The FGRT team attended Shoptalk Europe 2017 in Copenhagen, Denmark, this week. The event ran October 8–11 and was the inaugural pan-European version of the Shoptalk retail and e-commerce conference that launched two years ago in the US. Shoptalk Europe covered innovation in retail and e-commerce, focusing on the evolution of how consumers discover, shop for and buy products.
Shoptalk Europe was expected to draw more than 2,200 attendees, including executives from established retailers and brands, startups, and technology companies, as well as investors, media professionals and analysts.
On Wednesday, FGRT Managing Director Deborah Weinswig emceed the startup pitch competition at Shoptalk Europe 2017, where 13 innovative early-stage companies vied for two cash prizes of €25,000 each. Leaders from the startups pitched their businesses to a panel of three judges, who chose one winner, and the audience, who chose the other winner. The judges were:
13 Early-Stage Companies from Seven Countries Compete for Cash Prizes
The 13 participating startups were selected from among hundreds of applicants through a rigorous vetting process.
The companies that participated were Cimmerse, Daco, EON.ID, Follow Inspiration, Hullabalook, MobieTrain, Oriient, Pasabi, Sensei, SkipQ, The Unseen, WiseShelf and ZigZag Global. Each startup focuses on one of the four areas of retail opportunity mentioned above.
Two €25,000 prizes were awarded, one based on votes from the judges and the other based on votes from the audience. Each startup was assessed based on five criteria: whether it solves a significant challenge or addresses a significant opportunity, the feasibility of its business model, its scalability, its leadership team’s ability to execute, and whether the judge/audience member would invest in the company.
And the Winners Were…
Judges’ Choice: ZigZag Global
Audience’s Choice: EON.ID
The Shoptalk Europe 2017 Startup Pitch Competition winners and key event participants are pictured below.
Cimmerse sells AR/VR software, and the total AR/VR market is forecast to grow at a 113.2% CAGR between 2017 and 2021, from $11.4 billion to nearly $215 billion, according to research firm IDC.
Cimmerse offers 3D scans of objects for use in AR and VR applications on websites, mobile devices and headsets.
The company’s visualizations work on all modern web browsers, require no download of a plugin or app, and offer a high degree of realism, while enabling retailers to collect data and execute e-commerce transactions at the same time.
The company’s platform enables online retailers to start reaping the benefits of 3D-visualized products immediately. Cimmerse handles the 3D scanning of retailers’ products to generate highly realistic 3D models. Following extensive research and experimentation with this process, the company claims that it can now digitize and process most products in less than an hour.
Many e-commerce companies struggle with poor conversion rates and high return rates, and even successful online retailers would like to increase their conversion rates. Recent advances in AR and VR hardware and software are likely to offer a competitive advantage to retailers that use these technologies.
Cimmerse’s clients pay a monthly or yearly subscription fee to use its platform-as-a-service (PaaS), which allows them unlimited 3D models and unlimited use of the entire platform. The company charges a monthly fee to mid-sized businesses and offers custom pricing to larger enterprises. The company also charges setup fees and fees for digitizing the 3D models, which retail clients will ultimately be able to do themselves.
The company’s direct competitors are in the mixed-reality e-commerce segment and include Marxent Labs, Obsess VR and Avametric. In the mixed-reality CMS/marketing segment, web-based competitors include FocalHub, Vizor and IdeaSpaceVR. Cimmerse also competes with FocalHub in the B2B space and with Vizor and IdeaSpaceVR as a general-purpose platform.
Cimmerse’s two key employees are Eric Prince, the company’s product designer, photogrammetrist and sales lead, who is an experienced entrepreneur and 3D digitization expert, and Casper Fabricius, an engineer and VR expert who holds a master’s degree in computer science.
Most e-commerce websites offer product visualization in 2D, which is not visually compelling. So, it is likely that e-commerce retailers will readily embrace AR and VR to make the shopping experience more lifelike and enable customers to view products in more detail and from a variety of angles. Demand for AR and VR e-commerce tools is likely to grow dramatically on an international scale.
