Forge Retail Pulse: A sneak peek into merchandise and inventory planning, universal e-commerce API, purchase recommendations, and returns
Greetings, Pulse Subscribers!
Fall’s finally in the air up here in the northern hemisphere, and that crisp seasonal energy has us bursting with the industry news you need. Here’s the agenda:
Managing your most tangible asset – inventory!
An API that lets customers make purchases anywhere
Better, faster, cheaper solutions for returns
The top five innovations driving the C-suite agenda
Ready? Let’s go!
Merchandise and Inventory Planning | The most expensive and tangible asset for any retailer is inventory. However, many businesses manage it with antiquated, manual, and error-prone spreadsheets. Toolio offers a better way. A cloud-based platform, Toolio automates merchandising workflows and allows users to build, understand and maintain merchandise financial plans. With real-time insights, Toolio helps maintain optimal stock levels, increase inventory visibility and productivity, and improve demand planning accuracy. Add in cloud-based collaboration and retailers can ensure they’re always fully stocked with the right products. By empowering teams to make faster, data-driven decisions, Toolio can limit stock-outs, speed up inventory turns, and increase margins for retailers of all types. With a customer list that already includes Chubbies, Outdoor Voices, and many insurgent retailers that need to be faster and, more efficient, and can’t afford over investing in back-end systems, Toolio recently raised $8 million in Series A funding.
Universal E-commerce API | Imagine the possibilities if you were able to add a native checkout experience to any application. This is the idea behind Seattle-based startup Violet and its headless API for e-commerce integration. With technology that allows developers to add online shopping features to any app, from social media to live streams, virtual reality, and more, Violet makes it possible for retailers to reach more customers in new ways. Already offering businesses checkout on Instagram, Violet can also integrate with other leading e-commerce platforms to help innovative companies scale their integrations through the entire life cycle of products and orders. Violet has raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Swedish fintech company Klarna.
Purchase Recommendations | At this point, customers are used to getting automatic recommendations online, be it for a similar item to buy or another show to watch. The right recommendations can drive engagement, increase sales, and create long-lasting customer loyalty. However, with stricter privacy laws looming and the fact that up to 60% of customers are often new users of a site, offering good, personalized recommendations can be difficult. Crossing Minds is working to solve just this problem. Its platform provides recommendations using on-site actions, not personal information so that customers can more easily discover and engage with businesses right off the bat. Working with companies like Penguin Random House, Hulu, and Inkbox, Crossing Minds claims a 96% average increase in sales and a 120% average increase in CTR through its recommendations. Crossing Minds has raised $10 million in Series A funding.
Theme Exploration: Returns
As retailers prepare for the holiday season and an increase in e-commerce sales, they also have to gear up for an increase in returns. Simple returns make life easy for customers, while a difficult experience can make them less likely to shop at that store in the future. The following startups offer unique returns optimization platforms that provide end-to-end inventory management to streamline returns and exchanges, making life easier for customers and businesses alike.
In-Person Returns | Since not every online merchant can give customers the option to simply return unwanted items to the store, Happy Returns offers the next best thing. With customizable software for merchant websites connected to a drop-off network, including a partnership with Staples that recently added 1,000+ locations, customers can quickly make their returns in person, just like they would to a store. By aggregating where returns are made, Happy Returns claims businesses save an average of 20% on costs through return shipping in bulk.
Smart Returns Platform | No one likes waiting to get their money back after they’ve made a return. That’s why Returnly gives eligible consumers instant merchant credit upon initiating a return. Returnly takes the product return risk and offers merchants a turn-key solution around its financial technology, which includes returns management tools as well as hosted and fully brandable end-customer touchpoints like package tracking, online returns and exchanges, and Green Returns. Returnly sets itself apart by being the only returns solution that lets customers get the right item before returning the wrong one.
Returns Management Platform | While managing the logistics to get inventory from manufacturer to shelf is difficult enough, managing the logistics of returns can be a serious headache. ReverseLogix offers a modular, cloud-based returns management platform that gives logistics providers and retail customers greater visibility and optimization of their merchandise returns supply chains. With a configurable plug-and-play system, customers can select from modules for returns initiation, returns processing, warehouse management, inventory optimization, and more. ReverseLogix claims customers including FedEx, Electrolux, Cole Haan, Samsonite, and Tumi, save 10-15% in return costs.
Online Liquidation and Overstock Auction | When saddled with returns or excess inventory, retailers traditionally have to go through liquidation middlemen to help move the product they no longer want on their shelves. Enter B-Stock Solutions, which builds private auction sites so its clients can sell directly to wholesalers. By eliminating middlemen, retailers can sell returned and overstock merchandise more quickly and for a higher price. With clients ranging from small businesses to major retailers including Best Buy, Macy’s, and Lowe’s, B-Stock offers a better way to move returns and overstock.
Essential Industry Reads
To discover the key innovations driving the C-suite agenda today. Bain's Truc Mai Dupont Vohong and Laurent-Pierre Baculard used the input of hundreds of tech companies and startups, then filtered that information through Bain’s years of experience working with large corporations, investors, and innovation ecosystem partners. Highlighting new approaches that are helping companies address talent, climate, and other ESG challenges, this read shows how true innovators are going beyond promises to make a better world and stronger companies at the same time.
Resale has grown tremendously in the past decade. Over at Commerce Ventures, they take a look at the recent history of the used goods market and how it has evolved from the corner thrift store to global online marketplaces worth billions in such a short span of time. This insightful read explores why the shift has occurred and where the market's going next, making a strong argument that brands and retailers themselves could represent the next wave in resale.
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