Features, Technology, Trends

RetailTech Companies That Will Help You Navigate The New Normal.

RR RetailTechReachify: Solving for too many options and too much information in software solutions

It’s all moving so fast with too many technology solutions promising to solve retail’s new problems. Where should a retail C-Suite executive begin? There’s no tech playbook for today’s managers, and every area of the industry is disrupted. Cindy Lincks, CEO and founder of Reachify, felt overwhelmed when she was running ecommerce for a large enterprise company. So, armed with her passion and acumen in analytics and organization, she created a solution to help others similarly in need.

According to Lincks, there are no fewer than 3,000 ecommerce software vendors serving enterprise companies, and the number of enterprise software vendors in the $620 billion industry is accreting 20 percent annually. The sheer volume of choices for software solutions is daunting and fiduciary responsibility would render most executives numb after properly vetting the paradox of choice.

I recently sat down with Lincks who said, “Consider the following; the average enterprise VP manages 40-60 vendor contracts and the average CIO, over 150 vendor contracts. With a typical churn rate based on contract renewals every one-to-four years, executives are basically re-evaluating or renewing contracts monthly. A through vendor research project can take more than three weeks. When you do the math, there just isn’t enough time in the day to do a proper vetting. Even if an executive reduced the time spent per potential vendor under their P&L to 30 minutes, it would account for about 50 percent of their year.”

The Reachify solution was created to make this task manageable, answer the most germane questions executives consider when making software choices and then let them get back to their day jobs. Enterprise technology decision makers can cut to the chase by asking Reachify five questions:

  1. Give me a comprehensive list of enterprise technologies that solve my need;
  2. What is my competition using;
  3. What technologies are the thought leaders using;
  4. What is compatible with my existing software stack; and
  5. What is the vendor’s market share?

Reachify has over 80,000 data connections between buyers and sellers, or an average of 50+ software insights per company. The platform provides real-time first party information augmented by human intervention to scrub bad data. The Reachify ShortList matches a buyer’s specific business needs with a short list of qualified, verified venders. And it isn’t just the buyers that benefit, Reachify has tools that support both sides of the marketplace, enabling software sales teams to be better informed regarding a prospective client’s existing software stack and create relevant offerings via Reachify’s Sales Acceleration Tools.

To date, Reachify real-time business intelligence platform has raised $2.4M in seed funding, from industry investors including Forerunner Ventures (Kirsten Green), NEA, Beanstalk Ventures (Ken Seiff), Commerce Ventures, Female Founders Fund and private investors. Seiff commented, “I have experienced this problem firsthand and it is massive and costs large companies time, resources and billions of dollars because there was no easy solve before Reachify. Having worked with Cindy for years, I know she is an incredible founder and I feel lucky to be an investor in this company.” This is strong praise from a retailtech investor for an evolving platform!

ZigZag: Solving That Return Problem

Overall retail return rates average about 10 percent, according to recent NRF data, but ecommerce return rates run three to six times as high for some fashion ecommerce brands. According to ZigZag, 30 percent of shoppers intentionally (frequently urged by retailers) over-purchase and 20 percent order multiple versions. The result? Fashion retail is especially vulnerable to high return rates given sizing inconsistencies and purchasing patterns.

Estimates for the global cost of product returns range from $220 billion to $260 billion. Free shipping, the high cost and inefficiency of reverse flows and the low residual value of the returned merchandise heighten the adverse impact returns have on retail. Half of U.S. retailers offer free shipping both ways and data show when retailers offer free shipping, sales growth outpaces returns. Free returns are integral to customer retention. As ecommerce penetration continues to rise and retailers are likely forced to maintain generous free shipping/free return policies, profitability, where there is any, will vaporize. The “Try Before You Buy “mentality is here to stay!

ZigZag Global is solving the return problem and addressing the eroding profit problem for the ecommerce industry. Based in Britain, ZigZag was founded 2015 by Al Gerrie and Laurence Guy. Its client list includes Arcadia Group’s Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Miss Selfridge and Topshop. In addition to reduced return costs, retailers gain insight into consumer behavior and supply chain performance base on return data such as color and product descriptions, local sizing, manufacturing errors and serial returners. On the front end, ZigZag provides retailers with branded portals for consumers to schedule returns with multiple options (including exchanges). On the back end, ZigZag provides a SAAS platform that tracks all stock via its warehouse network and 55 courier partners. The software’s predictive analytics decides at the warehouse how to process and route the return based on demand: consolidate, resell, wholesale, and/or refurbish (dry-clean, repackage and box). Zigzag’s future looks strong. Gerrie elaborates, “In addition to all ecommerce fashion pureplays such as ASOS and Zalando, there are all the 3rd party small to medium size enterprises selling on the Amazon Marketplace, and then there are couriers, where millions of returns create traffic problems and they don’t have the warehouse network to consolidate.”