Daco sells products for the retail analytics market, which research firm MarketsandMarkets estimates will be worth $3.52 billion this year and will grow at a 19.7% CAGR, to $8.64 billion, by 2022.
Daco offers a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform that uses AI to provide insights to retailers on their competitors’ products at a granular level. Its platform scrapes the text and images from competitors’ websites, gathering product information so that retailers can make better business decisions regarding product offerings.
The company’s dashboards aim to boost sell-through and capture market opportunities, maximize margins through pricing, boost ROI from discounting, improve store-network performance, improve distribution, and provide comprehensive market insights.
The company processes the enormous amount of information available across the entire line of competitors’ product offerings. This previously required strategy consultants, who had to gather data manually and process it in Excel, meaning the information was not available in real time.
The company’s SaaS offering is available on a one-year, renewable contract.
Other companies providing competitive analysis include Edited and StyleSage.
The company’s three cofounders all have backgrounds in strategy consulting.
Due to the rapid expansion of e-commerce and data analysis technologies, such as Big Data and AI, retailers will increasingly need to obtain detailed, real-time, competitive intelligence in order to successfully compete with rivals. Daco plans to grow organically, expanding its customer portfolio to include other large retailers as well as customers in the luxury and beauty segments.
Americans discard nearly 25 billion pounds of clothing, shoes, accessories and other textiles every year, according to the Council for Textile Recycling. While some of these items are resold at thrift stores or recycled, approximately 85% of the total goes straight to landfills, the organization says.
RFID tags can assist in the management of product recycling and reuse as well as with research on product lifecycles. The use of such tags can improve the handling of materials at the end of their useful life—particularly with regard to sorting, as products with digital identifiers can be sorted based on color, fabric and finishing treatment, among other characteristics—resulting in textile waste being repurposed as raw material. Electronic tags can also provide detailed data on product distribution, consumption, disposal and recycling, enabling retailers to track products throughout the entire product lifecycle.
EON.ID is developing an RFID-based solution, the EON-ID thread, that will help turn unwanted clothes into new materials and garments, thereby helping to eliminate waste, reduce pollution and reduce our reliance on new natural resources.
The company is creating a global tagging system for textile recycling, which will rely on an RFID thread solution to track clothing lifecycles. EON.ID’s idea is to attach an EON-ID thread, or a digital “ingredients list” tag, to each garment at the manufacturing stage, so that it can be easily scanned and recycled at the end of the product lifecycle. The EON-ID thread will provide product identification information, such as the garment’s material, color, brand and next-life instructions.
The tags also enable consumers to see the path of the garment, from sourcing to finished product, making the supply chain more transparent. For retailers, item-level tagging has the potential to provide detailed data on product distribution, consumption and recycling, providing valuable sales and sustainability insights.
The company was selected for the second edition of the Plug and Play—Fashion for Good accelerator program, a collaboration between Fashion for Good (with the C&A Foundation as the founding partner) and Plug and Play. The program kicked off in Amsterdam in September 2017.
New York, NY
A survey of 2,000 people by European supermarket chain Sainsbury’s found that three-quarters of respondents admit to throwing away garments that they no longer want, usually because they do not realize that unwanted clothing can be recycled or donated to charities. British consumers are expected to discard 680 million pieces of clothing this year, and 235 million of those garments are expected to end up in landfills, according to the survey.
One of the biggest barriers to textile recycling is that it is difficult to identify what materials clothes are made of at the end of their useful life. Textile materials can be complex, composed of several different types of fibers, dyed with different types of dyeing systems and, in many cases, incorporating different types of surface treatments.
EON.ID’s RFID tag system can enable the sorting of garments by more complex parameters than manual sorting allows, identifying, for example, which dyeing system was used in a garment’s manufacture. In addition, the company’s EON-ID thread solution can help retailers increase item-level visibility throughout the entire product lifecycle, enabling a true omnichannel strategy by streamlining production, warehousing, distribution, retail, customer experience, next-life and recycling.
The company sells its EON-ID thread to fashion retailers and manufacturers.
