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Retail Tech: Project44 Acquires Convey, Mirakl Raises $555M, Hai Robotics Raise $200M

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

Last-mile delivery

Project44/Convey

Project44, a provider of real-time supply chain visibility solutions, acquired last-mile delivery and experience platform Convey for $255 million. The deal comes as supply chain management is paramount for brands as they experience unprecedented delays and soaring container costs.

The Convey addition extends Project44’s real-time visibility and exception management to the last mile, including parcel, courier, white-glove doorstep delivery and item-return visibility. Convey’s clients include Walmart, Neiman Marcus, The Home Depot, Brooklinen and Boll & Branch among others, augmenting Project44’s customer base that includes Amazon, Starbucks and CPG giants Unilever and Procter & Gamble.

The tie-up establishes a unified view of the supply chain “from raw materials to the front door,” Project44 said.

The companies aim to bring the same delivery experience capabilities in e-commerce to a larger B2B market and streamline day-to-day workflows and collaboration between shippers, sellers and carriers to optimize for reduced overhead. Additionally, Project44 wants to expand the impact of AI on the supply chain through predictive ETAs and dynamic transit times both pre-and-post purchase, both of which are incredibly important in today’s supply chain environment.

The products will be integrated over the course of the next year without reducing functionality or support to current and prospective users, Project44 says.

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With the acquisition, Project44 aims to “radically change” the way companies view, learn and react to downstream events, such as shipping delays, ETA changes, Covid-related worker shortages and port closures. As retailers enter a tenuous holiday season, stakeholders need total order visibility and the ability to get ahead of issues before they occur.

The supply chain tech provider believes that the acquisition will enable carriers and logistics service providers to spend less time working manually and more time focused on their core business. Project44 specifically pointed out Convey’s ability to resolve parcel delivery issues through automated customer communication.

Project44 was valued at $1.2 billion in June after raising $202 million from Goldman Sachs Asset Management. With the funding, the company wanted to accelerate its expanded multimodal carrier network, expand artificial intelligence (AI) and data science capabilities, accelerate new product innovation and bolster sales and marketing reach globally. The company also wants to expand further into Asian markets, and debuted real-time shipment tracking services in China—giving clients the same transportation visibility it offers across North America and Europe.

With Convey under its wing, the supply chain visibility solution now connects more than 880 global shippers and third-party logistics providers with a network of 113,000 carriers, 2.6 million assets and more than 9 billion last-mile shipment events.

Convey is Project44’s third acquisition in 2021, following deals for ocean freight intelligence provider Ocean Insights in March and fellow AI-based supply chain visibility technology ClearMetal in May. With all three platforms in tow, the combined visibility and predictive analytics covers more than 55 shipping lines, 700 seaports and more than 5,000 vessels. The company processes over 5 million sailing schedule changes per day while providing machine learning, ETAs and analytics down to the order level.

Marketplaces

Mirakl

E-commerce marketplace solutions provider Mirakl is now valued at more than $3.5 billion after a $555 million Series E funding round led by technology investment firm Silver Lake.

Mirakl has capitalized on a market that has seen significant expansion since the Covid-19 pandemic. During the fourth quarter of 2020, marketplaces grew by more than double the overall e-commerce rate, the company says. In that period, Mirakl raised $300 million in a Series D round.

The marketplace platform provider responded to the funding by recording 90 percent growth in year-over-year bookings value during the first half of 2021.

With the new funding, Mirakl plans to hire 350 more engineers, growing the Mirakl Labs team to 500 by 2023 in order to extend the end-to-end capabilities, scalability and security of its core Mirakl Marketplace Platform technology. The tech company wants to bolster its AI, automation and features that empower its new business models including dropship expansion.

Mirakl also wants to use the funds to double the size of its customer success organization, and expand the size of Mirakl Connect, its ecosystem of high-quality, marketplace-ready sellers. Mirakl Connect helps enterprises accelerate their marketplace launch and more quickly scale assortments.

Additionally, although the company is established in 14 countries, it aims to expand its geographic reach, with a dual focus on growing its Paris and Boston headquarters and increasing its footprint across major markets in EMEA, the Americas and Asia Pacific.

