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Retail Tech Roundup: Gap Triples Robotics Fleet, Aptos Launches COVID-19 ‘Quick Start’ Tools

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

Retail Management

Aptos

Aptos unveiled four new product offerings during the Aptos Engage Digital virtual conference that were developed to help retailers accelerate their post-pandemic recoveries. These “Quick Start” solutions are designed to offer rapid implementations and tackle pressing COVID-related issues, from managing unsold spring stock to fulfilling product at curbside to restarting relationships with global suppliers.

First, Omnichannel Quick Start—BOPAC and BOSFS is designed to enable retailers to roll out buy online, pick up at curbside (BOPAC), buy online, ship from store (BOSFS) and other popular omnichannel capabilities in a matter of weeks.

COVID-19 Planning Adjustments Quick Start offers packaged solutions of development services, process flows and consulting to help retailers readjust their in-season and preseason plans with a variety of options to account for the pandemic’s impact and current reality.

Meanwhile, Merchandise Financial Planning (MFP) Foundation is designed to supports critical financial planning functions, from strategic planning and budgeting all the way to in-season plan adjustments in the wake of COVID-19.

And perhaps most important, Supply Chain Management Quick Start enables retailers to deploy a cloud-based supplier collaboration portal in just six weeks and is designed to offer full order visibility and streamlined communication with supply chain partners.

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“The consumer is disrupted, and that disrupts all of us. As the largest technology provider focused exclusively on retail, we deeply understand the devastation the pandemic has caused our customers. We acted swiftly to develop Quick Start solutions that can help retailers recover sales and margin as quickly as possible while streamlining operations,” said Aptos CEO Noel Goggin. “As retailers prepare for the Next Normal, omnichannel acceleration, the digital transformation of traditional merchandise planning processes and a retail experience platform are the new requisites for success. While we can’t predict the next wave of disruption, by focusing Aptos’ investments in these areas, we are best preparing our customers for long-term success, customer loyalty and adaptability.”

Store Solutions

ThirdChannel

ThirdChannel, a provider of solutions designed to improve in-store customer experiences, launched the Retail Safety Auditor, a real-time safety auditing system developed based on the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and evolving state and local guidelines, among others.

Retail Safety Auditor is designed to ensure a safe environment for workers and shoppers, while providing an audit trail to reduce business and legal risk for brands as they begin to reopen and work to stay that way. The auditing system works by simplifying how retailers conduct comprehensive store-wide audits that score each store and surface gaps so that retailers can act immediately on the safety hot spots revealed.

Audit modules follow a routine, comprehensive walk through of all kinds of stores, collecting information about customer information and safety, employee education, health and safety, store cleanliness and sanitization, security and loss prevention, evolving state and local guidelines and customer confidence feedback.

“As stores start to see regular levels of traffic again, we must ensure that fearful workers know we’re doing everything we can to keep them safe,” said ThirdChannel CEO Gina Ashe. “And word spreads quickly among consumers who mentally check off their own safety lists as they walk through a store. If they conclude a store is not safe, not only do they take their business elsewhere, they tell others.”

Storewide audits can be conducted by authorized in-store personnel or by using one of ThirdChannel’s CertSafe Representatives, a trained division of ThirdChannel’s network of retail reps.

Retail Tech Roundup: Gap, Kindred, Aptos, Ontruck, CommerceHub News
Various questions related to store safety and health precautions are listed within each section of the Retail Safety Auditor. ThirdChannel/Businesswire

Robotics

Kindred

Gap Inc. has purchased 73 additional SORT robots from Kindred to install in its U.S. distribution centers, bringing the total fleet to 106. Kindred has already deployed 20 of the new SORT systems to Gap’s largest-volume distribution center in Columbus, Ohio, and 10 to a center near Nashville, helping the retailer meet the increasing demand for online orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Between Jan. 1 and April 30, Gap has used SORT robotics systems to sort more than 13 million units of merchandise. During that time frame, the systems facilitated an average sorting speed of 335 units per hour and maintained uptime at 99.8 percent.

“We’re pleased that our partnership with Kindred has grown from a test pilot to a full deployment of their SORT robots across our U.S. network—especially at a time when we’re trying to keep our employees safe,” said Kevin Kuntz, senior vice president of global logistics fulfillment at Gap Inc. “We look forward to working together with Kindred on cutting-edge automation.”

Gap has been using SORT robotic piece-picking systems for secondary sortation points at its distribution centers in Tennessee, California and New York since 2017. Once the additional systems are deployed, the apparel retailer will have paired SORT robotics with all the automated primary sortation systems in its distribution network.