EON.ID competes with makers of other RFID-based apparel solutions that focus on textile recycling and the handling of textile materials to reduce the fashion industry’s environmental impact.
Natasha Franck is CEO and Cofounder of EON.ID. Previously, she was SVP of Global Business Development at Delos, a research, technology and real estate consulting group focused on the intersection of health and the environment.
The textile recycling industry in the US has great potential to expand, given that 85% of used textiles end up in landfills. The next steps involve increased promotion of recycling and helping retailers realize the long-term potential in using RFID in sorting apparel and textiles and promoting social responsibility.
Robotics startups received significant funding in 2016. According to industry news site The Robot Report, more than 128 companies received a total of $1.95 billion in funding last year, up 50% from 2015. As robotics technology becomes more commonplace, machines will increasingly work for us, alongside us and, in some cases, in place of us.
Retailers continue to invest in robotics, such as in robot shopping assistants and warehouse robotics, to improve operational efficiency. In-store robots can improve customers’ shopping experiences and reduce the number of associates needed for retail stores. They can also assist customers with reduced mobility with shopping activities.
Follow Inspiration is a robotics company that has developed an autonomous, self-driving shopping cart called wiiGO that is designed to assist people with reduced mobility as they shop in retail stores. By using computer vision, wiiGO can follow a customer in a crowded retail space and helps carry the customer’s selected items.
Retailers that have used wiiGO have seen strong initial results in terms of traffic and sales. In a pilot test in which 600 customers used wiiGO to assist them with their shopping, the average time spent in-store increased to 35 minutes from 28 minutes and the average shopping order increased by up to 25%. Follow Inspiration has also received positive customer feedback on promotions it has held at selected retail locations.
The wiiGO smart shopping cart is especially useful in grocery stores, where customers tend to shop for a large number of items.
Follow Inspiration’s wiiGO cart helps customers with limited mobility shop more conveniently at retail stores. Pilot testing has shown that customers who use wiiGO spend more time and money than average in-store.
Follow Inspiration is still exploring different revenue models. Retailers can either rent or purchase wiiGOs at different prices, depending on the number of units they need. The average grocery store needs three to five wiiGOs to meet customer demand.
Follow Inspiration competes with in-store scooter manufacturers and shopping cart providers. Wanzl, the largest shopping cart supplier in Europe, is looking to enter the connected shopping cart area.
Follow Inspiration is currently led by a team of five professionals with diverse backgrounds in engineering, marketing, communications and management.
The company plans to add additional features to the wiiGO, including mobile payment options. It also sees other potential uses for the wiiGO outside retail, such as for logistics and transportation of luggage at airports.
Beyond its current focus on the European market, the company sees the US market is an attractive expansion opportunity.
Actual online penetration rates for many retail categories—such as home, beauty and apparel—are typically higher than the 10% figure that is often cited for total e-commerce. This is because the total figure includes the grocery category, which sees relatively low e-commerce penetration. We estimate that 14.6% of all nonfood retail sales in the US were made online in 2016, versus 10.8% of all retail sales including food. Based on our estimates, the e-commerce penetration rate for nonfood categories was 35% higher last year than the rate for all categories including grocery. We further estimate that, in the UK, 18.7% of all nonfood retail sales were made online in 2016, compared with 14.7% of all retail sales including food—meaning that nonfood categories had a 27% higher e-commerce penetration rate in the UK last year.
Hullabalook provides a more intuitive e-commerce product discovery solution for consumers. The company’s tool replaces the traditional product search function on e-commerce sites with a visual search function that accounts for actual product size and color.
The company currently focuses on the home category. Hullabalook has worked with home e-commerce retailers such UK-based Made.com and Houseology to provide online shoppers with visuals that include the size and color of furniture products when they use the sites’ search function.
Hullabalook’s solution is also applicable in the fashion vertical, where it can be used to help customers find the perfect outfit.
Hullabalook’s solution improves the product discovery experience on e-commerce websites. By helping customers find the product they want, the tool increases conversion rates and decreases the possibility that customers will leave the site in frustration.
