumers are more concerned about the environmental impact of delivery and returns than in the past. This rises to more than half (51 percent) among 18-34 year olds.