The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) has partnered with Austin, Tex.-based startup Smarter Sorting to connect retailers with AI-based environmental compliance technology.
Smarter Sorting’s machine learning platform helps companies make data-driven, automated decisions on unsold, damaged or returned items. The Smarter Sorting platform provides real-time transparency for compliance programs and helps limit waste costs.
“Retailers are committed to making their businesses more sustainable,” said Tiffin Shewmake, a RILA vice president and executive director of its Retail Compliance Center. “As such, many are looking to innovative technology that can help make environmental compliance operations more effective and that help them achieve larger company sustainability goals. We’re enthusiastic about this partnership with Smarter Sorting, which helps retailers do just that and we look forward to moving the industry forward in this area together.”
As part of the partnership, RILA and Smarter Sorting plan to co-host a summit in the coming year that will allow retailers across the country to collaborate on customized, cutting-edge compliance solutions.
“As a startup committed to advancing retail sustainability, Smarter Sorting is thrilled to partner with RILA to launch the first-ever Innovation in Action Retail Summit,” Smarter Sorting CEO Chris Ripley said. “Our goal is to create a space where retailers can explore new technologies like machine learning to tackle their most vexing compliance problems while advancing their zero waste goals.”
While retailers have tackled point of sale (POS) systems for the front of the store, its platform “creates the first point of reversal (POR) solution for the back of the store,” the company notes on its website. According to Smarter Sorting, 10 percent of products sold in the U.S. fall into this category.
While the traditional return rate for goods purchased in stores is roughly 8 percent, the rate for online purchases ranges from 15 percent to 30 percent, depending on the merchandise category, according to real estate services and investment firm CBRE’s annual report on reverse logistics.
By UPS estimates, 1.5 million returns to were made on Jan, 3 alone, dubbed National Returns Day, setting a record for the sixth consecutive year.
The Smarter Sorting announcement comes as RILA prepares to hold an annual meeting of retail environmental compliance and sustainability practitioners this week. Hosted by the University of Texas at Austin, the meeting will include representatives from Smarter Sorting, as well as Austin Mayor Steve Adler, in a celebration of the city’s growing tech scene.
RILA is the U.S. trade association with more than 200 retailer, product manufacturing, and service supplier members that combine to account for more than $1.5 trillion in annual sales.