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Retail Tech: PVH x Mendix, Walmart Invests in Symbiotic, New Simon Search

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

Digitization

PVH/Mendix

PVH Europe, home to the global headquarters of Tommy Hilfiger and European offices of Calvin Klein, has selected the Mendix low-code enterprise platform to build a suite of apps designed to manage and track marketing budgets and chargebacks, onboard and off-board temporary and external employees, manage project calendars and streamline customer service.

To support PVH Europe as the fashion giant handles these tasks, Mendix partner MxBlue developed an application to make budgets more transparent and provide clear spending insights to optimize planning in a visually appealing way. The Global Unified Budget Information (GUBI) app, which took five months to build, is aimed at providing better, more timely information, which can be crucial for efficiency and accountability.

Mendix’s engineered-in collaborative capabilities and intuitive visual interface are built to improve developer productivity and empower what it calls “a legion of not-so-technical, ‘citizen’ developers” to create apps guided by their particular domain expertise.

The company also worked with Mendix to create the Recertification Third Party Accounts (RTPA) app, which allows HR teams to work more closely with freelancers and contractors. The onboarding and off-boarding process is streamlined in the app, in an effort to create more engagement with external workers and also allow accounts and certificates to be renewed using the app.

PVH Europe also developed the Chargeback app, which was built in four months. The app manages chargebacks to wholesale partners and streamlines end-of-season returns and markdowns automatically, improving customer satisfaction. To streamline processes, PVH Europe integrated the new solutions with SAP’s system of record, such as the Sample Sale app, an internal app to streamline invitations, registration and crowd control for sample sales.All apps were built by MxBlue in close cooperation with PVH Europe. Leveraging the experience with Mendix, the PVH Europe development team built and launched two additional apps. Within six weeks they launched Prop Shop, an internal B2B “web shop” for stores to order in-store promotional materials. The second app is called Cbase, a customer information dashboard that supports the sales teams to prepare for customer visits.

The suite of new applications improved data accuracy and decreased the manual workload of checking and correcting data, improving efficiency, the retailer said. The Mendix building blocks are designed to allow customers to build new apps quickly, so they can experiment and define new standards for their business.

River Island/Cloudinary

U.K.-based High Street fashion retailer River Island has selected solutions from Cloudinary, a media experience cloud company, to future-proof its digital media tech stack, boost its online user experience and shorten product time-to-market.

Operating for 60 years, River Island now generates approximately half of its overall sales through e-commerce. Now that online sales play such a major role, the retailer will use Cloudinary to help automate new media asset publishing across its multiple online channels.

River Island will replace Adobe Scene7 with Cloudinary’s Media Experience Cloud platform and its Digital Asset Management (DAM) solution. The company expects Cloudinary’s automation to significantly reduce the amount of manual work needed to collaboratively manage media assets, including searching and sharing content. River Island also valued Cloudinary’s advanced capabilities, like the ability to enrich media assets with metadata and analysis and its AI-based content-aware detection model for fashion. The latter is an add-on that uses highly trained AI models to automatically detect attributes of clothing in an image, including details such as the material it’s made of, type of fastenings used and the presence of pockets.

“At River Island, the future of our brand is what excites us most and we aim to take our popular digital experience from strength-to-strength,” said David Edwards, head of architecture at River Island. “Cloudinary’s microservices-based, API-first and headless architecture is a great fit for us as it integrates well with our existing CMS and tools like Adobe Creative Cloud. We’re really excited to apply Cloudinary’s advanced, AI-driven capabilities, which will speed up our capacity to bring new products online and elevate the customer experience.”

Babolat, Bombas, Crocs, Dune London, Everlane, Guess, Jimmy Choo, Levi’s, Neiman Marcus and Stylight also use Cloudinary’s Media Experience Cloud solutions.

Robotics

Walmart/Symbotic

Walmart now holds a 62.2 percent stake in supply chain and robotics technology solution provider Symbotic. In a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Walmart revealed it owns almost 59 million Symbotic shares.