Hullabalook created an alternative to the traditional website search experience, which has become increasingly difficult for customers as the number of online product offerings has grown.
Retailers pay a fee to use Hullabalook’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution.
The company competes with visual search companies such as Cortexica and ViSenze.
Hullabalook employs a team of 10 that includes tech experts, serial entrepreneurs and product managers.
The company hopes to integrate online and offline touchpoints in the product discovery journey into its solution in the future. Hullabalook seeks to expand into the fashion and beauty categories in the next few years. In terms of geographic expansion, the company considers the Asia-Pacific region and the US as highly attractive opportunities.
Companies are increasingly allocating their training budgets to e-learning programs. The online corporate training market is expected to grow by 13% each year until 2025, and 77% of US companies use online training for career development courses. Mobile-based training programs are becoming popular for in-store associate training, as they free associates from having to sit at a desk to view an online training program.
MobieTrain is a mobile-first corporate training platform that focuses on store associate training for the retail industry. Its mobile training application enables store associates to consume consistent customer service training at their own pace, without having to sit at computer stations, which are often difficult to organize at retail stores. MobieTrain uses gamification to develop engaging training content with retailers’ human resources teams. Its gamified approach uses quizzes, animations and short training techniques to make learning fun and engaging.
MobieTrain’s platform is currently being piloted in Belgium and the Middle East
MobieTrain provides more efficient and engaging store associate training than traditional online and in-person training programs. The mobile-based solution is also more convenient for store associates, who can use it while keeping up their daily work schedule. The gamification aspect of MobieTrain’s solution makes the training experience more interesting for store associates.
Providing consistent and effective training for store associates ensures they have the right tools to provide the best customer service experience, which is increasingly important for retailers as they compete to retain customers.
MobieTrain charges a monthly licensing fee per user for its training platform. The company also charges consulting fees to help retailers develop training content.
The company competes with mature and emerging providers of human resources onboarding services, corporate communication tools and knowledge transfer services. It differentiates itself from mature companies such as Cornerstone by providing a mobile-first solution. The company also competes directly with e-learning software provider Axonify.
MobieTrain is led by a team of five professionals with diverse backgrounds in strategy, sales, retail operations, technology and marketing.
MobieTrain plans to tackle the restaurant sector next, as significant numbers of employees in the industry require customer service training. The insurance and banking industries are also opportunities for the company.
In February 2018, the company will launch a new version of its platform, with updated content.
Indoor navigation technology has applications in shopping malls and smart buildings, where mobile apps can guide customers to where they want to go and help them find exactly what they are looking for. Indoor navigation systems can also be used to engage customers with targeted services and marketing messages based on their location in a building or mall.
Indoor-positioning technologies have seen significant advances in recent years. While there is no single dominant system, developers have created systems based on Wi-Fi, RFID, geomagnetic, visible light and inertial navigation technologies. In the past, these systems presented two major technical challenges: they required installation of hardware in buildings and they did not always provide a sufficient level of navigational accuracy.
Oriient has developed a scalable indoor navigation solution that is based on geomagnetic technology and requires no hardware installation. Its solution does not rely on beacons or Wi-Fi installations, which can present challenges when operated in large-scale buildings. Oriient’s technology integrates with the existing apps of shopping malls and megastores to provide indoor navigation assistance to customers with an accuracy radius of three feet.
Oriient is currently in stealth mode and is working with German hypermarket operator Metro Group. It is also launching a few demonstrations with retailers based in France and the US and piloting its solution with an Israel-based smart building company. Oriient’s solution is most applicable in shopping centers, hypermarkets and supermarkets.
Tel Aviv, Israel
Oriient solves the scale and accuracy problems that other indoor navigation systems have faced. The company’s technology does not require the installation of any hardware throughout a building, so it can be used in large-scale buildings where hardware installation would be prohibitively costly. Oriient’s solution is also accurate within a three-foot radius, making it highly useful for commercial applications.
Building owners/operators pay a monthly fee to use Oriient’s services.