Mirakl says it will evaluate “compelling” acquisition opportunities to further build its marketplace platform.

PLM

Vivienne Westwood/PTC

Global fashion brand Vivienne Westwood has designed and deployed a new retail product lifecycle management (PLM) platform from PTC with assistance from Accenture, in an effort to develop and launch new products more quickly.

Vivienne Westwood is leveraging PTC’s FlexPLM retail solution to improve and accelerate its product development and sourcing processes. FlexPLM integrates data sources relevant to the design and development of products, enabling Vivienne Westwood to understand where a product is at each stage of its lifecycle.

This digital thread aims to provide complete visibility for design and development-related activities across several product categories, including women’s and men’s ready-to-wear, shoes, leather goods, jewelry and accessories. The PLM platform also would help improve communication and collaboration related to the design and production process, both internally and with supply chain partners.

“The majority of our prototypes, samples and production items are outsourced, and we have a complex and heterogeneous supply chain to manage,” said Antony Calabrò, Vivienne Westwood’s chief information officer. “We chose PTC FlexPLM for its supply chain and product development capabilities, its intuitive and highly visual user interface, and its information security and system stability. Accenture’s expertise and proven track record in the fashion industry and with PLM were instrumental in launching and having it deliver business value in a short timeframe.”

Before introducing the new platform, Vivienne Westwood’s design and merchandising office in the U.K. and production office in Italy had to create tech packs and exchange data mainly through email and spreadsheets. These manual practices could lead to duplicate data entry, poor collaboration with international factory partners, and missed deadlines.

Accenture’s “Industry X” branch, which focuses on digital transformation efforts across the value chain, helped Vivienne Westood integrate PTC. Industry X was created to embed intelligence in how clients run factories and plants, as well as design and engineer connected products and services—all with the goal of making manufacturing and operations more efficient, effective and safe.

“Vivienne Westwood required us to quickly understand and improve their ways of working and be flexible when it came to changes in the project scope,” Alberto Codrino, managing director for Industry X at Accenture. “Working closely with their IT and business teams, and with the support of the PTC team, we were able to help the brand quickly take advantage of data and digital to redefine how it develops products.”

Sustainable supply chain

Sourceful

Sourceful, a platform that uses data to enable companies to source and manage eco-friendly products for their business, has raised $12.2 million in funding. The seed round was led by Index Ventures, with participation from Eka Ventures, Venrex and Dylan Field, founder of collaboration solutions provider Figma.

Founded in June 2020, Sourceful has worked with brands across the U.S., U.K. and E.U. to source eco-friendly packaging, merchandise and components. It has shipped over 1 million items and currently has over 40 vetted suppliers in the U.K. and China.

The company allows brands to shop for emerging environmentally conscious products in its marketplace of handpicked and carefully monitored suppliers.

Sourceful will use the new funding to scale its current operating model and build out its technology platform for sustainable sourcing. The company will also invest in talent across technology, sustainability, marketing and operations. Since the start of 2021, the team has grown fivefold and is aiming to reach 60 employees by the end of the year. In addition, Sourceful has co-invested into Sourceful Climate, a platform helping business with carbon removal.

The company wants to address a significant problem within supply chains—a lack of rich data or shared language around specific items: “bioplastic,” for example, might mean one thing to one supplier, and a different thing to another one. And with business-to-business sourcing being so fragmented and increasingly global, it’s not typically a seamless process to shop and pay for business inputs.

Essentially, Sourceful is trying to simplify a scenario that is typically difficult for consumers; properly scoping out their options and understanding their true environmental footprint.

The platform says it has created a universal standard or protocol that can be used by buyers and suppliers alike to assess the sustainability impacts of different sourcing choices. These standards look at data on greenhouse gas emissions over the whole lifecycle of a product, from manufacture to shipping and logistics through to end of life. With this data, brands would ideally analyze their existing supply chains and identify areas for improvement.