In late May, the company announced that Symbotic’s robotics and software automation platform would be installed in all 42 of its regional distribution centers. Previously, the agreement was to bring the technology to 25 of the retail giant’s regional distribution centers. The latest expansion appears to be motivated by post-pandemic labor shortages and a rising overall interest in warehouse robotics to cater to shopper demand.

Walmart estimates that retrofitting all 42 facilities will take a minimum of eight years.

Symbotic’s system features mobile robots that can move stock at up to 25 miles per hour, and robotic arms to pack and unpack items, as well as vision-enabled tech to help streamline the process of fulfilling orders. This system processes pallets and sorts products into different storage structures, with each module capable of processing 1,700 cases per hour. The system aims to enhance storage density, increase available SKUs, reduce product damage and improve throughput and speed.

Walmart hopes to expedite the order fulfillment process and expand distribution capacity by using the end-to-end AI software platform and the autonomous robotic solutions.

“The need for accuracy and speed in the supply chain has never been more visible, and we’re confident that now is the time to move even faster by scaling Symbotic’s technology to our entire regional distribution center network,” said David Guggina, senior vice president of innovation and automation at Walmart U.S. “Using high-speed robotics and intelligent software to organize and optimize inventory, the Symbotic System helps us get products to our customers quickly and seamlessly by revolutionizing how we receive and distribute products to stores.”

Symbotic officially went public earlier this month via a SPAC after completing a merger with Softbank’s SVF Investment Corp. 3.

Search

Simon

Simon has launched Simon Search, a search platform designed to enhance the shopping experience by enabling shoppers to research in-stock products available at participating retailers located within a Simon property. Simon Search is available to millions of shoppers through the Simon app, property websites and interactive directories located at Simon properties nationwide.

Participating retailers including Aéropostale, Anthropologie, Athleta, Banana Republic, Gap, J.Crew, JCPenney and Old Navy will use Simon Search to increase traffic to their stores and conversion by giving customers an easy way to search in-stock inventory.

This initial version of the platform is being tested at 29 Simon retail centers across the U.S., with a broader rollout planned for later this year.

“Simon Search brings new search capabilities to our retail centers, offering shoppers multiple ways to search for specific in-store merchandise,” said Mikael Thygesen, Simon chief marketing officer. “Simon is committed to providing shoppers with the most enjoyable shopping experience possible. This game changing search tool raises the bar, delivering enhanced inventory visibility to our shoppers. Consumer research has shown that almost 90 percent of shoppers are interested in the enhanced search capabilities provided by Simon Search.”

Fulfillment

ShipBob/Klaviyo

ShipBob, a global omnichannel fulfillment platform, now directly integrates with marketing automation technology platform Klaviyo to provide users with a more transparent and personalized post-purchase and shipping experience. Klaviyo says its platform, which brands use to send personalized email and SMS messages, can pull together all of a company’s customer data in real time.

This integration is aimed at empowering mutual ShipBob and Klaviyo merchants to help their customers feel more in touch with their orders throughout the fulfillment process, potentially increasing both the likelihood of consumers to purchase again and their lifetime value.

The partnership also looks to offer client brands enhanced personalization, enabling them to provide more transparent and personalized communications related to order processing, fulfillment operations, carrier tracking and delivery, with the ability to sync order and tracking information from ShipBob, directly into Klaviyo. And with real-time segmentation and automation capabilities included, clients of both companies can leverage live order, fulfillment and customer data to enrich new segments and create automated campaigns, contextualizing the steps leading to the delivery of an order from merchants to customers.

This elevated customer experience would ideally help bridge any communication gaps between an order being placed and the next available marker with fulfillment center updates, without waiting until it’s labeled and with a carrier. The companies say this can reduce WISMO (“where is my order”) questions and tickets for support teams by 30 percent to 50 percent.

Brands that incorporate the integration into their daily workflow will have access to more specific order information—including sending pre-fulfillment status proactively to customers without them having to wait up to several days for the order to be scanned while in the carriers’ hands—that can reduce both support inquiries and the time spent gathering information.

