The weekly Retail Tech Roundup compiles technology news across the supply chain, manufacturing, retail, e-commerce, logistics and fulfillment sectors.
Social shopping platform Verishop is taking advantage of the livestreaming craze in launching a new iOS app feature called “Shop Party,” which enables users to hang out over video or audio chat, explore products and shoppable content, and see what others are browsing to shop together and checkout. The idea is to bring the human connection into online shopping, which traditionally has been a singular experience.
While consumers can invite up to five of their friends to chat and shop at the same time, brand partners, industry experts and stylists can host a Shop Party for individuals or small group shopping and education sessions.
Verishop says that the feature could be helpful for holiday shopping with family and getting fashion advice from friends.
Shoppers can share their screens so friends can see what they browse, and they can add products to their friends’ cart and see what’s in their friends’ carts. They can also give additional feedback by favoriting items in their friends’ carts. The platform says it does not share sensitive information about shopping habits including prices, sizes and shoppers’ personal information listed at checkout.
Verishop already offers free shipping, free returns, 24/7 customer care and a best-price guarantee on products from more than 1,100 direct-to-consumer, independent and traditional brands.
This year, the company launched a personalized shoppable content feed, giving shoppers video how-to demos, style tips, recipes and editorial images.
Whatnot, a livestreaming shopping platform and marketplace for collectors and enthusiasts, has raised $4 million in seed funding with participation from Scribble Ventures, Wonder Ventures, Operator Partners, Y Combinator, Liquid 2 Ventures, Twenty Two Ventures and other investors.
The company plans to use the funds to invest in growing the team, scaling their operations and expanding into new categories including vintage fashion, video games, comic books and designer toys.
Since its launch in December last year, Whatnot says it has attracted thousands of sellers and tens of thousands of buyers. Sales have grown on average more than 60 percent month over month, and its most popular sellers have sold more than $2 million in items, with the average livestream bringing in thousands of dollars in sales, it claims.
“Livestreaming is a $150 billion market in China, and retailers of all stripes are trying out live selling for themselves,” said Dustin Rosen, managing partner, Wonder Ventures. “We think that by tapping into the collectible and enthusiast communities, Whatnot is perfectly positioned to capitalize on livestreaming’s early success in the U.S.”
The platform springs out of the retail industry’s need for authenticity, particularly within third-party marketplaces. While many online marketplaces created the opportunity for collectors and enthusiasts to transact with one another for the first time, these platforms also had have issues with fraudulent activity with few safeguards to guarantee authenticity and protect community members.
Whatnot was specifically designed to take out the guesswork and risk out of buying and selling items online, by including a strict verification process in which the team reviews every product sold. The company built a livestreaming platform that enables its community to connect and interact in real time to buy and sell the hottest collectibles and items they want.
While some sellers on Whatnot are small businesses, 90 percent of sellers are enthusiasts who buy and sell their favorite items as a hobby.
Supply chain traceability
True Tribe, a France-based producer of handcrafted swimwear and activewear using recycled plastic waste, and Suku, a provider in blockchain-based supply chain traceability solutions, developed the first batch of transparent True Tribe garments. The garments, whose lifecycle began as nylon waste such as discarded fishing nets and fabric scraps, were first shipped to the iconic Browns Fashion store in London on Nov. 6.
The activewear brand first announced in August that it would be adopting the Suku Omni SaaS supply chain management platform to track and trace garments. The idea behind the partnership was that by creating an immutable ledger of transactions throughout True Tribe’s supply chain, Suku’s Omni could allow stakeholders to prove their claims of authenticity, legality and sustainability.
As raw materials travel through the True Tribe supply chain and are ultimately crafted into a finished good, every step is recorded to the blockchain and validated using the Suku Omni platform. The product’s supply chain has six major stops that the platform traces, starting at the initial plastic waste collection by Healthy Seas in the Mediterranean, Adriatic or North Sea. The nylon waste, made from the discarded fishing nets and other plastic waste, is recycled by Econyl in Ajdoviscina, Slovenia, before being regenerated into nylon fabric in Northern Lombardy, Italy.
The regenerated fabric is brought to Riri, a luxury hardware manufacturing company in Mendrisio, Switzerland, where buttons and zippers are added, before the final product is handcrafted in Pakistan by a single assigned artisan. Finally, the products are shipped to either the store or online facility.
Each garment purchased has a QR code on the hang tag or affixed to it. Using the SUKU Scanner mobile app, consumers can scan the QR code and learn about their product’s story through videos and images, and about those who created it.
“We aim to set a new standard in conscious fashion, without claiming to be truly ‘sustainable’ because nobody is in fashion,” said Alexandre Sundberg, founder and CEO of True Tribe. “That being said, we strive to be more conscious about our footprint and to minimize it as much as possible. Today, consumers increasingly support brands that identify better with their values. We believe that authenticity and transparency are the keys to create more meaningful connections.”
Locus Robotics, a provider of autonomous mobile robots (AMR) for fulfillment warehouses, has revealed that its robots have picked more than 70 million units on behalf of its global retail and third-party logistics customers so far this holiday season, a 250 percent increase over last year.
This increase reflects the explosion of e-commerce, accelerated by the pandemic and the shift to warehouse fulfillment automation to offset labor shortages. The picking milestone comes alongside Locus’ release of its annual Cyber Week e-commerce fulfillment productivity report stating that LocusBots averaged 1.2 million daily units picked during the seven-day span.
The Locus solution reached the 300 million pick milestone since its foundation in 2014, but has picked more than 200 million units this year alone.
Locus features patented, proprietary software and management reporting designed to improve the efficiency of both outbound picking fulfillment and inbound putaway/replenishment capabilities, that can be deployed into both undeveloped and even recently abandoned warehouses.