Sourceful also employs data-driven optimization to provide intelligent inventory management and warehousing services. This means companies can proactively replenish and restock products, giving them more time to focus on their brand and cutting the need for significant on-site storage.

The company’s customer base spans fashion and accessories, food and beverage, healthcare and fast-growing online marketplaces. Co-founded by CEO Wing Chan and chief operating officer Shiran Zheng, Sourceful has an executive team comprised of over 50 percent women and over 85 percent from under-represented minority backgrounds.

Robotics 

Locus Robotics

Fresh off another $50 million in funding, Locus Robotics has acquired Waypoint Robotics.

The acquisition is geared at broadening the Locus product line of autonomous mobile robots (AMR) solutions that address use cases from e-commerce, case-picking and pallet-picking to scenarios requiring larger, heavier payloads and fulfillment modalities.

In a blog post, Locus Robotics CEO Rick Faulk said the company would introduce product offerings that address customers’ urgent and growing needs, particularly in use cases requiring robots to handle “larger, heavier payloads.”

Waypoint’s Vector and MAV3K mobile robot platforms feature omnidirectional mobility, and can be fitted with a wide variety of modules and attachments, making them versatile and scalable for a host of applications. They are built to be interoperable with other robots, including the LocusBot, and can communicate with machines and IoT devices throughout a facility.

Faulk said both companies are presently working to integrate their product families, and that Locus will continue to offer its robotics-as-a-service (RaaS) pricing model.

Meanwhile, DHL, the world’s largest logistics company with over 1,400 warehouses and offices in more than 55 countries and territories, recently signed a 2,000 bot deal with Locus as part of its efforts to digitize its supply chain processes.

“Warehouses and fulfillment centers benefit by harnessing the strengths of humans and robots working in collaboration. These co-botic environments are further optimized when a range of differently ‘skilled’ AMRs are employed. With the acquisition of Waypoint Robotics, Locus Robotics is able to bring more capability to the fulfillment floor,” said Jordan K. Speer, research manager, global supply chains, IDC Retail Insights. “Furthermore, introducing combinations of differently ‘skilled’ AMRs that are interoperable with each other enables new functional capabilities where robots hand off product to each other. Without intelligent automation that can handle a wide variety of tasks on the fulfillment floor—including returns, putaway and sortation—organizations will not be able to thrive in today’s market.”

Hai Robotics

Hai Robotics, a Chinese warehouse robotics startup that developed an autonomous case-handling robotics (ACR) system, has secured two new continuous rounds of financing, garnering approximately $200 million.

The Series C and Series D investments will go toward boosting its robot fleet with technological upgrades, expanding global operation networks, optimizing supply chain management capabilities and corporate structure as well as talent.

5Y Capital led the Series C round, with additional participation from Sequoia Capital China, Source Code Capital, VMS, Walden International and Scheme Capital. The D round funding, the third capital infusion for the company in 2021, was led by Capital Today with some existing investors, including Sequoia Capital China, 5Y Capital, Source Code Capital, Legend Star, and 01VC.

Both fundings come only six months after Hai announced B+ round funding of $15 million.

Hai Robotics is known for its Haipick ACR system, first launched in 2015. Haipick robots can pick and place totes or cartons on storage shelves up to five to seven meters high and are able to carry up to eight loads to continuously feed goods-to-person picking stations.

The Haipick robot can carry cartons as well as individual totes and bring multiple cases to pickers or conveyors in one movement. Hai claims the bots can realize warehouse automation in one week, increase storage density by 80 percent to 130 percent, and quadruple worker efficiency.

Berkshire Grey

Berkshire Grey launched its AI-powered Robotic Shuttle Put Wall (RSPW), an automated put wall solution designed to increases capacity and throughput with robotic automation.

“Businesses will continue to see e-commerce orders rise as global e-commerce sales expect to approach $5 trillion by the end of 2021. This growth in volume combined with labor scarcity is putting tremendous pressure on supply chain operations to increase fulfillment throughput and support a broad selection of products. Businesses have no choice but to automate,” said IDC analyst Kevin Prouty.