In turn, ShipBob’s fulfillment locations across North America, Europe and Australia can help ensure Klaviyo’s customers around the world get products quickly and at lower shipping costs. ShipBob’s omnichannel logistics capabilities also can help brands expand beyond their primary storefront and onto the biggest names across retailer websites, marketplaces and brick-and-mortar locations.

Shoppable video

AnyClip

AnyClip, an AI-powered video management platform, has debuted Engage+, an interactive feature now available as part of the company’s Genius+ video solution.

With Engage+, online retailers and publishers can drive action and conversion through AI-powered video. It does this using AI to analyze the innate data in the video, identifying people, brands/logos, products, topics and more, and then automatically prompting viewers with relevant offers or actions when specific data or other criteria are present within the content. The offers and calls-to-action (CTAs) delivered are based on the desired campaign parameters set by the retailer.

As a result, consumers can be engaged at the moment they’re most interested in a product or service, and are likely to make a purchase or take other action.

Along with the ability to create offers and CTAs with interactive video overlays, such as generating shoppable links to drive traffic to product pages, Engage+ can also be used to unlock gated content, promote live events, and embed forms and surveys. All these actions are designed to boost a retailer’s revenue, amplify audience engagement and increase shoppers’ time spent on a company’s website or owned media channels.

A mockup illustrating the offers and calls-to-action delivered by Engage+.

A mockup illustrating the shoppable offers and calls-to-action delivered by Engage+.

Engage+ is a feature of AnyClip’s Genius+ advanced video solution for business, which also includes customizable video experience Watch+, live events and video-on-demand curator Live+, video search platform Search+ and smart video players feature Players+.

AnyClip’s proprietary Visual Intelligence Technology converts traditional video into smart video, with the aim to make it searchable, discoverable, measurable, personalized, collaborative and interactive. By harnessing the innate data in video, AnyClip automatically mobilizes latent video libraries and converts them into high performance assets via a single, centralized global SaaS platform.

Customer engagement

Blueshift/Snowflake

Blueshift, a customer engagement platform, announced a new integration with data warehousing services and solutions provider Snowflake. The companies say the partnership enables bi-directional integration between Blueshift and Snowflake that can empower marketers to create relevant one-to-one customer journeys driven by enterprise-wide data and AI-powered insights across virtually any channel and experience.

Enterprises of all sizes are using Snowflake’s platform to store and organize customer and operational data. With the new integration, Blueshift customers will be able to ingest multidimensional data tables from Snowflake (e.g. a customer table, transactions table, or product catalog table, etc.) into Blueshift to build a single customer view that is accessible by marketers. The bi-directional integration also is built to ensure that predictive data attributes computed in Blueshift, as well as the platform’s campaign engagement data, will be written back into Snowflake tables, enabling the IT team to have a more comprehensive view of data.

Leveraging Blueshift’s integration with Snowflake, marketers will be better able to operate on a unified and up-to-date view of each customer. The platform not only ingests data continually from Snowflake’s data tables in the form of micro-batches and streams, but also combines it with real-time data. This data can be streamed directly into Blueshift via APIs and SDKs, to build a single customer view. 

The enterprise-wide data ingested from Snowflake informs Blueshift’s predictive models for affinities and content recommendations. Models and scores in Blueshift are updated as new data is streamed. 

Marketers can now build sophisticated audience segments through Blueshift’s user interface, enabling them to query all the data without any IT assistance or need to learn SQL or other query languages.  

Using a combination of customer and operational data, marketers can also enhance agility in triggering targeted messages to specific customers. For example, if customer data indicates that a customer has browsed a product and abandoned it, and operational data indicates that the price of the item dropped, marketers can create a triggered cross-channel engagement based on a combination of these conditions. Similarly, transactional data that may indicate that a certain application is going through different “states” (for instance, a credit card application could have the state of “applied,” “processing,” “approved,” etc.) can now be leveraged by marketers to tailor the customer engagement. 