Acting as a coordinated fleet, the robots can autonomously navigate a warehouse, dynamically adjusting their paths and collaborating with workers. Locus’s algorithms are designed to dynamically allocate picker workload to optimize productivity and minimize unproductive walking.
Haglöfs/P.E. Nation/Centric Software
Swedish outdoor clothing, footwear and hardware specialist Haglöfs has selected Centric Software’s Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solution. Haglöfs, owned by the Asics Corporation, distributes in Europe and Asia as a traditional wholesale company, but also operates its own e-commerce businesses in Europe and seven owned retail stores in Sweden, two in Finland, two in Norway and one in Chamonix, France.
Haglöfs produces two collections per year for the Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer seasons, with 400 to 450 styles per collection. Yet the brand’s previous PLM system had limited capabilities and only housed product-related processes related to the clothing lines. The company said the platform was inefficient and time-consuming, as it required a lot of manual work, offered limited visibility and couldn’t be easily integrated with other systems such as PIM or ERP, causing unnecessary stress on teams.
“For some time we had been discussing whether to upgrade the company’s existing PLM software or adopt another solution,” said Per-Ola Axelsson, IT manager at Haglöfs.
The team decided that a more robust and modern platform would be necessary to improve and streamline integrations and replace outdated spreadsheets and manual processes, particularly at a time when many people had been working from home since mid-March and continue to do so.
Following the implementation of Centric PLM, Haglöfs expects to have a much more efficient process in place that will enable design, development and buying teams to focus on delivering value. As sustainability remains a key focus for the brand, it will leverage Centric PLM to help achieve its sustainability goals by tracking relevant data and improving quality control.
Australian athleisure-focused street-meets-sportswear brand P.E Nation also signed up with Centric’s PLM. Centric Software, after rapid growth put pressure on its design, development and production teams.
“Centrics’s ‘out of the box’ mindset makes sense to us, and Centric PLM’s visual presentation is crucial for creative thinkers,” said Mark Rogers, operations manager at P.E Nation. “Centric will give us a single source of the truth. We will be able to create templates to save time and reduce mistakes, track supplier communication, better manage material usage, get away from complex spreadsheets, enable designers to work in Adobe Illustrator while connected to Centric and more.”
Grin, an influencer marketing software platform for direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands, has closed $10 million in Series A funding led by e.ventures. A syndicate of e-commerce founders and operators also participated, including the founders of apparel brands Cuts Clothing and Ivory Ella, watch seller MVMT, digital commerce agency BVAccel and electrolyte drink mix company Liquid IV. The round also had participation from existing investors including Bullpen Capital and Launch Fund.
Grin’s software enables e-commerce brands to manage and activate large networks of social influencers, traditional affiliates, athletes, customer advocates and more.
Within the platform, brands can find and engage with high-quality influencers, streamline email outreach, develop authentic relationships within a private CRM, seed products, create discount codes and affiliate links, track content and rights, and create in-depth reports to analyze the success of influencer marketing programs.
Additionally, brands can manage talent contracts and deliverables at scale, audit security and compliance, send products and track the shipments and manage payroll and taxes.
The vertical nature of the platform has enabled highly visible consumer brands on social media to build massive followings by seeding their products to influencers all over the world.
Brandon Brown, CEO and founder of Grin, believes that the company’s SaaS platform—as opposed to integrating various platforms at once—can simplify the lifecycle management of all stages throughout influencer marketing campaigns, whether through discovery, recruitment, activation, product seeding, contracting, reporting, analytics and payments.
Grin is positioning itself to expand on the concept of influencer marketing by building what it calls the world’s first “opinion leader platform.” This kind of platform would combine influencers, affiliates, athletes and more under one system of record for brands.
Buy now, pay later
Teen footwear and specialty accessories retailer Journeys has partnered with PayBright, the Canada-based installment payments provider recently acquired by Affirm, to bring buy now, pay later to its online shopping experience.
Now, Canadians shopping for designer shoe brands such as Ugg, Dr. Martens and Vans have the option to pay later in four interest-free, biweekly installments when they check out on Journeys.ca.
PayBright does not require consumers to sign up for a credit card and does not charge hidden fees, retroactive interest or revolving interest charges. PayBright’s installment plans range from four biweekly payments for smaller purchases to up to 60 months for larger purchases, with interest rates as low as zero percent.
Italian fashion company Benetton Group is partnering with retail market intelligence company Edited to generate pricing data on more than 2.5 billion product SKUs across the industry as part of its upcoming three-year roadmap. Within the new strategy, Benetton is introducing a new pricing structure and expanding its products to a bigger mass market offering.
With real-time data on over 140,000 retailers and brands, Edited’s Retail Market Intelligence solution allows the Benetton Group to benchmark itself against key competitors with a global perspective. Edited retail data and analysis offers transparency into various markets, potentially enabling Benetton to accurately plan, map and price its assortment as far out as possible.
“After a two-year hiatus without Edited and a new brand strategy underway for Benetton’s upcoming three-year plan, we knew we needed Edited again as we tackled a key issue—price positioning,” said Luca Collesei, brand director, Undercolors of Benetton, whose previous partnership with Edited ended in 2018. “It was critical for us to accurately set prices across genders and categories, as well as throughout various European countries. With the challenging environment of 2020, Edited is more crucial than ever to help us navigate the uncertainty, identify opportunities in the market and boost our margins.”
The Edited platform uses A.I., sophisticated analytics, and image and text recognition to understand pricing, discounts, assortments and trends in real time across the apparel, beauty and homeware industries. Edited is built by data scientists and engineers working alongside former buyers and merchandisers from global brands and retailers.