Berkshire Grey’s RSPW solution helps retailers be more competitive, increase capacity and meet escalating consumer demand despite labor shortages. The solution can accommodate nearly 100 percent of typical SKU assortments, including challenging items like soft polybags and cylinders/tubes, such as those used for make-up, for a variety of industries including apparel, footwear, beauty, and general merchandise.

The company also says the high capacity put wall increases customer order sortation throughput by up to 300 percent, and integrates with existing fulfillment processes with no disruption to ongoing operations.

Already launching Intelligent Enterprise Robotics (IER) and Robotic Pick and Pack (RPP) solutions in the past few months, Berkshire Grey’s newest launch provides sort locations for up to 240 orders to be processed at the same time in a single robotic put wall, as opposed to what the company says is an industry average of 80 orders for a manual put wall.

Also offering RaaS as its model, Berkshire Grey says the RSPW solutions improve upstream batch inventory pick rates by up to 33 percent, and can integrate with any existing operation including robotic, conveyer and manual-based transport approaches.

Customer experience

Primark/InMoment

Primark has selected experience improvement technology provider InMoment to support the brand’s goals to improve customer experience, increase customer loyalty, retention and repeat business.

The fashion, beauty and homeware retailer, which operates 400 stores in thirteen countries across Europe and the U.S., aims to provide the best product for the best price and optimize the customer experience.

Primark partnered with InMoment to understand what brings their customers back, and make improvements to customer experiences that encourage their patrons to shop more. By focusing on what customers are saying in real time, and being able to gauge their tone of voice, the retail aims to more quickly understand what customers like and dislike and take action to improve the experience for future shopping trips.

“We needed a company with expertise and knowledge of customer experience in the retail industry and InMoment was the right fit for us,” Philip Clarke, analytics and reporting manager at Primark, said. “Their focus on continuously developing technical innovations to their software means that Primark will also benefit and be at the forefront of competition.”

Primark is able to operate the CX program at scale, in different locations and languages across the globe, leveraging the InMoment XI platform and its text and sentiment analysis. Primark continues to expand into new markets with the help of InMoment. Understanding customers quickly is helping aid expansion plans to gain comprehend regional differences.

Fit technology

SuitShop/Bold Metrics

SuitShop has leveraged the Virtual Sizer API from Bold Metrics to build out customizable suit fitting experiences for shoppers.

Since implementation in October 2019, the e-commerce retailer, which sells tuxedos, suiting, shirts, and other accessories for men and women, saw a 30 percent reduction in fit-related exchanges and reorders.

SuitShop’s custom-designed fit finder front-end experience plugs into the Bold Metrics Virtual Sizer to provide customers with a way to get fitted without the need for self-measurement, enabling the brand to grow its business digitally while also reducing size exchanges.

“What started as an initiative to reduce our exchange rate has evolved into a more streamlined and enjoyable shopping experience for our customers. The Bold Metrics’ team continues to leverage our data, making size recommendations more accurate while helping us iterate on how this tool is integrated into the buying path,” said Diana Ganz, co-founder of SuitShop. “We’ve been really impressed by Bold Metrics’ attention to detail when it comes to understanding our customers’ needs and what would improve their utilization and trust in an online sizing tool. If customers are skeptical of the sizes we are recommending and bothered by the process, then they won’t use the recommended sizes, and the technology becomes pointless.”

Apparel brands like SuitShop can leverage Bold Metrics’ AI engine and cater it to fit their brand’s UX and customer journey. For example, brands can modify the type and number of survey questions presented on their site, as well as the style, appearance and format of the experience within their e-commerce site.

Livestreaming

Missguided/OOOOO

Missguided, a U.K.-based retailer selling clothes aimed at 16-to 35-year-old women, has partnered with OOOOO Entertainment Commerce to integrate its fast fashion experience into the social e-commerce platform.

The OOOOO platform helps retailers, brands and entrepreneurs share product-based opinions directly to consumers through live, interactive, shoppable videos. The platform also offers gamification and social features, which can reward the community for helping to grow the user base, potentially reducing the need for traditional ad networks.

