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Retail Tech: Walmart Nabs Conversational Commerce Platform, Pinterest Debuts Live Shopping

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

Conversational commerce

Walmart/Botmock

Walmart has acquired select technology assets from Botmock, a developer of tools for designing, prototyping, testing and deploying conversational applications across platforms, for an undisclosed sum.

The deal advances Walmart’s conversational capabilities in the customer experience, and gives it the technology to build and deploy natural voice and chat interfaces for customers and associates.

Botmock’s no-code platform features a drag-and-drop interface that automatically develops code in the background as conversation flows are created.

By giving designers, merchants, customer service and other non-technical teams access to these tools, Walmart can empower its own business and third-party business owners to create voice, chat and intelligent assistant experiences.

“Building seamless interactions for voice or chat is a fairly difficult design problem that requires us to consider all possible conversational flows, which depend on customers’ unique situation and needs,” Cheryl Ainoa, senior vice president, core retail services and emerging technology at Walmart, wrote in a LinkedIn post.

Walmart has already built a robust conversational platform across its ecosystem, enabling voice shopping through Google and Siri and allowing customers to check-in for contactless pickup orders by just using their voice. Additionally, the retailer’s “Ask Sam” app for Sam’s Club customers enables associates to find the location of products in stores simply by saying phrases like, “Where is almond butter?” or access their work schedule by texting, “What’s my schedule tomorrow?”

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A beta test of a “Walmart Text to Shop experience allows customers to text to make purchases, a year-and-a-half after the retailer ended its Jet black SMS shopping service piloted in New York City.

Resale

New Look/Re-Fashion

U.K.-based high street fashion retailer New Look is reinforcing its commitment to circularity with its first venture into the resale market, partnering with secondhand platform provider Re-Fashion.

New Look x Re-Fashion will allow customers to request a free clothing donation bag holding up to 12 items. From there, they can drop off the bag at the nearest Collect+ returns kiosk for free. Re-Fashion will then repair or upcycle the clothes before being put up for sale on its site.

“We recognize that, as a broad-appeal fashion retailer, we have an important responsibility to both our customers and to wider society, to consider the lifecycle of the products we sell, from design stage to end of life,” said Sue Fairley, head of sustainability at New Look. “As part of our ongoing commitment to reduce the environmental impacts of shopping for clothes and to promote circularity within the industry, we are excited to partner with Re-Fashion and offer our customers an easy and convenient way for them to get involved.”

Customers will receive 30 percent off any purchase on Re-Fashion without having to wait for their item to sell.

The new venture is part of New Look’s “Kind to the Core” initiative, a key pillar in the brand’s transformation strategy to become a more sustainable and responsible retailer. The retailer will also plant a tree for every bag donated in partnership with the charity Tree-Nation.

Livestreaming

Pinterest

Pinterest has unveiled Pinterest TV, a series of live, original and shoppable episodes featuring creators that already use the social media platform. Pinterest TV episodes are refreshed each weekday and will be recorded and available for “Pinners” to view on demand, or save and rewatch later.

Each Friday, products will drop in a live shopping setting where Pinners can take advantage of discounts from brands including Allbirds, beauty brand Crown Affair, jewelry and apparel brand Melody Ehsani, Outdoor Voices, Mented Cosmetics and more.

Beginning Nov. 8, episodes will air Monday-Friday at 3 p.m. PT/6 p.m. ET in the U.S. on iOS and Android.

Pinterest app users can click a TV icon to view episodes, interact with hosts, ask questions via chat, and get answers live. The launch comes as livestreaming takes hold in U.S. retail.

Some Pinterest creators and on the feature include “Christian On,” the program from American fashion designer and “Project Runway” alum Christian Siriano focused on the most-searched fashion terms on Pinterest; and “Buy This” featuring host and comedian Robyn Schall, along with creators who will show how products from brands like Melody Ehsani and Crown Affair look and feel in real time.

On Pinterest TV, creators can showcase and tag products so Pinners can shop and purchase on the retailer’s site. Hosts will have a shopping toolbox to enable live shopping experiences including a product drawer with prices and product details, product drops and brand collaborations, a display of how much is left and a limited-time-offer module to offer discounts.

Delivery visibility

Narvar

New from post-purchase experience platform Narvar, Monitor gives retailers visibility and actionable intelligence across their entire delivery network in a single place.

