By Sourcing Journal
The weekly Retail Tech Roundup compiles technology news across the supply chain, manufacturing, retail, e-commerce, logistics and fulfillment sectors.
Aptean, an enterprise software solutions provider for manufacturers and distributors, has acquired the planning and product lifecycle management (PLM) divisions of retail technology solutions provider Aptos.
The planned purchase will expand Aptean’s cloud-based software offerings for the apparel, luxury, fashion and specialty retail industries, and broaden its fashion and apparel footprint. Following the transaction, Aptos will continue its focus on its suite of unified commerce solutions for the retail space, including its point of sale, order management, merchandising and other retail-specific applications.
With operations primarily based in Milan, Aptos’ planning division’s software is purpose-built to meet the merchandise planning and design needs of retail brands. Hundreds of established customers, including well-known fashion companies worldwide, rely on Aptos’ planning solutions to anticipate demand, optimize production and make more informed decisions.
Through the transaction, Aptean will acquire the full breadth of operations and the product portfolio of Aptos’ planning division which consists of solutions for merchandise financial planning (MFP), PLM, assortment planning and allocation, forecasting and replenishment (AFR). The addition of these products will complement Aptean’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) and shop floor control (SFC) offerings for the apparel industry with tools that support the entire apparel merchandise lifecycle from concept to shelf, providing visibility and real-time insights into financial planning, design, purchasing, distribution and delivery.
The transaction is expected to close within the fourth quarter of 2022. In the past year, Aptean has filled out its enterprise offerings in acquiring apparel-focused ERP software providers Exenta and RLM Apparel Software Systems.
Lily AI, a platform built to connect shoppers with relevant products they want to buy online, has closed a $25 million Series B with participation from Canaan Partners, Conductive Ventures, Sorenson Ventures and NEA, among others.
With total funding eclipsing $41 million, Lily AI provides algorithms designed to power web store components like search engines and product discovery carousels.
Already serving enterprise clients such as Bloomingdale’s, Gap, Macy’s, ThredUp and others, Lily AI will use the new funding to further expand into mid-market retail e-commerce brands across home, beauty and fashion. The platform aims to help these brands bolster their e-commerce channels by improving their on-site search conversion, personalized product discovery and demand forecasting. The company also plans to extend its solution to further applications within the retail tech stack.
It’s not just about the technology that powers the Lily AI platform, the company says. Lily AI now retains a team of experts across fashion, home and beauty who help to refine product attributes, which are then used to train the algorithms for product search and recommendations. In one such example, the group researches and develops ways to turn product attributes like “ribbed fabric” and “minimalist dressing style” into a mathematical language that the algorithms can understand. Essentially, Lily AI captures details on products based on traits like style, fit or occasion and uses consumers’ data to predict each customer’s affinity to attributes of products in the catalog.
Lily AI is built to take the language of the customer across the entire retail e-commerce value chain, providing retailers with one tool that impacts all systems. Retailers and brands can boost site conversion, order size and full-margin sales by moving away from categorizing and presenting products according to legacy, out-of-the-box attributes, and instead start presenting products in the language of consumers.
With the algorithms in place, brands can fundamentally improve areas of their e-commerce site search, demand forecasting, product recommendations, SEO/SEM and merchandise planning. The company’s robust, AI-powered image recognition extracts more than 15,000 product attributes, allowing retailers to configure 10 times more attributes for every product, the company says.
Lily AI co-founders Purva Gupta and Sowmiya Chocka Narayanan have expanded the platform into new industry verticals, such as home and beauty, as well as internationally into the U.K. and other European markets.
Qloo, an AI-based product recommendation platform designed to assist consumers as they seek out their culture and taste preferences, announced it has raised $15 million in Series B funding from Eldridge and AXA Venture Partners.
This latest round of funding brings Qloo’s total capital raised to $30 million, and will enable the privacy-centric AI compan to expand its team of data scientists, build out its technology, and build on its sales channels in order to continue offering insights into global consumer taste for Fortune 500 companies across the globe.
Founded in 2012, Qloo launched the predictive algorithm ‘as a service’ model, using AI technology to help brands securely analyze anonymized and encrypted consumer taste data to provide recommendations based on a consumer’s preferences. Demand for Qloo has been accelerating as companies look for privacy centric solutions, with the company saying that API request volumes across endpoints grew more than 273 percent year-over-year in Q2.
