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Retail Tech: RTR Picks Google Cloud, Walmart Nabs Volt, Quiet Platforms Adds Delivery Network

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

Assortment optimization

Walmart/Volt Systems

Walmart is acquiring Volt Systems, a technology company that provides suppliers with on-demand visibility into merchandising resources, for an undisclosed sum.

The application is built to deliver current store-level data, actionable analytics and shelf intelligence for suppliers to plan, forecast and optimize product assortment. I aims to give customers a more seamless omnichannel shopping experience, with reduced friction from fewer out-of-stocks.

The deal affirms Walmart’s continued investment in technology in an effort to better anticipate customer demand. Walmart says it is acquiring Volt Systems outright, including the company, talent, technology and customer agreements.

The retail giant continues to dabble in different technologies that can improve its back-end experience. Earlier this year, Walmart committed to expand RFID use from apparel to other retail departments, including home, entertainment and hardlines. The company requested that its suppliers place Gen 2 UHF RFID tags, which have a frequency of 902-928 megahertz, on all items delivered to Walmart.

In May, the company announced that it would would install robotics and a software automation platform from Symbotics in all 42 of its regional distribution centers. Walmart is the robotics tech company’s majority shareholder.

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A month later, Walmart unveiled plans to build four new automated fulfillment centers in Illinois, Indiana, Texas and Pennsylvania. The retailer will enable next- and two-day shipping on “millions of items” including third-party Marketplace products for three-quarters of U.S. households.

Inventory visibility

Delta Galil/Infor 

Delta Galil Industries Ltd., a global designer, manufacturer, distributor and seller of intimates and activewear, has adopted the Infor Nexus supply chain platform.

The technology will help Delta Galil improve inventory visibility, enhance collaboration with suppliers and customers, automate the plan-to-ship process and accelerate the onboarding of new suppliers and partners.

The project covers the company’s entire supplier network across the U.S., China, East Asia, Israel and Europe, with Infor Nexus underpinning standardized best-practice processes for all interactions.

This can help the 7 For All Mankind parent provide real-time supply forecast and order collaboration, as well as digital shipping processes to help streamline carton scanning and transport booking.

Delta Galil also can gain enhanced item level and real-time visibility, enabling the company to respond quickly to production issues and changes in available quantities, as well as track the process of all goods in transit.

Infor Nexus includes a control center with predictive estimated times of arrival, which will enable Delta Galil to project the arrival of inventory, optimizing the receiving process and using the in-context information to help overcome disruptions before they have an impact downstream.

The platform aims to help brands build a more robust financial supply chain by facilitating more efficient payment processing.

Delta Galil had previous experience with the platform, having used Infor Nexus for several years in its capacity as a contract manufacturer for a global active brand. The company has used the Infor ERP solution for more than 25 years.

The implementation will help synchronize orders generated in the ERP, order change requests, supplier pack lists, invoice/payment flow, advance shipping notices (ASNs) and estimated times of arrival (ETA) back to the ERP. This integration aims to help boost visibility across the Delta Galil supply chain and reduce supply and capital costs.

“For a company like Delta Galil with many brands, retail stores, manufacturing sites and e-com websites, efficient operations and speed to market are critical,” said Adi Nov, global chief information officer, Delta Galil. “The enhanced collaboration, connection and visibility provided by Infor Nexus gives us a competitive advantage with our suppliers and also allow us to onboard new partners faster. Modern brand management is just as much about ensuring a world-class supply chain as it is ensuring you have the best creative talent. We have hundreds of suppliers across the globe, and we’re transforming our business model to deliver a standardized set of best practices that will mean we’re more agile across all of our markets.”

Cloud

Rent the Runway/Google Cloud

Rent the Runway has moved its entire IT infrastructure and e-commerce operations from hosted data centers to Google Cloud.

In evaluating a move to the cloud, Rent the Runway’s technology team, led by chief technology Larry Steinberg, sought to simplify the company’s underlying infrastructure, reduce the amount of time it took IT teams to manage it and enhance their ability to quickly scale storage up or down depending on the needs of its consumers.