Monitor helps brands proactively detect and address supply chain issues early to meet customer expectations, communicate effectively and build brand loyalty. For the first time, Narvar will process real-time data from UPS and combine it with their retail customers’ fulfillment details so that brands have a holistic, up-to-date view of their supply chain network.

Available starting this month, Monitor combines real-time delivery data from carriers with machine learning models across Narvar’s Post-Purchase Platform, which powers customer experiences for more than 1,100 brands including Gap, Urban Outfitters, Patagonia, Levi Strauss and Cole Haan.

With Monitor, brands can gain a 360-degree view of their package logistics, personalized insights and actionable intelligence, all in a unified dashboard. This data is critical for brands to respond to logistics disruptions early to mitigate customer experience problems.

The launch comes as supply chain disruptions cause widespread delays in order fulfillment. Adding to the delays is that as many as 81 percent of businesses say they still don’t have full visibility into their supply chain, according to an MIT study cited by Narvar.

In particular, Monitor provides real-time visibility into shipment status and carrier network performance, as well as intelligence to uncover early signals of delivery disruptions that can be proactively communicated with customers, thus preventing poor experiences. The platform also provides personalized insights through customized dashboards, reporting and emails. Also, it offers category benchmarks to help brands understand how their fulfillment performance stacks up against the market.

Fit technology

GK Software/My Size

GK Software has integrated My Size, Inc. (MySize) into its Innovation Partners Ecosystem. MySize’s plug-in to the open Cloud4Retail platform enables sellers to support consumers finding the correct-sized fit in real time.

MySize, a developer of a sensor-based measurement technology and the owner of several patented algorithms that are designed to capture and calculate body measurements, built its algorithm so that it could fit to different markets and verticals.

The partnership helps retailers reduce the number of garments consumers need to try on, and increase the time spent shopping for additional items, potentially increasing consumer satisfaction, basket size and brand loyalty, while reducing returns.

Cloud4Retail is GK’s open commerce platform that provides services enabling retailers to integrate unified commerce environments from in-store and online touch points through to mobile devices. The platform is enriched by AI-based dynamic pricing, personalization, fraud detection and mobile applications.

Now available with various cloud providers such as Microsoft Azure, SAP Cloud and IBM, the expansion and customization options of Cloud4Retail services can be used on a wide range of devices.

GK Software partners with retailers in more than 65 countries, giving them access to the MySize platform.

E-commerce

Lightspeed

Lightspeed Commerce Inc., a point-of-sale (POS) and e-commerce software provider, has launched a new flagship e-commerce product built on the integration of its $500 million acquisition of Ecwid. Additionally, the company has expanded its Lightspeed Payments platform into Australia as well as to U.S. merchants who joined via the $350 million Vend acquisition.

The flagship platform, called Lightspeed eCommerce, is built to offer a new starting point for merchants to join the software provider’s ecosystem and grow their businesses with the help of sophisticated in-store and online commerce tools, advanced data, simple product ordering functionality and streamlined access to suppliers.

A website theme, "Voila," powered by the Lightspeed eCommerce platform.
A website theme, “Voila,” powered by the Lightspeed eCommerce platform. CNW Group/Lightspeed Commerce Inc.

Lightspeed eCommerce is designed for easy setup, particularly for retailers that have minimal to no e-commerce experience. Enabling merchants to sell directly on social media, online marketplaces, and search engines, Lightspeed also offers a direct partnership with TikTok, allowing merchants to access core functions of TikTok For Business Ads Manager without leaving the platform.

Additionally, merchants can manage inventory, orders and product details via the platform, and access customer communication features to help with abandoned cart recovery.

The solution is now available to all of Lightspeed’s global retail merchants.

Lightspeed Payments is tailored for each global region and vertical, to ensure legal and tax concerns, languages and consumer payment preferences are localized for each region.

The software provider also provides merchants with a fully integrated omnichannel experience, in an effort to reduce the typical friction of a third-party provider with a single solution for online, offline, and curbside or tableside payments.

This integration helps merchants process payments more efficiently and streamline their business operations all from a single commerce platform, with added features including analytics, reporting, reconciliation and resources all built to win chargeback disputes and recover lost sales.

Cart.com/Google Cloud

Cart.com, an “e-commerce-as-a-service” (EcaaS) provider equipping merchants with critical marketing, technology, and fulfillment capabilities, has partnered with Google Cloud to advance deliver robust, unified analytics for its more than 2,500 brands.

The service aims to fuse all commerce and marketing data into a single source of truth accessed via a unified interface, with the goal to empower brands to drive better decisions and accelerate growth through data automation.