The company competes with mature technology companies and startups that sell indoor navigation technologies based on Wi-Fi, beacons and RFID. Oriient competes directly with companies that also use geomagnetic indoor-positioning technology to provide similar solutions.
Oriient CEO Mickey Balter and CTO and VP of R&D Amiram Frish both have strong technical backgrounds and track records of building startups. Prior to founding Oriient in 2016, Balter cofounded two other companies, Scientra and Veloquity Systems. Frish previously spent eight years with Motorola Solutions as a software architect.
Following the current pilot tests, Oriient plans to roll out its services to as many buildings as possible in the next few years. Smart buildings will be one area of focus for the company.
Pasabi sells into the global online retail fashion market, which Technavio analysts forecast will grow to $167.25 billion by 2021.
Pasabi uses machine learning to build a profile of a consumer based on information from his or her social media (i.e., Pinterest) profile. The model is then used to offer product recommendations.
Once linked to the user’s Pinterest profile, the Pasabi platform learns the user’s fashion tastes, and generates personalized fashion recommendations sourced from all over the web. The platform is able to learn, so the more the consumer uses it, the better the personal recommendations it is able to make.
Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
Pasabi aims to increase sales by personalizing fashion recommendations on brands’ sites by building a consumer’s likes and preferences into the displayed products. This increases conversion and allows brands to adjust their product ranges to suit overall customer trends.
Pasabi offers a platform-as-a-service and sells reports on users’ preferences. It also offers access to a custom dashboard and white-label site integration.
There are numerous companies offering personalized fashion recommendations, including well-known trend forecasters such as WGSN as well as several startups. However, Pasabi uniquely combines machine learning and individual social media data to drive its recommendations and insights.
The company’s two founders have experience in European e-commerce and in developing recommendation engines.
E-commerce continues to win market share from brick-and-mortar companies, yet there remain ample opportunities to make shopping recommendations more relevant so as to make shopping more personal.
Sensei sells products in the retail analytics market, which research firm MarketsandMarkets estimates will be worth $3.52 billion this year and will grow at a 19.7% CAGR, to $8.64 billion, by 2022.
Sensei sells an AI-powered video recognition solution that provides real-time in-store analytics on metrics such as traffic flow, store benchmarking, product performance and out-of-stock items.
Sensei installs its software within retailers’ existing video cameras. The software captures in-store data by combining sensor technology with computer vision algorithms. Sensei’s computer vision technology can capture 500 products on one shelf in one image.
The data enable retailers to easily analyze, manage and benchmark their in-store business. They can combine the information from Sensei’s solution with information from other sales channels (such e-commerce sites and social networks) and third-party data (such as weather, logistics and human resources data). Through A/B testing in a store, Sensei can combine customer shopping data with SKU recognition to offer insights on the impact of promotional areas and product pricing.
The company currently serves grocery chains and apparel retailers. Sensei tested its solution with European hypermarket chain Real (which is owned by Metro Group) and with men’s fashion retail chain Dielmar.
More than 90% of US retail sales still take place in a physical store, according to the US Census Bureau. Yet brick-and-mortar retailers often lack store-level insights and the tools needed to cost-effectively track in-store execution and optimize merchandising and pricing. This can cause over/understaffing, stocking of the wrong inventory and missed sales opportunities due to out-of-stocks and incorrect product placement.
The retail industry faces an average out-of-stock rate of 8%, according to a study by Procter & Gamble. Sensei estimates that out-of-shelf and out-of-stock situations result in $1.5 trillion in lost sales annually for retailers worldwide. In addition to lost sales, retailers face other costs when items are out of stock, as they must allocate resources to deal with extra ordering and auditing activities.
By providing real-time SKU recognition and shopper insights, Sensei can give store managers the information they need in order to ensure on-shelf availability, reduce out-of-stock incidents, and maximize product promotion and performance.
Retailers pay a monthly fee to use Sensei’s SaaS solution, based on the size of the store. The company offers packages for specialty apparel retailers that range from €350 to €600 (US$411 to US$705) per month and for supermarkets that range from €3,000–€7,500 (US$3,523 to US$8,808) per month.