Qloo’s flagship API works across multiple layers to process and correlate over 575 million primary entities (such as a movie, book, restaurant, song, etc.) across entertainment, culture, and consumer products, giving expansive predictions of consumer taste based on demographics, preferences, cultural entities, metadata and geolocational factors.
The company’s API can be plugged directly into data platforms such as Snowflake and Tableau, with results populated in only a matter of seconds, Qloo says. This is designed to make it easier for companies to improve product development, media buying and consumer experiences in real time.
Qloo currently delivers cultural AI that powers recommendations for clients serving more than 550 million customers globally in 2022, including companies across media and publishing, entertainment, technology, e-commerce, consumer brands, travel, hospitality, automakers, fashion, financial services and more.
Stylumia/London College of Fashion
Trend forecasting platform Stylumia and London College of Fashion of the University Arts London (UAL) are collaborating to provide a new fashion analytics education course to their 2022 Masters students.
The college will offer a Fashion Analytics and Forecasting course as part of the postgraduate curriculum, combining fashion business expertise with machine learning, forecasting and statistical data analysis. The program is designed so that upon completion of this course, graduates will be well-placed for a wide range of fashion careers where strategic decision making is enhanced by the use of quantitative methods.
The Fashion Analytics and Forecasting course focuses on the following topics: Forecasting & the Global Fashion Economy; Collaborative Challenge; Connecting with Global Fashion Consumers; Quantitative Research Methods; Principles of Machine Learning for Fashion Analytics; and Data-Driven Fashion Product Innovation. The course ends with a capstone Masters Project.
Aside from the London College of Fashion partnership, Stylumia has created a global program to provide to academic institutions focusing on fashion design, analytics and forecasting. This program, when adopted by a college or university, would provide the entire technology suite from Stylumia to all students who registered.
Stylumia is currently in discussions with its global network of customers to provide job placements and scholarships to successful students.
“Our course aim, as the first of its kind, is to harness the power of data analytics and forecasting as a study specialism to open new knowledge and career routes for our students,” Dr. Satya Banerjee, the course leader for MSc Fashion Analytics and Forecasting with a PhD in information systems management, said in a statement. “Stylumia is valuable as it gives our students access to real life data-decision making but also allows wider thought on the implications of those decisions. With the fashion industry at a pivotal point in its history, working with collaborative businesses such as Stylumia allows us to present a broader subject aspect to our students. We look forward to working together to support our students, the industry, and its ecosystem.”
Fit technology and measurement solutions provider MySize, Inc. has entered a joint venture with Brazilian textile manufacturer Santista Têxtil. The joint venture marks the dedication of both companies to helping the retail industry exceed its sustainability goals through technology, and expanding the reach of both Santista and MySize to hundreds of leading Brazilian brands and online retailers in the country’s apparel market.
Santista has 93 years of experience in the Brazilian market and has become a national and global leader in fashion, trends, quality, and innovation by creating premium textiles for denim and workwear. MySize itself just made a major jump into the Brazilian market with 7 For All Mankind Brazil.
Through the joint venture, MySize’s products will be directly marketed to Santista’s extensive customer base, which includes local and international well-known brands. Access to MySizeID can reduce returns for these brands by up to 50 percent and increase the average size order, the company says. In addition, the recently launched FirstLook Smart Mirror, an interactive, mirror-like touch display for physical stores that offers personalized fit and product recommendations, will be available for users.
The MySize-Santista joint venture is designed to reduce expenses, boost average order size, and put sustainability front and center. MySize’s joint venture with Santista aims to address these issues in a meaningful and effective way, positively impacting businesses and consumers alike.
“MySizeID and FirstLook Mirror are excitingly innovative products that offer attractive advantages to fashion retailers,” Gilberto Stocche, CEO of Santista Têxtil, said in a statement. “Focus on sustainability is part of Santista’s DNA, and all of our projects are created with sustainable development, not just in preventing damage to the earth, but improving its health. We believe our joint venture with MySize will do all this while giving customers exactly what they need to foster successful businesses: an effective reverse logistics solution that is proven to significantly reduce returns while bolstering customer experience.”
Buy now, pay later
Square launched its first integration with Clearpay in the U.K., providing “buy now, pay later” (BNPL) functionality to sellers across online and in-person commerce. Clearpay is the European branch of Afterpay, which was acquired by Square-parent Block for $29 million in 2021.