“Our business is seasonal; that is, customers change their behavior at different times of the year,” the company wrote in a blog post. “Our broader customer interaction has been somewhat predictable over the long term but also highly variable during the day and week. Gaining elasticity with our infrastructure would help us continue to deliver on our customer promise and maintain sound economics. Traditional hosting didn’t provide the agility we needed for scaling over the long-term, but the ability to quickly spin up new service instances and supporting technology did.”

In particular, the designer fashion platform moved to the Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE), which enables organizations to run fully managed containerized applications with both automation and at cloud scale, all while operating on Google Cloud’s flexible infrastructure. Additionally, a GKE-managed approach to containers can equip organizations with increased security and maximizes time savings. Taken together, the benefits of a containerized system can give IT and engineering teams more time to focus on innovation and app development.

With its underlying infrastructure running on Google Cloud, Rent the Runway aims to ensure its technology stack is even more responsive to its business needs. For example, the company can quickly scale up when demand from their customers spikes, or scale down during off-peak times. This can offer performance when they need it and considerable cost savings when they don’t.

Running its business on Google Cloud’s carbon-neutral infrastructure supports the company’s decarbonization goals. And by migrating to the cloud, Rent the Runway eliminated some administration and management duties for its developers, leaving them more time to work on projects that could power new experiences for consumers and support business goals. Using an approach known as “infrastructure as code” lets Rent the Runway automate much of its deployment, so developers can get code into production faster. 

Delivery

Quiet Platforms

Quiet Platforms, a wholly owned subsidiary of American Eagle Outfitters Inc. (AEO), has launched the Quiet Platforms Delivery Network to provide an expansive national delivery service for retailers and brands.

The new network is built to enable customers to gain nationwide coverage through a portfolio of carriers using a universal delivery label, eliminating the need for multiple integrations, complex invoicing or lengthy contract negotiations. The network dynamically manages performance at the shipment level, ideally ensuring that the best decision is made for every parcel to be shipped, based on delivery commitment, quality of service and delivery cost. The integrated and growing transportation network already numbers more than 40 carriers, including Asendia, GLS, Gofor and Veho.

“We are reimagining the way retailers and brands deliver service to their customers, while taking on the complexity of logistics,” said Shekar Natarajan, executive vice president, chief supply chain officer of AEO and head of Quiet Platforms. “We’re leveling the playing field by offering high-quality delivery experiences without prohibitively high investments in management and technology infrastructure. Our ecosystem also gives carriers the opportunity to reach a wide range of new customers without lengthy lead times or complexity.”

The Quiet Platforms Delivery Network features a mix of national, regional and local carriers that cover all U.S. postal codes. In addition to nationwide coverage, the service offers redundancy in major markets to preserve the consumer experience regardless of individual carrier constraints or exceedingly high demand during peak periods. Quiet Platforms’ technology further extends the power of the carrier portfolio by deferring carrier assignment to the edge of the network—optimizing cost and service levels for both shippers and carriers and leading to delivery time reductions of one-to-tow days and delivery cost reductions of up to $1 per parcel.

The plug-and-play, open-sharing platform is enabling globally renowned retailers such as Peloton, Steve Madden, Li & Fung and more than 60 others to optimize their inventory and access digital capabilities such as track and trace to increase efficiency and improve margins.

Digital transformation

Toshiba

Toshiba’s retail division, Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions, is establishing a strategic presence in Frisco, Texas, to attract high-tech talent and technology partners for developing new solutions and incubating future innovation.

As a hub for the company’s initiatives to meet the growing demand to reimagine the store of the future, the expanded footprint will accelerate the company’s growth strategy through investments in cloud development, computer vision and retail IoT. Additionally, the hub will help the company broaden capital investments, including a new team dedicated to mergers and acquisitions.

Supporting its investment in digital retail transformation, Toshiba is recruiting people with cloud, microservices and edge computing skills to drive innovation and development of its Elera unified commerce platform. The company is also expanding its collaboration with innovators and emerging starts in the region to expand its ecosystem. 

Toshiba will initially bring 50 new jobs to the area in 2022, with plans to triple that number over the next two years.