The timing of the partnership is interesting given that OOOOO recently launched live shows with JD Sports Fashion in July. JD Sports was recently connected with potentially investing in a controlling stake in the retailer, which also just launched men’s wear brand, Mennace.

With both retailers integrating with the platform, the retailers could be aligning their efforts on how they want to approach livestreaming, which continues to further pick up steam outside of China.

For Missguided, the partnership ties in with its overall mission to empower female consumers through social media, street style and pop culture. Working with a livestreaming platform gives the retailer greater access to its younger consumers.

Buy now, pay later

Affirm

Affirm has launched a new feature, Adaptive Checkout, in an effort to dynamically provide a wider array of personalized payment options for shopper transactions, including four interest-free biweekly payments, monthly payments, or both.

The Amazon partner says that merchants with early access to the feature have seen an average incremental 26 percent increase in conversion rates, a 22 percent lift in approvals and a 20 percent increase in sales, compared to offering monthly payments through Affirm alone.

Retail Tech: Project44 Nabs Convey, Missguided Livestreams with OOOOO
Affirm’s Adaptive Checkout Affirm

Adaptive Checkout uses Affirm’s smart decision engine to deliver personalized payment options based on the transaction size as well as a real-time underwriting decision.

When shoppers are ready to check out, they provide four pieces of information to receive a relevant payment option. Eligible shoppers will then see a multi-option display detailing the choice of four interest-free payments or monthly installment plans with different term lengths, up to 36 months.

Once shoppers choose their plan, they’ll see the amount they agreed to pay at checkout. There are no hidden or late fees with Affirm.

“Using Adaptive Checkout proves that offering flexibility encourages consumers to shop with us. We’re able to capture new customers who may have wanted to shop with Luisaviaroma but didn’t have the ability until now,” said Nicola Antonelli, chief marketing officer at luxury fashion and accessories brand LuisaViaRoma. “Adaptive Checkout allows us to offer the most relevant payment options to both the younger consumer who may typically purchase lower-priced items as well as consumers interested in higher-end luxury purchases, all with one checkout solution.”

Visual search

Syte/Slyce

Retail product discovery platform Syte has acquired both the fashion and furniture segments of Slyce, a visual search company that has integrated its technology into the apps and websites of more than 60 major retailers, including Abercrombie & Fitch, New Look and Ashley Furniture HomeStore.

Syte, based in Israel, already has clients including Shein, Farfetch, PrettyLittleThing, Signet Jewellers and Coleman Furniture, but wants to leverage the U.S.-based Slyce to establish more of a presence in North America. The company saw a 43 percent year-over-year growth of North American customers between 2020 and 2021, but the acquisition of Slyce’s fashion and furniture portfolio is expected to further propel Syte’s sustained growth.

Through this transaction, Syte also says it can present a wider range of sophisticated product discovery solutions to Slyce’s fashion and furniture customers ahead of the 2021 holiday shopping season.

DTC

Vtex/AWS

Vtex, a software-as-a-service digital commerce platform for enterprise brands and retailers, has entered multi-year agreement with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to create a new direct-to-consumer (DTC) solution that enables large companies such as global consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands to launch e-commerce sites and experiences.

The agreement will enable Vtex to extend its presence in the global digital commerce segment by using AWS technologies and leveraging its sales channels to build customer-centric capabilities for CPG companies.

The DTC Launchpad will combine AWS machine learning services, including Amazon Forecast and Amazon Personalize, and Vtex e-commerce, marketplace and order management capabilities with logistics and distribution operations provided through Amazon’s global Multi-Channel Fulfillment (MCF) network and expertise to create an end-to-end DTC solution.

In this model, CPG companies can send products they sell through various channels, including their own DTC e-commerce sites, to Amazon fulfillment centers, where Amazon will then pick, pack, and ship those products to customers with fast delivery speeds. DTC Launchpad, which is available globally, will also integrate with Amazon Pay in the 16 countries where Amazon Pay is available to facilitate payment and purchases with registration-free checkout.

As part of the collaboration agreement, AWS is able to sell DTC Launchpad to customers worldwide.