Retail Tech: West Elm Plays House in the Metaverse, Supply Chain Innovator Altana Raises $100M (2023)

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

Metaverse

West Elm/Roblox

Modern furniture and home decor retailer West Elm is teaming up with Roblox to launch its own virtual world, called West Elm Home Design. The first major specialty home retailer to premiere on Roblox, West Elm’s debut into the metaverse offers a virtual experience with high-fidelity design and photorealism.

The West Elm Home Design experience includes the West Elm Hub and the West Elm Neighborhood. The West Elm Hub features a furniture store, coffee shop and merchandise boutique. Users can customize their homes with over 150 virtual products nearly identical to their physical counterparts. In the West Elm Neighborhood, users can acquire design-forward homes and appoint them with West Elm furniture, lighting, garden and decorative accessories. Users can also collect and wear West Elm-branded avatar accessories like T-shirts, hats, bags and more.

“We’re excited to expand our company into the metaverse and connect West Elm with the millions of daily Roblox users around the world,” said Laura Alber, president and CEO of West Elm parent Williams-Sonoma, Inc., in a statement. “The launch of West Elm Home Design makes our company the first specialty home retailer on the powerful Roblox platform, and we look forward to welcoming users to the West Elm Neighborhood.”

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Much like the real world, West Elm Home Design offers Roblox users the tools and pieces to express their personal style by creating and decorating their environments for virtual living and socializing. West Elm created the experience to celebrate its modernist design aesthetic across generations.

West Elm Home Design features design challenges and mini games, obstacle courses, selfie-snapping features and hangouts that reward users with tokens, prizes and giveaways enhancing organic engagement. West Elm will continue to update the space and product offerings reflective of the brand’s current assortments.

Supply chain management

SPS Commerce/InterTrade Systems

Supply chain management software provider SPS Commerce, Inc. acquired supply chain collaboration solution platform InterTrade Systems Inc. from its parent company Mdf Commerce, Inc. for $48.5 million.

With the acquisition, SPS Commerce expands its network to “thousands” more businesses across North America, including retailers and brands in apparel and general merchandise, according to Archie Black, CEO of SPS Commerce.

As part of the SPS Commerce community, InterTrade customers will have access to more than 105,000 trading partners in over 80 countries.

For the fourth quarter of 2022, SPS Commerce anticipates the acquisition will add approximately $1.7 million of revenue and expects adjusted EBITDA to be negatively impacted by approximately $200,000. For fiscal year 2023, the company expects the acquisition will add approximately $8.5 million in revenue and approximately $500,000 to adjusted EBITDA. The company also expects the acquisition to contribute approximately $2.5 million in adjusted EBITDA in fiscal year 2024.

The company will provide consolidated fourth quarter 2022 guidance and an update to the full year 2022 outlook in its third-quarter earnings release.

Altana

Supply chain management software provider Altana has raised $100 million in a Series B round led by Activate Capital.

Altana uses AI to parse through data points across the supply chain to spot anomalies and identify potential risks and bad actors that could impede the flow of goods across the supply chain.

The Series B comes on the heels of strong sales and data network growth for Altana, the company says. The investment will fund aggressive platform and product development designed to empower the world’s governments, logistics providers and businesses, including clients such as A.P. Moller-Maersk, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, BMW and Merck, to create a shared view of supply chain networks ostensibly without pooling or exposing sensitive data.

For example, one of Altana’s features identifies senders and receivers on shipments, classifies the goods inside of boxes and shipping containers and provides a shipment rating for customs compliance and security purposes. The platform also answers general questions about the products, shipments, companies and networks involved.

Altana can also be used to accelerate and automate compliant trade, and to illuminate and collaborate across multi-tier supplier relationships, both of which are vastly important in a time when legislation like the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act pressures brands to be increasingly cautious about the products they import into the U.S.

In a blog post, the company called the funding “a powerful vote of confidence in our vision of Trusted Networks, which span and connect governments, businesses, and civil society to shape a more resilient, secure, inclusive and sustainable world.”

Altana will also use the capital to expand its teams in Washington, D.C. and London, and the company hopes to open an office in Singapore as an entry to the Asia-Pacific region.

Omers Ventures participated alongside strategic investors Prologis Ventures, Reefknot Investments, and Four More Capital. Existing investors GV (formerly Google Ventures), Amadeus Capital Partners, Floating Point, and Ridgeline Partners all joined the round.