Logistics 

Fastfrate Group/Challenger Group

Fastfrate Group has acquired a majority stake in the Challenger Group for an undisclosed sum. As part of the newly combined entity, Fastfrate Group will add the Challenger Group’s cross-border trucking capabilities to complete an already diverse suite of services, which includes less-than-truckload (LTL), truckload (TL), intermodal, drayage, logistics, warehousing, distribution services, home delivery, e-commerce and more.

Together the new entity will bring over 100 years of experience combined, more than 5,000 employees and owner operators, over 1.2 million square feet of facilities, and more than 5,500 pieces of equipment.

Challenger Group will continue to operate independently under incoming CEO Jim Peeples. Challenger Group chairman Dan Einwechter will remain in the role and join the board of directors of Fastfrate Group. Manny Calandrino will continue as CEO of the Fastfrate Group. Current employees and management teams at both organizations will not be impacted by the transaction.

Now with seven companies and 40 locations operating in North America, Fastfrate Group is one of the largest independently owned transportation and supply chain companies in Canada. Prior to the acquisition, Fastfrate Group’s six businesses operated out of 30 terminals and final mile hubs across Canada and the U.S.

User generated content

Claid.ai

Claid.ai, a company that helps marketplaces improve user-generated images, launched an end-to-end image processing platform, Claid API 2.0. Claid’s technology is designed to automatically enhance photos, remove backgrounds, aligns products on a canvas and fix lighting. Claid has already optimized over 100 million user-generated photos for some of the biggest U.S. companies.

The solution comes as online marketplaces often have little control over the quality of user-provided photos. Whereas visuals must work double-duty to convince potential buyers, Claid API says its technology can bring these photos in line with a marketplace’s brand guidelines in just one-to-two seconds.

With many customizations, Claid API is now compatible with businesses of all sizes. Companies can link the API and neural networks will take over to do all the editing, including processes like adjusting image size, colors and background to the required parameters.

Claid API 2.0 is built to automate editing of any number of user-generated photos, сontrol enhancement settings by changing a few variables and help sellers achieve a consistent look in their imagery that can boost conversions. 

The API-based design, developer-friendly docs and simple web interface enables users to manage and monitor API access, as well as use Amazon S3, Google Cloud Storage or any public web folder for storage integrations, without any coding skills required.

Additionally, users can combine operations to transform user-generated content to their own standards. Use industry-specific presets for e-commerce, real estate, food, travel, printing and other marketplaces.

The platform can also establish different sets of rights for different users, give feature access to various people and departments within a company, and securely connect cloud storage to process images.

The Claid API launch follows parent image enhancement company Let’s Enhance’s $3 million seed round in October 2021. With the AI-driven investing being the core of the fundraise, the team plans to scale, continue its AI research and build new integrations.

Product discovery

GroupBy

GroupBy Inc., a software-as-a-service (SaaS)-based e-commerce product discovery technology company, has launched the GroupBy Product Discovery Platform powered by Google Cloud Retail AI. The Google Cloud integration encompasses search, recommendation, personalization, navigation, merchandising, data enrichment, SEO, CMS and search analytics all from a single platform.

The company’s e-commerce search platform already was built to improve the omnichannel customer experience, resulting in impressive revenue boosts, improved conversions and average order values (AOV), GroupBy says. In addition to current search capabilities, GroupBy has provided clients with a 360-degree view of their customer behavior by linking data from segregated data sources and enriching and contextualizing incomplete data to create a “golden record.”

To further exceed ever-changing customer needs, GroupBy partnered with Google Cloud to bring a product to market that could democratize AI and focus more on creating personalized and intuitive shopping encounters that can help brands retain a loyal customer base.

GroupBy’s Product Discovery Platform offers retailers and wholesalers access to Google Cloud’s search and recommendations. Search and recommendations results are further enhanced by GroupBy’s data enrichment, merchandising and business use case optimization capabilities. Through this partnership, retailers can improve the e-commerce experience by taking user engagement to new levels, delivering personalized experiences and driving conversions across their own digital properties.

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