When I first wrote about Retail Zipline in 2019, the startup was focused on building a communication platform that would help corporate decision-makers in retail communicate with individual stores. As you’d probably guess, the startup saw some changes in 2020.
“When COVID first hit, you might think a company that’s primarily focused on retail would be in trouble,” said co-founder and CTO Jeremy Baker. “But it turns out that a product that helps retailers communicate critical information when everything is changing is no longer a nice to have.”
In other words, where Retail Zipline might previously have been used for coordinating sales and promotions, it suddenly became a channel for managing things like health and safety protocols and communicating about furloughs and closures.
Co-founder and CEO Melissa Wong said the platform supports both engagement (a company executives sending a message to retail associates) and execution (translating a broader corporate strategy into an in-store experience). While you might think that execution was the only thing that mattered in the middle of a pandemic, Wong argued that the engagement side was also essential, particularly when employees felt they were putting themselves at risk.
“The engagement part means that we can explain to a retail employee what we’re doing to protect you during this crisis, and your role as part of this company and this brand,” she said.
She added that the company has doubled its customer baes during the pandemic and seen revenue increase 2.5x. Retailers using the platform include Sephora, AEO, L.L.Bean, Gap, Hy-Vee, Lush Cosmetics, BevMo, LL Flooring, Cole Haan, TOMS and Torrid.
The pandemic also spurred dramatic growth in e-commerce, but Wong (who previously worked on the corporate side of Gap and Old Navy) suggested that this won’t eliminate the need for physical stores. Instead, it just means they’ll have to live up to the long-standing “omni-channel promise,” where they serve as both a store and a distribution center for online orders.
“Retail will become more complex,” she said. “We will enable them to meet those complexities.”
Today, Retail Zipline is announcing that it has raised $30 million in Series B funding. The round was led by real estate-focused firm Fifth Wall, with partner Dan Wenhold joining the board of directors. Emergence Capital, Ridge Ventures, Hillsven Capital, Veeva co-founder Matt Wallach and the Fisher Family Fund also participated.
The company has now raised more than $39 million, according to Crunchbase.
In a blog post, Fifth Wall wrote:
The Fifth Wall network is rich with opportunities for Zipline to explore potential partnerships among our retail-focused partners and portfolio companies. However, we believe retail to be just the beginning for Zipline as we envision the product appealing to many Built World industries. The opportunity for Zipline within real estate could lie with organizations whose HQ office must communicate daily with field operations workers, such as more traditional brokers with a geographic focus (e.g., CBRE, Cushman & Wakefield), leasing agents within multifamily and SFR (e.g., Equity Residential, Greystar), or construction site workers.
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