The payments giant said the U.K. will be the first market to launch the Afterpay/Clearpay BNPL service across all platforms at the same time, including in-store and online. It can also be integrated by Square’s developers and partners.
The integration will enable Square sellers in the UK to offer a BNPL solution that allows customers to pay in four interest-free installments over a six-week period while merchants get paid right away.
“Since opening our website in the pandemic and incorporating Clearpay into our payment systems, we were very pleased to be informed that Square would be integrating Clearpay directly into its ecosystem,” said Jane Lyon, founder of U.K.-based apparel and accessories seller Lornashouse Lifestyle, in a statement. “We have been delighted with Square since leaving our previous legacy terminals and commerce solutions behind. Our website proved that many customers like the experience of spreading payments, so it’s great that business owners can offer this solution and meet their customer needs while having all the tools they need in one place.”
For online purchasing, Clearpay will now be embedded as a payment option within Square Online’s checkout system, enabling sellers to improve their average purchase size, increase basket conversion and attract more customers.
Sellers will be able to accept Clearpay in-person at the buyer checkout stage through any Square point of sale software. Sellers who accept payments via Square’s Virtual Terminal dashboard can offer Clearpay via text message Pay Links or by using Square Terminal hardware.
Developers can consolidate transaction data and build and maintain a single integration for Square and Clearpay payments with a few lines of code within the Square Web Payments SDK.
Since integration has taken place across the U.S and Australia, a combined Square and Afterpay has already proven to attract new shoppers and drive incremental revenue for sellers of all sizes.
Sellers across both nations that use Square Online are seeing triple the average transaction size with Afterpay than non-BNPL purchases. Globally, the payments company said it observed a 180 percent increase in new consumers leveraging Afterpay through Square sellers between February and March 2022.
In the U.S., retail businesses that offered Afterpay as a payments option on their website are seeing a meaningful lift in overall online sales, with men’s and women’s clothing stores growing 17 percent; speciality apparel and accessories growing 15 percent; and sporting goods stores seeing sales bumps of 12 percent. In both countries, beauty and personal care businesses saw significant upticks in online sales, registering a 26 percent increase in Australia and a 16 percent increase in the U.S.
Supply chain financingmgfn
Working capital provider C2FO has partnered with Vic.ai, a provider of AI for autonomous accounting and financial management. Through this partnership, C2FO and Vic.ai will provide their enterprise customers with an AI-driven invoice acceleration solution that can helps increase gross margins, further reduce the payment cycle for their supply chains, and improves the ROI for accounting and finance teams.
The Vic.ai platform is built to address an often-manual and inefficient task in accounting—invoice processing—to improve speed and scalability, enabling customers to reinvent their accounts payable operations and improve financial management. The company increases finance teams’ productivity with AI that works 24/7 tbdting that it has cut customers’ total invoice processing time by 80 percent.
C2FO connects more than 1.8 million businesses and more than $110 billion of daily accounts payable and accounts receivable available for early payment. In 2022, the company achieved a major milestone, having accelerated funding of more than $200 billion to companies worldwide since its founding. C2FO says its platform reduces the payment cycle by an average of 32 days.
Third-party logistics (3PL)
Extensiv, a provider of omnichannel software solutions for warehouse, inventory, and order management, has integrated Buku Ship, a provider of e-commerce shipping CX solutions for 3PLs and brands.
With this integration, Extensiv’s 3PL customers will receive AI-driven shipping solutions to deliver improved customer experiences, minimize errors and turn shipping into a profit center. In addition, Buku customers will be able to leverage Extensiv’s 3PL Warehouse Management Solution (WMS) in an effort to better serve customers, operate their warehouses more efficiently and increase growth.
The integration is made possible through the recent launch of Extensiv Parcel API. Parcel API builds on Extensiv 3PL Warehouse Manager’s Small Parcel Suite, a SaaS-based paperless warehouse efficiency solution for 3PLs offering e-commerce and omnichannel fulfillment. With the Small Parcel Suite, Extensiv said 3PL warehouses can reduce packing time by 50 percent by offering order packing and packing from shelves.
The Buku and Extensiv integration comes at a time when small parcel volume continues to rise. As volumes continue to increase, so does the demand for enhanced small parcel shipping capabilities.