Sensei competes with companies that provide in-store inventory management and shopper analytics, such as providers of RFID-based solutions and robotics that scan on-shelf products using computer vision.
Sensei Cofounder and CEO Vasco Portugal has a PhD in engineering systems and has worked extensively on electric mobility and Internet of Things products. COO and Cofounder Joana Rafael worked in retail manufacturing for several clothing brands and spent three years at META Innovation Consulting Group as Chief Innovation Officer. CTO and Cofounder Paulo Carreira has a background in engineering and is a lecturer on software engineering and database systems at the Instituto Superior Técnico.
The company aims to use data analytics to improve brick-and-mortar retail clients’ bottom lines. It looks to expand in the European and US markets in early 2018.
The adoption of in-store mobile payment options is growing among retailers, driven by increasing shopper demand for a speedy and convenient checkout experience. As more retailers start to accept mobile payments, the number and total value of such payments will increase.
Research firm eMarketer estimates that in-store mobile payment transactions totaled $27.67 billion in 2016, an increase of 183% over 2015. The firm further estimates that point-of-sale transactions made via mobile devices will grow at a 62.56% CAGR to 2020, when they will exceed $314 billion.
SkipQ is a mobile app that gives customers the option to self-checkout in stores via their phone, without the hassle of having to wait in line. The app relies on QR code-scanning and RFID-powered or NFC security tags on items. Shoppers use the SkipQ app to scan the QR code or NFC tag on an item to add the item to their mobile shopping cart. When finished shopping, they use the app to check out and pay.
Customers can scan items to check product availability and access product information, size guides, personal recommendations, social media reviews and outfit suggestions, and their purchases are linked to the loyalty programs they belong to. As customers leave a store, a SkipQ smart security gate scans the items they are walking out with to determine which items have been purchased, in order to prevent theft.
The app benefits retailers by enabling employees to spend less time performing administrative tasks such as checking stock and staffing checkout counters, giving them more time to assist shoppers in other ways. SkipQ also collects customer behavior data, including what customers buy, which items they scan but do not buy, when they shop and how much they spend on average. Based on those data, the SkipQ app can provide personalized recommendations and promotions.
To use SkipQ, retailers must deploy RFID gates (an off-the-shelf solution enhanced by SkipQ) and RFID tags. The tags cost a few cents each and are provided and attached by SkipQ. The technology is agnostic, and can be integrated with a retailer’s existing app, if preferred.
SkipQ currently focuses on fast-fashion retailers. The company is seeking a pilot with MasterCard and is in talks with a major Italian fashion retailer.
Providing a speedy and convenient checkout experience is increasingly important. Long checkout lines not only lead to unhappy customers, but also to cart abandonment, in some cases.
According to research from mobile network operator EE, British retailers are losing out on more than £1 billion (US$1.34 billion) a year in sales due to long checkout lines. In an online survey of 2,000 British consumers, 59% of those polled said that they would wait no longer than four minutes in a checkout line, and 73% said that they would abandon their purchase if their wait in line was more than five minutes.
Some retailers have added self-checkout kiosks where customers can scan their items, bag them and pay. However, the cost to buy and set up these kiosks can run from $3,000 to $10,000 per unit.
The unique selling point of a mobile self-checkout option is its ability to control costs by reducing labor expense in a retail setup. Speed, privacy and convenience are other key advantages that are leading to increased adoption of self-checkout options worldwide.
SkipQ charges retailers an implementation fee for adding RFID tags to their products.
SkipQ competes with other mobile-based self-checkout solutions such as US-based QueueHop and UK-based MishiPay.
SkipQ Founder Maciej Trybilo previously founded a software development company called Canvas Apps. His background is in iOS engineering and UX design. Director Stefano Ceccon has a PhD in machine learning and also serves as the Data Science Lead for New York–based food technology startup Morsum. Italian RFID company Temera serves as a supplier to SkipQ, and the company’s founders are advisors to the SkipQ team.