Altana has raised $123 million total since it was founded in 2018.

Noodle.ai

Noodle.ai, a supply chain intelligence platform, closed a$25 millionSeries C funding round, including participation from the venture arm of ServiceNow and Honeywell Ventures.

Noodle.ai’s Inventory Flow deploys data science technology, including deep probabilistic predictions, graphical neural networks and reinforcement learning. By adding a system of intelligence to companies’ existing systems of record and systems of planning, Inventory Flow is built to find and resolve undetected problems in the supply chain, helping businesses maximize profits by enabling the right goods to flow to the right place at the right time.

The company says its artificial intelligence (AI) draws on trillions of supply chain data points to make recommendations on ways to speed up product shipments. Its system can detect patterns, like predicting when and where product shortages are occurring, that can help companies synchronize their interconnected supply chains.

The investment in Noodle.ai will help drive further investment in and expansion of the company’s supply chain system of intelligence to set a new standard for connected supply chain operations. Noodle.ai will use the funds to accelerate product innovation and technology integrations to support a growing customer base of companies across a wide range of industries heavily reliant on the global supply chain, including consumer packaged goods (CPG), food and beverage, beauty and cosmetics, metals, automotive, paper and pulp, and more.

The latest round brings Noodle.ai’s total funding to more than$100 million, including previous rounds from TPG Growth, Dell Technologies Capital, Mitsubishi and SMS Group.

Store analytics

MRI Software/Springboard

Real estate software solutions provider MRI Software has acquired U.K.-based Springboard, a provider of footfall counting and artificial intelligence (AI)-powered analytics to retailers, landlords and government bodies. The terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

In acquiring Springboard, MRI will expand its MRI@Work for Retail solutions suite, which currently serves more than 500 retailers and retail property owners and operators globally.

Leveraging plug-and-play software, existing camera networks and proprietary AI-powered algorithms, the Springboard solution provides real-time data and insights that can enable retail stakeholders to optimize operations and improve outcomes for both individual retail locations and retail destinations. The solution continuously measures visitor activity, capturing anonymized demographic and sentiment information while identifying behavior patterns such as movement and dwell time, before presenting this information via a comprehensive reporting platform.

Founded in 2002, Springboard holds a comprehensive data set on store foot traffic, serving more than 450 clients across 3,000-plus sites.

Springboard said it will continue to serve its clients without interruption.

Fulfillment/warehousing

NetSuite

Oracle NetSuite unveiled NetSuite Ship Central, a mobile application designed to help organizations optimize operations, eliminate manual processes and accelerate customer deliveries. The solution equips warehouse workers with packing and shipping capabilities on a mobile or kiosk device.

As warehouse operations are under more pressure to increase output without additional resources to do so, NetSuite hopes the Ship Central launch helps customers realize that goal by making it easier to consolidate shipments, adjust shipping routes for cost efficiency, and customize workflows to meet business demands.

Together with NetSuite Warehouse Management System (WMS), Ship Central provides end-to-end capabilities for picking, packing, and shipping products. It can eliminate unnecessary steps in the preparation and shipping process and help organizations track packages faster, determine the best carrier based on delivery date or location type, print shipping labels, and create documentation.

With NetSuite Ship Central, organizations can better enable warehouse workers to quickly find shipments that need to go out by scanning a carton, pallet, or order, or by selecting from a list of shipments. This can reduce the time spent locating orders and information.

Additionally, businesses can identify products going to a single location based on common criteria including address, carrier, or shipping route, and pack it all in the same shipment—or even work across multiple shipping carriers.

Organizations can also remain flexible with the option to print labels, reprint damaged or missing labels and change label information on packages at any point during shipment.

They can track packages in real time and improve the efficiency of warehouse operations by giving teams the ability to modify workflows to support unique business requirements.

NetSuite Ship Central will be available worldwide in November.

Brand protection

VerifyMe

VerifyMe, Inc., together with its wholly owned subsidiary PeriShip Global LLC, has entered into an agreement with an unnamed international luxury apparel company to provide brand protection solutions.

The solution offers brand owners time- and temperature-sensitive logistics, supply chain monitoring, authentication and data-rich consumer engagement.