The company’s Durham, N.C. location continues to serve as the global headquarters driving global investments and growth strategies. The greater Dallas area was a strategic choice for the company’s expansion because it is a central hub enabling rapid connectivity to its other development centers in Raleigh/Durham, N.C.; Guadalajara, Mexico; Singapore; Taipei; Tokyo; and cities across Europe.

In 2022, Toshiba launched the latest version of its next-generation Elera commerce platform to accelerate retailer digital transformation and support the connected store experience. The company was recently named a Leader in the IDC MarketScape: “Worldwide Point-of-Sale Software Vendors in Grocery and Food Store Retail 2022 Vendor Assessment.

Sustainable supply chains

O9 Solutions

O9 Solutions, an enterprise AI software platform provider for transforming planning and decision-making, has launched a set of sustainability solutions that are embedded in its integrated business planning platform.

The solutions include product and enterprise environmental footprint measurement, full traceability, ESG risk management, ESG-enabled business planning, sustainable sourcing and supply chain circularity.

O9’s new sustainability solutions are designed to help organizations improve the environmental and social impact KPIs of their supply chains. Companies that operate some of the largest and most complex global supply chains can now not only measure and report on their sustainability performance, but can also make planning decisions to reduce their carbon footprint and make meaningful progress toward net-zero goals.

The solutions incorporate international standards-based sustainability metrics, analytics and KPIs into the AI-enabled O9 Digital Brain platform, powered by its patented Enterprise Knowledge Graph technology for supply chain modeling. Integrating full-spectrum sustainability data into the O9 platform can enable companies to assess their sustainability performance within all planning and operational activities, as well as the ability to identify and make data-driven decisions around tradeoffs between financial costs, service levels and ESG objectives.

Throughout the last year, O9 completed several sustainability solution proof of concepts with clients across a wide range of industries, as well as initiated the co-development of a new CO2 emissions tracking capability with a leading manufacturer.

The launch of O9’s new sustainability solutions arrives at a pivotal point in time with companies facing mounting pressure from their stakeholders to reduce their negative environmental and social impacts, as well as recent regulatory actions in Europe, Asia and the U.S. that could result in barriers to key markets or significant fines if violated. The launch also marks a new step in O9’s commitment to help large organizations transform their costly, complex and resource-intensive supply chains into efficient and sustainable operating models.

In January, O9 Solutions secured $295 million in funding from KKR, Generation Investment Management, General Atlantic and its BeyondNetZero venture to accelerate the adoption of its game-changing platform by large enterprises across a wide variety of industry verticals.

Reverse Logistics

ReturnLogic

ReturnLogic, a returns management software solutions provider for e-commerce brands and retailers, has secured a $8.5 million Series A funding from an investor group led by Mercury with participation from Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Fund, White Rose Ventures and Ben Franklin Technology Partners.

The new capital will be used to double ReturnLogic’s workforce, accelerate product development and expand Application Programming Interface (API) capabilities with new e-commerce platforms and ecosystems for ReturnLogic’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) returns operations platform.

The funding comes as returns create a massive expense line for retailers; however, the underlying problem is the mishandling of returns due to operational deficiencies. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), 16.6 percent of total U.S. retail sales in 2021, or $761 billion in total merchandise, was returned by consumers.

ReturnLogic’s SaaS platform powers return workflows and operations, unifying reverse logistics technology solutions like CRM, 3PL, IMS, and shipping services into a single, integrated platform. Retailers are then equipped with data to make product, process, manufacturing and procurement changes to enhance customer experiences and improve the bottom line. The ReturnLogic API plugs into any e-commerce platform with returns operations, allowing for low friction adoption and a holistic, automated system for the entire returns process.

ReturnLogic serves a growing number of large and small e-commerce brands and handles third-party warranty returns for large retailers including Amazon, Walmart, and Best Buy.

SMS

Attentive/Shopify

Conversational commerce platform Attentive has launched the text-to-buy solution with Shop Pay, which enables consumers to make purchases directly from an SMS conversation with a brand. Built with Shopify’s Shop Pay checkout flow, Attentive’s text-to-buy solution is designed to turn browsers into buyers with a frictionless checkout flow built for mobile devices.