Kindred’s SORT piece-picking robots use AutoGrasp, a robotics intelligence platform designed to identify and separate bundles of items to pick and place into an automated shelving system. AutoGrasp combines vision, grasping and manipulation algorithms to move clothing, poly bags and other small items.

Supply Chain Technology

Tobii Pro

Tobii Pro launched Tobii Pro Glasses 3, a wearable eye tracker built for measuring attention in real-world scenarios. The wearable device integrates four extremely small eye cameras and 16 light sources into the lenses, enabling users to record a video of the surrounding environment with sound.

Operational managers and team leads in both retail and manufacturing can benefit from the technology. Apparel retailers can leverage the technology to conduct in-store tests designed to visualize, measure and ultimately improve the customer experience. When a shopper puts on the glasses and walks through the store, the glasses can track which garment catches the most attention or converts to purchase, as well as which merchandise goess ignored.

Eye tracking videos can be used in a manufacturing plant’s ongoing work to monitor whether standard procedures are being followed consistently, enabling companies to continuously improve their operations, increase productivity and improve staff skills.

When the data is analyzed, users can draw conclusions on what drives behaviors and decision making. For the wearer, the eye tracking technology in Pro Glasses 3 is virtually invisible, and is exactly like putting on and wearing a standard pair of eyeglasses.

A Kindred SORT robot picks and places items into various shelves within a Gap distribution center.
A Kindred SORT robot picks and places items into various shelves within a Gap distribution center. Kindred

Logistics

CommerceHub

CommerceHub, an enterprise drop ship and managed marketplace platform has launched CommerceHub Flash in collaboration with supply chain solutions provider Ingram Micro Commerce & Lifecycle Services to enable brands to rapidly scale direct-to-consumer e-commerce growth.

CommerceHub Flash provides brands instant access to retail and marketplace sales channels combined with solutions and tools to optimize the distribution, fulfillment and delivery of their owned and distributed inventory.

The service is designed to helps brands accelerate their entire direct-to-consumer fulfillment process and give them more control over how consumers buy and receive their products. Leveraging insights and analytics from CommerceHub’s partner network of 12,000 retailers, brands and distributors, brands can optimally route orders across Ingram Micro’s vast third-party logistics network, as well as their own distribution centers, warehouses and stores.

“As brands absorb the many shocks of recent events on their business, the direct-to-consumer strategies they choose to pursue will become critical,” said Frank Poore, Founder and CEO, CommerceHub. “For brands to succeed, they must approach their backend logistics efficiently.”

With CommerceHub Flash, brands can integrate to wholesale dropship channels including Walmart and Macy’s, and marketplaces including Amazon, Walmart Marketplace, eBay and Target+. Additionally, brands can syndicate product content and inventory availability across all channels, synchronize with e-commerce storefronts including Shopify, Netsuite, and Magento, make dynamic, in-cart delivery promises on their websites and route orders from owned distribution centers, Ingram Micro fulfillment centers, 3PLs or stores.

The platform also enables brands to geographically distribute inventory for rapid delivery and gain support for Amazon Seller Fulfilled Prime and Walmart’s new two-day shipping program.

Ontruck

Ontruck, a Spanish digital road freight platform, has secured an investment round of €17 million ($19.1 million) led by OGCI Climate Investments (OGCI CI), the fund of the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative.

The company aims to deliver a socially responsible platform for road transport using data algorithms to predict peak demand, route shipments to maximize carrier utilization, and leverage dynamic pricing to balance the marketplace. With these algorithms, Ontruck enables users to match shipments to carriers, resulting in the full automation of 90 percent of loads transported.

To date, Ontruck says it has cut the percentage of miles driven by vehicles running without cargo from 44 percent to 19 percent. This achievement prevented 728,000 kg of CO2 emissions from entering the atmosphere.

Ontruck already partners with French mass merchant Auchan and French sporting goods, apparel and footwear retailer Decathlon, among other European retailers. Existing Ontruck investors Cathay Innovation, Atomico, Idinvest Partners and Total Carbon Neutrality Ventures participated in the round, with Endeavor Catalyst joining as a new investor. The investment brings Ontruck’s total capital raised to more than €53 million ($59.6 million).

With the investment, Ontruck aims to accelerate the development of its transport network and technology, and also seeks to leverage the expertise and resources of OGCI’s members to achieve a common goal of developing, implementing and scaling innovative low carbon solutions in commercial transportation.

“We are pleased to add Ontruck to our portfolio of low-carbon solutions,” said Pratima Rangarajan, CEO of OGCI Climate Investments. “Ontruck’s technology demonstrates that increased efficiency can have an immediate and substantial impact on reducing carbon dioxide emissions. We look forward to helping them achieve greater scale faster.”