Its network of 200 warehouses in 130 countries connect more than 320,000 drop-off points in Europe alone, removing multiple pain points along the return continuum. ZigZag grades and refurbishes goods locally thereby returning products to the supply chain more rapidly (and reducing the impact of aging fashion inventory). Zigzag reduces parcel journey length as much as 65 percent and can save retailers more that 50 percent on transportation costs.
ZigZag is the recipient of numerous innovation awards, including Shoptalk’s (October) 2017 Startup Pitch capturing €25,000 in a contest of 13 innovative retail tech entrepreneurs; in March, ZigZag won the 2017 Sustainability Innovation Award in Milan; and Internet Retailer, The World Retail Congress and others have recognized ZigZag. ZigZag has raised just over $1m via crowd and seed funding and will likely raise a multimillion Series A in 2018.

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Making Online Discovery Fun: Hullabalook

Online shopping can be imprecise and painful, just less painful than driving to your local mall and wandering through multiple specialty and department stores as you seek out an apricot-hued slipper chair, a flesh mesh t-shirt, or an ecru lace top. Common consumer complaints include too many irrelevant choices, the inability to search for what you want exactly, inaccurate product descriptions and representations, and the untimely process of loading photos and viewing the multiple shots of multiple options. Discovery is just so much trial and error — and inefficient and boring most of the time.

Bryony Elliot and Barny Darby, co-founders of Hullabalook, tackled similar problems in their previous roles in cyber security and counter fraud solutions where they dealt with massive amounts of unstructured (deliberately abstract) data and were able to turn it into something useful and actionable. They are taking those skills and approaching retail’s big data and user experience. The problem starts with huge amounts of unstructured data and the inconsistencies across the data supplied by vendors.

Hullabalook is solving for improving a shopper’s choices/options and better browsing on smaller devices. Increasingly consumers are searching on their mobile for product and will abandon a retail website within 120 seconds if they can’t find the item they are searching for. In response, retailers are adding 10,000 additions SKUs annually, which just makes the search effort potentially more onerous. The prevailing technologies in use today are site search, filtering, and navigation bars, much the same as 1999. Outdated and slow, no wonder shoppers move on.

Retailers are constrained by varied and inconsistent data provided by vendors, while search filters are limited, oblivious to the features that drive consumer search; and finally, the slow loading of search results creates a poor mobile experience. What’s more, Elliot adds, “Retailers just don’t have the data scientist teams necessary to do the job, culturally, their efforts have been elsewhere.” Hullabalook can take the vast amount of product data retailers have, cleanse and interpret it so that it is consistent when shoppers view alternatives. Their platform fills in missing data and creates a rich and flexible shopping experience, eliminates universally hated scrolling, and can include gamification and personalization. Not yet two years old, they are revolutionizing online shopping — starting with the furniture category.

At Made.com their “Sofasizer” is a simple, elegant solution based on a customer’s individual size and color parameters. Sofasizer instantly returns product options that best fit the consumers search. This is a new experience, state-of-the-art visual tools and AI that provide a new level of customer centricity. In A/B testing on 50 percent of Made.com sofa traffic of more than 20,000+ sessions, Hullabalook can boast a 79 percent increase in conversion, an 83 percent lift to average order value, revenue per session rises 227 percent while customer engagement is up 205 percent.

Elliot and her team are moving on to additional product categories. Its Fashion Flip Book allows for super-fast browsing—hundreds of items in seconds— with products rescaled and cropped to create outfits. It is optimized for mobile, responding to today’s multi-tasking executive/entrepreneur needs when apparel shopping. Shoppers can link style inspirations from Pinterest to their search on a retailer’s site and Hullabalook analyzes the boards and makes product recommendations. Hullabalook’s data cleansing, parsing and enrichment processes, including exact, fuzzy, and thesaurus text matching, take the inaccuracies of fashion presentations and standardize and enhance them.

Hullabalook is another retailtech winner. Hullabalook has had two funding rounds according to Crunchbase (amount raised undisclosed); investors include London based TrueStart (Baz Seidieh). The company has won several awards including IRX Innovation Zone 2017 Winner, and best online CX 2017 at Retail Week Tech.

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