Attentive aims to remove steps from a brand’s SMS subscriber’s path to purchase. With the platform, a consumer can now purchase directly in response to a promotional text message from a brand, without having to navigate a website or a checkout page. Attentive wants to deliver buying experiences that are catered to the shopper’s interests based on their browsing and spending patterns, all within a text message.

Attentive’s text-to-buy is currently being used by brands across a variety of use cases, like replenishment. For example, brands can remind customers to repurchase when they are running low or need to replace their favorite products, from beauty items to meal plans to running shoes.

Additionally, they can let customers know when a new or limited product drops to complete their purchase before it sells out, or encourage repeat purchases by promoting products based on individual characteristics including browse and purchase history.

Marketplaces

Faire

Online wholesale marketplace Faire launched its Showroom experience, a curated destination for retailers to shop premium fashion brands on the platform. The launch comes as apparel wholesale tools are often built to support big-box businesses, with few options for sourcing standout brands.

“From the texture of the fabric to the placement of the seams, independent retailers are known in their communities for sourcing curated and hand-selected products that they know their customers will love,” said Lauren Cooks Levitan, chief financial officer of Faire. “Through this simple and inspiring experience, Faire Showroom empowers our customers to lean into their superpowers and helps to further fuel the growth of entrepreneurs everywhere.”

For Faire brands, Showroom presents an opportunity to highlight the quality of their materials and craftsmanship to retailers. Showroom brands receive an exclusive badge and are showcased in a dedicated space in the marketplace. Showroom brands are also featured alongside other premium apparel and footwear brands, making their merchandise easily discoverable by retailers looking for new contemporary fashion lines for their stores.

Showroom brands, like premium knitwear and essentials brand Tradlands or France-based knitwear label Nitah, are reviewed by Faire’s editorial team for their fabric selection, precise fit and thoughtful construction. Faire’s editorial team uses a standardized review process to evaluate each apparel and footwear brand included in the Showroom experience.

Faire reviews fabric composition, weight, and texture, and the inclusion of natural fibers like cotton, silk, cashmere, and leather as indicators of quality. The company also looks at tailored details like darts, seams, and topstitching, as well as how an item drapes to provide movement.

Faire also inspects items like zippers and linings to ensure each item is designed and produced with care.

“As a scaling business, Tradlands is honored to be included among a curated selection of premium brands featured in Showroom,” a Tradlands spokesperson said in a statement. “We are confident that this level of engagement on Faire will allow us to connect with high-caliber retailers who appreciate our commitment to quality. Wholesale is still a relatively new opportunity for us and we very much look forward to establishing a strong wholesale channel with Showroom.”

The Showroom experience is available to retailers in each of the 19 markets Faire operates in around the world.

Customer engagement

CleverTap

CleverTap, a B2B SaaS platform for customer engagement and retention, has raised $105 million in a Series D funding round led by CDPQ, with participation from IIFL AMC’s Tech Fund, along with existing investors Tiger Global and Sequoia India.

The funds will be used to support CleverTap’s global expansion and enhance the development of its technology.

The new round values the startup at approximately $775 million, up from $385 million in 2019.

Founded in Mumbai in 2013 and headquartered in Mountain View, California, CleverTap’s customer engagement and retention SaaS platform leverages machine learning and artificial intelligence to offer a user engagement suite designed to enable brands to build valuable, long-term relationships with their customers. CleverTap’s subscription-based solution has been adopted by a customer base of 1,200 brands in 100 countries representing 10,000 apps across industries including fintech, e-commerce, subscription, on demand and streaming media.

In June 2022, CleverTap completed the acquisition of San Francisco-based Leanplum, a multi–channel customer engagement platform, in an effort to further strengthen its footprint in North America and Europe. In the same month, it also unveiled TesseractDB, a purpose-built database designed to dramatically improve user engagement and retention for digital consumer brands.

As part of the transaction, CDPQ said an unnamed executive would join CleverTap’s board of directors upon closure of this funding round. IIFL AMC’s investment is subject to approval from Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).