The partnership with Google Cloud enables Cart.com to deliver its product suite while providing multiple pathways for offering expansion. Brands using Cart.com access a single platform of unified analytics across warehouse operations, storefront volume and digital campaigns including Facebook, Google, and Amazon advertising.

Ideally, since these cross-functional data assets are now under one roof via Cart.com, brands could better identify root causes of trends and anomalies in campaigns, cart abandonment, sales, inventory and returns. The partnership is aimed at accelerating the speed-to-value this data will provide across a brand’s ecosystem, equipping them with actionable intelligence to adjust procurement spend, modify promotional campaigns or optimize revenue opportunities.

Additionally, the partnership with Google Cloud will streamline the development and monitoring of Cart.com’s machine learning and AI pipelines. This will generate richer experiences targeted to dynamic shopper needs, while brands will benefit from enhanced profit recommendations and Google Cloud’s global scalability with near-zero downtime. The partnership will leverage each organization’s core capabilities to strengthen existing relationships and open new customer opportunities.

Ultra Commerce/Slatwall Commerce

Ultra Commerce has acquired fellow B2B and B2B e-commerce platform Slatwall Commerce for an undisclosed sum. This is the second major deal Ultra has made to bolster its offerings this year, already acquiring product data management solutions provider Vesta eCommerce earlier this year.

The combination aims to fill critical gaps inhibiting enterprise growth, according to a statement from Ultra Commerce. With Slatwall in tow, Ultra Commerce says it is now positioned to serve a wide range of businesses, from fast-growing smaller businesses up to complex global enterprises, all within one platform and license.

The company says it seeks to mainly assist businesses that have had limited e-commerce platform options, typically either by combining their back end with supplemental solutions, or adopting a fuller platform ridden with cost and implementation risk. Ultra Commerce feels it can deliver customers ready-to-use enterprise capabilities and features to scale their business without these costs and risks attached.

In particular, Ultra Commerce wants to fill a niche within manufacturing digitization by meeting what can be complex B2B product and order management processes. These can include marketplace and multi-site/storefront capabilities servicing B2B, B2C and DTC from a single back end.

To illustrate the growth opportunity at hand, Ultra cited a Gartner report, “Manufacturing Digitalization Roadmap for Agility and Revenue Generation,” that said manufacturers will double digital revenue between 2020 and 2023.

Supply Chain

09 Solutions/Google Cloud

o9 Solutions, an enterprise AI software platform provider for transforming planning and decision-making, has launched Vertex AI Forecast integration with Google Cloud as part of their ongoing partnership.

The new machine learning-powered solution helps the world’s largest and most complex retail and consumer goods companies create highly accurate demand forecasts that drive greater supply chain efficiencies and lead to increased market share and profits.

Introduced at Google Cloud Next ‘21, Vertex AI Forecast leverages machine learning models and vast data sets to understand the relationship between product demand and demand drivers such as promotions, pricing, competitive actions and external data such as weather, social sentiment, or Google Search trends. It then translates these signals into more accurate demand forecasts, allowing supply chain teams to make better planning decisions that minimize excess stock, avoid lost sales and reduce administrative and logistics costs.

“Shifting trends and consumer buying behaviors are pushing brands to rethink the way they do demand planning. Yet, many global retail companies and consumer brands continue to rely on historical sales information and manual adjustments rather than data-based science to forecast future demand. Vertex AI Forecast’s machine learning models integrate with supply chain workflows and connect diverse demand signals, making it easy for companies to generate accurate, highly scalable demand predictions – leading to better planning decisions and ultimately higher service levels,” said Chakri Gottemukkala, CEO of o9 Solutions.

Vertex AI Forecast integrates with o9’s AI-powered planning and decision-making platform through the company’s open architecture framework and leverages Google Cloud’s proprietary machine learning algorithms for demand forecasting. Vertex AI Forecast is the first of several solutions that o9 is jointly developing with Google Cloud as an application partner of Google Cloud’s recently launched digital Supply Chain Twin.

“For more than 10 years, Google Cloud has created cutting-edge technologies that learn from large data sets – recognizing patterns, conducting what-if scenarios, and weighing the pros and cons of tradeoffs,” said Carrie Tharp, VP, Retail, Google Cloud. “Our new Vertex AI Forecast solution, built on the Google Cloud’s Vertex AI platform, applies our deep experience with these machine learning technologies to help retail and CPG companies quickly and easily scale their ability to generate and adjust forecasts based on real-time demand sensing.”