VerifyMe will provide its new luxury apparel partner with brand protection labels including dynamic QR codes. The order for approximately 3 million labels with codes will allow the company’s product to be scanned and inspected as it travels through the supply chain. This will enable the company’s product to be authenticated at border control locations.

Patrick White, CEO of VerifyMe, said this is the company’s second contract in the apparel space this year.

VerifyMe’s brand protection and supply chain functions cover counterfeit prevention, authentication, serialization, and track and trace features for labels, packaging and products.

The logistics management platform incorporates proprietary databases, package and flight-tracking software, weather and flight status monitoring systems, as well as dynamic dashboards with real-time visibility into shipment transit and last-mile events.

In-store experience

Raydiant/Perch

Digital signage company Raydiant has acquired Perch Interactive, a digital marketing platform for in-store product engagement and sales, for an undisclosed sum. Combined with Raydiant AI and its customer experience platform, Perch’s technology will be integrated into the new Raydiant Shop offering, so that users can better understand and analyze how customers interact with in-store products.

Offering digital shelf,“lift and learn”and computer vision technologies, Perch was responsible for lift and learn deployments to recognizable retail brands including Johnson & Johnson, NestléPurina, Unilever, Invisalign and Coty. Categories using this technology, including those in beauty, fragrance, grocery, electronics and apparel, have seen an average sales lift of 87 percent, Perch says.

The lift and learntechnology usessmart shelvespowered by sensors to provide customers with information and promotions about the products they pick up. This technology allows the user to determine which products customers engage with, for how long and which targeted content actually gets them to buy.

Trevor Sumner, formerly CEO of Perch, will be Raydiant’s new head of AI and innovation.

This acquisition aims to provide a deeper understanding of shopper behavior and rich product engagement insights. Key insights this technology uncovers include engaged viewer counts with demographic segmentation, dwell times and sentiment analysis; product conversion metrics such as screen pickup and sales conversion ratios; and merchandising insights such as planogram distribution and messaging conversion.

Customer support

Wish/EDesk

ContextLogic Inc., largely known to consumers as online and mobile commerce platform Wish, has partnered with e-commerce customer support platform EDesk in an effort to empower its merchants with more resources and tools to improve customer support experiences.

Through this partnership, Wish merchants across the U.S. and Europe will be able to view and service customer inquiries from Wish and many other major e-commerce platforms, all within their one EDesk account. Through the partnership, Wish aims to improve customer support response times and generate greater operating efficiencies.

“A positive after-sales experience for our consumers is critical to a great customer experience, which is why we’re thrilled that our merchants can now access EDesk’s tech and support capabilities,” said Sarah Luo, vice president of merchant operations, Wish. “The team at EDesk have a deep understanding of the complex world of cross-border e-commerce and it is very clear that they have created a valuable tool for marketplace merchants.”

EDesk consolidates customer requests from marketplaces, online stores, social and support channels into a single shared system, making customer support easier to manage. Wish merchants can use EDesk to prioritize customer service requests by query type (cancellations, returns or product questions) and customer support service targets, allowing them to scale their sales reach and provide simplified customer experiences.

Pertemba, a premier Wish merchant that sells accessories and apparel, has already found success since using EDesk’s centralized customer support solution. EDesk enables Pertemba’s team of support agents to consolidate requests from across all of its sales channels into one place. EDesk’s integration with other major marketplaces also allows them to extend their sales channels, ideally without introducing more complexity into their support model.

3D fashion

Spree3D

Spree3D, a technology company specializing in delivering “hyper-real” avatar experiences, has debuted the MyDubble app in beta on the Apple App Store. MyDubble is a video studio powered by Spree3D’s photoreal avatar platform—enabling digital storytelling for personalized fashion experiences. Users can create MyDubble videos starring the user’s digital twin walking the runway at a music festival, posting in Paris or Tokyo and much more.

MyDubble offers fashion brands a creator platform targeted at digital natives, where anyone can instantly model virtualized apparel and share with friends as fashion videos. Integrating photoreal fashion Dubbles into a video studio, MyDubble offers partners a new opportunity that allows users to explore digital fashion in their social content and purchase physical items.

Users can simply create the Dubble from a quick phone scan, pick the Dubble’s outfit out of a growing catalog of original designs and then pick its setting from a selection of lifestyle scenes.