Buku’s shipping software provides access to hundreds of integrations across the e-commerce shipping supply chain ecosystem, adding to Extensiv’s network of more than 1,500 connected 3PLs. In addition to USPS, DHL, UPS and FedEx, Buku supports Landmark Global, OSM, Parcll, same-day carrier IndyShip and more. Buku also has strategic alliances with international companies and customs authorities, offering international tax and duty estimation for their customers.
The company also enables enables high-volume and batch printing with its shipping software. When combined with 3PL Warehouse Manager’s small parcel suite, 3PLs can efficiently print batches of hundreds of shipping labels enabling teams to hit delivery service level agreements (SLAs).
Extensiv users now gain access to Buku IntelliRate, which uses cart psychology and dynamic rate shopping to display the lowest fully landed costs in the shopping cart at checkout, enabling brands to potentially make more strategic decisions about shipping options.
They also can view BUKU Dashboards, which provide a strategic analysis of shipping and order data. BUKU provides live P&L dashboards for 3PLs to analyze all their shipments or a single store owner to gain shipping insights to control costs, improve service and focus investment to meet goals.
Accenture has completed its acquisition of The Stable, a commerce agency focused on helping consumer brands build and operate their own digital commerce channels as well as manage their brand and sales performance across key North American retailers. The deal is designed to reinforce Accenture’s continued investments in commerce to help clients accelerate growth and sustain relevance.
Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
The acquisition of The Stable adds more than 400 people to Accenture bringing omnichannel commerce capabilities and expertise that drive revenue and efficiency for brands across consumer goods, retail, marketplaces and direct-to-consumer (DTC) channels.
The Stable is the first commerce-related acquisition that the IT services and consulting giant has made since launching Accenture Song, a new wing dedicated to assisting B2B and B2C companies in accelerating their commerce transformation to keep up with modern customer demands.
Research from Accenture Song found that nearly 90 percent of C-suite executives say that the current needs of customers and employees are changing faster than leaders can change their businesses, emphasizing the demand for new growth models.
The agency will enhance Accenture Song’s global commerce transformation expertise and its ability to build and operate data-driven digital commerce ecosystems that can maximize sales performance and deliver innovative marketing and commerce experiences.
Founded in 2015, The Stable can help drive revenue and efficiency for brands across consumer goods, retail, marketplaces and direct-to-consumer channels. Backed by data and fueled by insights, the company aims to build and execute strategies that acquire customers, create immersive experiences, and scale brands. The company says it works with growing consumer brands of all sizes, stages, and verticals through omnichannel retail and DTC commerce.
Ready Player Me
Ready Player Me, a cross-game avatar platform that allows users to explore virtual worlds with one consistent identity, has closed a $56 million Series B round led by Andreessen Horowitz (a16z).
The company already works with individual creators and fashion brands such as Adidas, New Balance, Dior and Pull&Bear to enable cross-game avatar assets across the metaverse. Ready Player Me provides developers an avatar system, allowing the teams to focus on creating worlds and experiences. The platform also provides distribution through its network and opens new revenue opportunities through interoperable avatar asset sales and a cross-game economy.
More than 3,000 apps across both Web2 and Web3 already integrate Ready Player Me, including VRChat, Spatial, Somnium Space, Nike’s RTFKT and many more.
Ready Player Me is driven by the belief that an open metaverse with millions of interlinked experiences, rather than “a few large walled gardens,” will drive better user experience, creator experience and economics. An interoperable user ID and avatar sits at the center of the open metaverse to be a cohesive experience. And an open marketplace of avatar assets will increase the size of the market and allow developers in the metaverse to increase their revenues, the company says.
The Ready Player Me avatar system is the cumulative product of over eight years of research and development. Early on, the company built custom avatar systems and technology for enterprise customers like Tencent, Verizon, HTC, Wargaming, and more. Over the years, Ready Player Me aggregated a proprietary database of 20,000+ face scans captured with the company’s own hardware-based 3D scanners. These scans enabled Ready Player Me to build a deep-learning solution that can predict and render realistic faces from a single 2D photo. This system runs across desktop, web and mobile and is available to developers through a robust SDK and API.
Additional participation in the funding came from other notable investors including Roblox co-founder David Baszucki, Twitch co-founder Justin Kan, King Games co-founders Sebastian Knutsson and Riccardo Zacconi, and sports and entertainment company Endeavor among others.
This article was published in Sourcing Journal August 24, 2022. Exenta from Aptean is a SPESA member.
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