Forge Retail Pulse: A sneak peek into robotic fulfillment, autonomous delivery, and pricing solutions

Greetings, Pulse Subscribers!

There’s much ado in the world of retail these days, so let’s dive right in. This week we’re going to take a stroll through the Metaverse, but first, we’re looking at:

  • Self-driving vehicles designed for goods, not people

  • The world’s largest source of retail market data

  • Predicting demand surges

Ready? Let’s go!

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Startup Deals

Robotic Fulfillment | Amazon created a model of efficiency with its robot-powered warehouses. With machines capable of assembling, packing, and shipping goods 24/7, robotic fulfillment is proving to be a game changer for e-commerce. Fabric, a six-year-old startup, aims to bring that same robot-powered efficiency to every warehouse. What truly sets Fabric apart from others in this space is its vertically integrated set of hardware and software that can be implemented in a customer’s warehouse, or its own, automating the process of selecting, moving, and packing items. With cutting-edge robotics and software powering micro-fulfillment centers in urban areas, Fabric offers fulfillment and delivery as well as forecasting and real-time inventory management for retailers big and small. Giving retailers Amazon-like order-to-delivery speed, CEO Elram Goren claims Fabric’s robotic solution can reduce the cost of fulfillment operations by 75%. With clients including Walmart, Instacart, and FreshDirect, Fabric raised $200 million in a Series C funding round at a valuation of more than $1 billion.

Autonomous Delivery | Self-driving vehicles, and particularly autonomous delivery, is a space that’s been heating up lately. The potential for retailers to get their goods to consumers quickly and safely without the need for drivers could revolutionize an entire sector. Nuro, a five-year-old Mountain View-based startup, is helping to turn up that heat. What sets Nuro apart is that its vehicle is designed from the ground up to carry and transport goods, not people. This maximizes interior capacity while having a smaller footprint, allowing Nuro vehicles to be more nimble, narrower, and better able to prioritize the well-being of other road users. In addition, Nuro recently entered into a five-year strategic partnership with Google Cloud, which will support the massive scale and capacity required to run self-driving simulation workloads. This agreement also gives Nuro access to machine learning smarts and storage for the vast amount of data generated by its vehicles. As part of the deal, the two companies plan to explore other commercial opportunities together to strengthen and transform local commerce. Already making live pilot deliveries in Houston, Silicon Valley, and Phoenix, Nuro boasts an impressive list of customers including Walmart, Kroger, CVS Pharmacy, Domino’s, and Chipotle. Founded by two former Google engineers, Nuro raised $600 million in Series D funding led by Tiger Global, pushing its valuation to $8.6 billion.

Theme Exploration: Pricing and Intelligence Solutions

Pricing products is part of the very backbone of retail. Setting prices for new items, ensuring prices are optimized, and adjusting prices based on demand are just a few of the services the startups below offer to keep retailers pricing intelligently and competitively.

AI for Revenue Performance | For retailers, pricing has always been a balancing act. Items that sell out quickly at a low price mean that money was left on the table. And, of course, items priced too highly can end up being left on the shelf. Eversight, a Palo Alto-based startup, offers a solution to this long-standing problem. Using AI to automatically and perpetually test new prices and offers to real shoppers, Eversight helps retailers find the perfect price balance point. Claiming to have already reached more than 125 million shoppers, Eversight says that it has boost incremental promo sales by 25% or more and has influenced more than $60 billion in revenue. By offering continuous revenue optimization through A/B experimentation, Eversight allows customers such as Walgreens, Raley’s, Coca-Cola, Mars Petcare, and JCPenney to uncover what works now vs. what worked in the past and to create better results across the retail pricing life cycle.

Market Intelligence and Automation | Staying on top of what’s happening across the market is crucial for staying competitive in retail. With what it claims is the world’s largest source of retail market data, Edited offers just that. With deep analysis on more than 4 billion products, Edited uses this data to analyze competitor pricing, discounting, assortment, promotions, and global trends to help customers set the right price before launch, find market gaps to take advantage of, capitalize on new trends, set discounts that increase market share without destroying margins, and more. In addition, the Edited platform offers AI automation to quickly implement business improvements based on hundreds of market and enterprise data signals. Used by more than 42,000 retail executives, including those from Mango, Pump, John Lewis, and Boohoo, Edited helps retailers increase margins, generate more sales, and drive better outcomes.

Demand Intelligence | Real-world events can cause huge shifts in demand, which retailers try to capitalize on. Unfortunately, waiting until an event happens then reacting means missing out on a huge portion of the demand surge. PredictHQ lets retailers get ahead of the curve. By correlating real events with demand surge and predicting future demand by incorporating intelligent event data, PredictHQ allows retailers to more quickly adjust prices and staff accordingly to maximize revenue opportunities. With customers that include Walgreens, Domino’s, and Accor Hotels, PredictHQ tracks events as large as winter storms and as granular as school district holidays. PredictHQ helps retailers be prepared with enhanced dynamic pricing and the ability to align staffing and inventory strategies before the next demand surge arrives.

Essential Industry Reads

Even before Facebook changed its name, the Metaverse was already tech’s buzziest buzzword, and now, thanks to Meta, the whole idea of the Metaverse presents more questions than answers. Is it the next big thing? Or will it go the way of the information superhighway? What exactly is the Metaverse, and how might it impact entertainment, tech, media, software, and the web as a whole?  Benedict Evans unpacks these questions, examines the various pieces that could make up the Metaverse, and looks at how they may combine to create something brand new or not.

In the previous Pulse, our Theme Exploration was Returns and the startups looking to optimize the experience. Today, we’ve got the hard data to back up why they’re working so hard to do so. Narvar just released its 5th annual consumer returns study, which explores why customers return items, the services they value most, how the return experience impacts loyalty, and more. In addition, it offers solutions for how retailers can fine-tune their approaches to keep customers happy while reducing the impact on their bottom line.

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