The number and total value of mobile payments will continue to grow as more brick-and-mortar retail locations add them as a payment option. Today, shoppers expect service to be streamlined, and innovation in checkout services is an important step toward creating a more convenient shopping experience. Following its first pilot test, SkipQ plans to aggressively seek customers.
The materials created by The Unseen could be a major technological disruption in the textile industry, where innovation has largely stagnated, with no real breakthroughs in new textiles since the 1970s. About two-thirds of the world’s textiles today are made from synthetic materials derived from petroleum, and the majority of these synthetics biodegrade only after a very long period of time, which poses a significant challenge to the environment.
The Unseen specializes in creating materials that are reactive to changes in the environment, such as changes in UV, pollution, temperature and light levels. The company’s patented material technology is used to create fabrics that can change color based on chemical reactions. These materials differ from those used in other wearable tech fabrics, which require the incorporation of electric power. The Unseen’s materials “visualize” data collected from the environment and change in response to that information.
The Unseen has worked with companies in the luxury fashion, cosmetics, spacewear, sportswear and automotive sectors to develop proprietary materials for their products. The company collaborated with UK-based department store Selfridges to launch a luxury collection of accessories that change color according to changes in touch, heat, light, wind and air pressure. Products in this collection include a heat-reactive scarf that changes colors depending on the wearer’s body temperature and a phone case that responds to changes in the user’s circulation.
The Unseen has created innovative and highly differentiated materials in the textile sector, where innovation has been lacking for years. The company’s chemical-based materials can be used to create garments and accessories that do not require the incorporation of electric components, thereby solving a significant problem in wearable technology.
The Unseen generates revenues in three ways: it undertakes material science consulting projects, it participates in product development for clients and it charges brands a fee to license its proprietary materials.
The company does not currently have any direct competitors. Certain formulation and chemical companies have developed similar technologies, but they have demonstrated no desire to compete in the same design area as The Unseen does.
The Unseen has a team of 10 people that includes fashion designers, material scientists and chemists.
The company aspires to develop new textiles that change texture based on environmental changes. It is looking to raise a series A funding round in the next 12 months.
Out-of-stock situations often result in lost sales and poor customer experiences. The retail industry faces an average out-of-stock rate of 8%, which means that one out of every 13 items a customer wants is typically out of stock, according to a study by Procter & Gamble. The company estimates that the direct sales loss from an out-of-stock situation is about 4%. In addition to lost sales, retailers face other costs when items are out of stock, as they must allocate resources to deal with extra ordering and auditing activities.
WiseShelf sells an IoT-based retail inventory management solution that provides real-time inventory counts and alerts to store associates regarding out-of-stock and omnichannel fulfillment situations.
WiseShelf installs sensors on store shelves that can detect the light level above the merchandise and send inventory-level data via Wi-Fi to a mobile-based inventory management system used by store associates. Rows of LED lights on shelves create visual alerts when items are out of stock, so staff can address the problem immediately: store associates can easily identify the location of out-of-stock items based on the lights.
WiseShelf’s inventory solution also integrates with retailers’ omnichannel logistics systems, so staff can quickly locate in-store items to fulfill online orders efficiently.
The company currently focuses on grocery stores and pharmacies. WiseShelf’s solutions have been installed in a number of major European countries, including the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Finland. The company has also served clients in Turkey and Israel.
WiseShelf addresses two challenges for the retail industry: the out-of-stock problem, which often results in loss of sales, and inventory visibility for omnichannel fulfillment. By providing real-time inventory insights, WiseShelf can improve inventory visibility, ultimately resulting in additional sales.
WiseShelf charges $4–$6 per meter of shelf space. It costs about $4,000 for a typical drugstore to employ the company’s service.
WiseShelf competes with companies that provide inventory management solutions such as RFID-based systems and robotics that scan on-shelf products using computer vision. WiseShelf differentiates itself by delivering a more cost-effective solution that provides added value in omnichannel logistics.
WiseShelf Cofounder and CEO Shalom Nakdimon is a seasoned entrepreneur and expert in security camera and wireless technology implementations. CTO and Cofounder Yaeer Master is an experienced executive in software development and management with more than 10 years’ experience at NICE Systems prior to joining WiseShelf.