MyDubble also is designed to foster community building, enabling creators to pick fashion apparel in the app to feature in MyDubble posts. Partners can even launch metaverse “fandoms” populated with photoreal fan avatars, further empowering new engagement, merchandise and analytic opportunities.

Carbon Emissions

DispatchTrack

DispatchTrack, a last-mile delivery solutions provider, is now offering AI-powered carbon emissions tracking to help companies meet their supply chain sustainability goals.

Available as a feature in the DispatchTrack routing console, CO2 tracking enables companies across markets to better understand their existing carbon output on a per-route, per-stop and per-vehicle basis, optimize routes to reduce CO2 output, and gather data to illustrate the impact of their sustainability initiatives.

Fuel consumption in last-mile delivery is one of the largest contributors to emissions in the modern supply chain, as well as one of the top costs for delivery companies. Using DispatchTrack’s AI-powered route optimization engine, companies can learn more about green delivery options that leverage the most efficient routes with fewer miles driven and less fuel used.

By taking into consideration all of a day’s stops and shortening the total distance that drivers have to travel to fulfill their orders, DispatchTrack says it can help last-mile delivery companies reduce fuel consumption across their fleet by at least 10 percent.

DispatchTrack’s new CO2 tracking feature can be added to a customer’s existing DispatchTrack portal. Emissions data is included within routing and reporting screens, allowing users to visualize carbon emissions for each stop, and will dynamically update as routes are changed—all based on configurable emissions expectations based on different vehicle and load types.

The CO2 tracking feature enables users to better understand existing CO2 output and ideally more easily track it on a per-route and per-stop basis. Additionally, users can configure emissions for different vehicles and load types, group stops differently to help improve carbon emissions over time and visualize hard numbers on CO2 reductions.

Customer data

Yofi

Yofi, a digital identity platform that helps brands and retailers better understand their customers through data synthesis and recommendations, announced its official launch following the closing of a $1.5 million pre-seed round of funding.

With data increasingly being skewed by bots, bad actors, and duplicate accounts, brands often have an opaque view of their true customers. Yofi, formerly known as BotNot, use the data that brands have access to and is designed to provide a clearer picture of their actual customer while also curating recommendations that maximize business results.

Yofi helps brands sift through convoluted data to provide optimized granular customer and product-level recommendations that serve customers’ intentions and short-and long-term business objectives.

Founders Alex Shamir, Jordan Shamir and Andrew Stetsenko experienced the expensive impacts of using skewed data while working at some of the world’s most notable and largest brands. After identifying the whitespace opportunity, Yofi was born. The team began working in the collectibles and beauty industries while continuing to see strong demand across a variety of verticals.

The pre-seed funding round was led by Kickstart Fund with Data Tech Fund, Signal Peak Ventures, Rocky Point Ventures, BBQ Capital and other angel investors joining the syndicate.

Customer experience

FullStory/Qualtrics

FullStory, a provider of digital experience intelligence (DXI) solutions, unveiled a new integration with Qualtrics that places FullStory’s session replay capabilities directly within the Qualtrics XM Platform. FullStory’s embedded session replay for Qualtrics is available for joint clients and can be accessed by any Qualtrics user, with or without a FullStory seat. With the integration, cross-functional teams can improve the digital customer experience and take more actions that drive business value, all without leaving the Qualtrics XM Platform.

Announced on stage atthe FullStory Spark conference in Atlanta, this new integration deepens the strategic partnership between FullStory and Qualtrics. Together, these companies help the world’s largest brands prioritize digital opportunities and take action to address issues impacting customers. FullStory was named Qualtrics Technology Partner of the Year for 2021.

FullStory’s embedded session replay for Qualtrics aligns experience insights with session details, event stream and console view to discover the “why” behind every “what” and fuel digital experience improvements that can increase revenue.

Qualtrics users can view and filter for the sessions where a customer shared negative sentiment, left specific feedback or provided any other response data in order to pair visual evidence to a specific customer journey. Users can also drill down into the unique data points that they care about, and FullStory will automatically update and surface the relevant sessions to provide valuable insights.

Built on theFullStory DXI platformthat autocaptures and autoindexes all digital behavioral data, FullStory’s session replay embedded within Qualtrics can be set up with an API token and doesn’t require extra steps like setting up a segment or specifying users. Licensed FullStory users can quickly switch to FullStory and leverage specific session details to create additional segments or easily kick off new analysis.

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