For designers like Jason Wu and Stella McCartney and retailers like Barney’s and Net-a-Porter, JOOR, the brainchild of Chanel alum Mona Bijoor, brings the entire ordering process online, streamlining and shortening what used to be an antiquated, paper-driven affair. JOOR, now in its third year, has made an app-driven science of putting together brands and retailers for a new kind of efficiency. We chatted with Bijoor about getting started and why online ordering is now the norm.
The High Low: What are some of the biggest differences that technology has made in how ordering used to be completed and how JOOR facilitates it?
Mona Bijoor: JOOR is an online retail marketplace that connects brands and retailers. Our technology consists of a mobile app for brands and one for retailers — two different experiences. We also have a Web site where they can interact and transact online. In terms of value proposition, the pain exists equally on both sides. There are three ways to address this. First: order management efficiency. Usually, brands and retailers transact in physical world. JOOR’s app and analytics suite releases those painpoints by streamlining transactions. Second: there’s the efficiency of reporting and analytics. If you’re in the physical world and you take the yellow slip, for instance, and the white stays with me, it’s very difficult to generate analytics. JOOR changes all that. Third, because we’re a marketplace, brands and retailers have access to each other. We have 600 brands and 40,000 retailers. They can all use the marketplace, and drive incremental business and cost-effective discovery.
THL: Is there a particular kind of retailer or designer leading the way using this technology? Who embraced it first?
MB: We’re about three years old. We spent a lot of time garnering interest from brands. Now we’re at a point where we have critical mass, and have the brands that attract the retailers. Retailers are taking notice that we have a lot of brands in one place, and they want access and want to streamline.
THL: Tell us about how you got started. While fashion wasn’t known for embracing the web, a lot has changed in a few years. Was it difficult to attract designers or retailers at first?
MB: In the beginning I relied on my industry insider status, and was able to tap into my Rolodex. Steven Alan and Diane Von Furstenberg joined early on. I would certainly say it wasn’t easy. But because technology’s not a “thing” anymore, and if you’re under thirty, it’s a part of your life, three years ago it was difficult but not anymore. As consumers, we’re all experiencing tech in meaningful ways. The features and functionality you find in your personal life, people now expect in their business lives. I don’t think fashion is behind the times in terms of tech anymore.
THL: How is JOOR growing? What do you see changing in the way business is done?
MB: We certainly have the opportunity, and are seizing it, to become the de facto operating platform for brands and retailers. It can be a liability if you’re not on a platform. You’re not coming up in search, not getting access to brands. It becomes a business mandate beyond just our platform, because a platform like JOOR can not only streamline operations but add strategic value. Getting reports that are accurate — for instance, knowing how much fabric to buy — comes down to a consumer level. Our app becomes very valuable from a data and product knowledge perspective.
THL: Are pre-ordering sites like Moda Operandi truly disruptive? How do you see their role evolving in terms of the industry ordering system?
MB: I think it’s typical — everyone understands the calendars are difficult in terms of getting product to market. It used to be 5 to 6 months; now it’s 8 to 9 months. You have to have better predicting capabilities. I don’t know if that [timeline] is going to change anytime soon. You just get better pricing if you manufacture in certain parts of the world. In order to do that, you need to pre-order, you need to buy in advance. A by-product of that is that you need a platform where you can process orders and understand analytics to better predict demand. Because brands need to place fabric orders nine months in advance, if you don’t accurately predict, you already shot yourself in the foot from a margin perspective, because it snowballs from there. Reporting and analytics are so important — you need a way as a brand to stay competitive. We fill that void. I think that over time there will be changes in the way that manufacturers get their product in the hands of consumers. Drop shipping, for example, will play an increasing role, but it’s a ways away still.
THL: So what’s on the more immediate horizon for JOOR?
MB: We continue to penetrate internationally. Forty percent of our volume comes from outside the U.S., mostly Europe. We’re looking at Asia for more market opportunities. And we’re introducing a new retailer app for large retailers in 2014.