The company aims to use data analytics to improve brick-and-mortar retail clients’ bottom lines. It looks to expand into the US market in early 2018.
Product returns are a costly part of doing business, particularly for e-commerce operators, and managing the increasingly expensive reverse supply chain has become a priority for retailers. In addition, the competitiveness of online retailing has led more retailers to offer free returns, which today’s shoppers increasingly expect.
According to digital marketing and advertising firm Invesp, at least 30% of all products ordered online are returned. Retail data intelligence company Clear Returns estimates that returns will cost UK retailers £20 billion (US$26.8 billion) this year and £1 billion (US$3.4 billion) during the holiday season alone. Retailers are investing in strategies to improve their reverse supply chains to help mitigate the costs of returns.
ZigZag Global is a B2B software platform that helps retailers manage e-commerce returns globally. The company helps retailers cut costs and reduce waste related to returns by using its network of warehouses and couriers. ZigZag Global aims to reduce the time products are not available for sale and unlock revenue for returned products, while providing customers with faster refunds and lower return costs, all with a lower carbon footprint.
Using a software plugin that is integrated into a retailer’s returns page, a customer who needs to return an item selects a return label from a list of options. The company directs the item to one of its 200 warehouses and 50 courier partners in 130 countries. From a warehouse in the UK, Germany, France, Australia or the US, the returned item is then directed to the nearest location where there is demand for it, rather than being sent back to the originating country.
By linking together retailers with warehouses and couriers, ZigZag Global can distribute products close to where they are in demand and resell products locally. The company uses sales data to understand where products are likeliest to be sold and routes them there.
Staff at the local receiving warehouse scan, inspect and grade the goods, and the retailer can send a replacement or refund to the customer on the same day. Goods can also be stored locally and shipped to a new customer or resold via a marketplace without needing to be transported back to the retailer.
ZigZag Global offers retailers a daily stock file with SKU, quantity and country information, so that they can pick from the stock or list items for sale through their own channels. The company claims to decrease the cost of returns by 50% and cut waste and carbon emissions by 65%.
ZigZag Global has a strategic relationship with online marketplace Pentagon, which connects more than 60 UK and global brands and retailers with a network of 26 online marketplaces, including eBay, Amazon, Flipkart, Tmall, Lazada, Spartoo, Ozon, Allegro and La Redoute. The company is also used by a number of retail giants, including Topshop and Topman, Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Burton, and Soletrader.
According to Invesp, 30% of all products ordered online are returned, compared with 8.9% of products purchased in brick-and-mortar stores. In addition, data from UPS suggest that the cost of processing returns can range from 20% to 65% of the cost of the item returned. Consumers expect free returns and retailers are increasingly offering them in order to stay competitive. This is making product returns even more costly and cutting into margins.
Most online product returns result in lost sales for the retailer and frustration for the shopper. It takes brands 21 days, on average, to process a refund. After a shopper starts the return process, a carrier delivers the goods to a warehouse, the warehouse inspects the returned goods, the brand issues an order refund and, finally, the money is returned to the shopper. Retailers often cannot take on the product returns risk to shorten refund times to their customers, and slow returns processes often reduce customers’ willingness to purchase, negatively affect brand loyalty and result in a poor customer experience.
ZigZag Global offers its services through a subscription software-as-a-service (Saas) model with transactional charges. Other revenue sources include implementation fees, fulfillment fees and resale fees on a revenue-sharing basis.
ZigZag Global competes with companies such as Returnly and Happy Returns, which provide online product return solutions.
Cofounder and CEO Al Gerrie has a background in website management and development. Previously, he led the multichannel strategy at British retailer Mountain Warehouse. Cofounder and Director of Business Development for Asia Laurence Guy specializes in online marketplaces and currently serves as CEO for global e-commerce service provider Pentagon.
As e-commerce’s share of sales continues to increase, more brands are likely to offer free returns in order to stay competitive, and they will likely look for ways to work with technology companies such as ZigZag Global to streamline the returns process.