Every so often a company comes along which truly fills a gap in the market – online wholesale marketplace JOOR is one of them.
In 2011, founder and CEO Mona Bijoor decided to streamline the predominantly offline business processes of brands and retailers, and developed a way to allow them to interact simply and effectively. The system previously operated through trade shows and showroom environments, and Bijoor, having formerly worked on the brand side of fashion, knew the pain of this inefficiency all too well.
“I was a seller and then a buyer before JOOR, and all of my buying and selling happened on the phone, via e-mail, or even fax,” she explains with a laugh. “It involved a lot of manual administrative work and communication issues, and made it difficult to make sense of what was working and what wasn’t from a product perspective.”
As a seller, Bijoor worked for big names in the luxury fashion sector such as Chanel and Elie Tahari, then moving on to Ann Taylor and Destination Maternity as a buyer. “This business,” she explains, “really personifies the personal pain I experienced in those roles. The real reason why brands and retailers join JOOR is because they get a lot of analytics and real-time reporting on what are the best sellers and worst sellers, and that is the real value-add.”
As JOOR is the manifestation of everything Bijoor wanted and needed in previous job roles, she and her team have worked – and continue to work – hard on the development of the app. Usability and simplicity are top priority for JOOR, as well as an unparalleled level of customer personalization. Bijoor puts herself in her clients’ shoes to work out what would frustrate her as a user, and focuses on making the app as intuitive as possible.
“We’re getting better and better at ease of use all the time,” she explains. “This is a challenging business because in wholesale, there’s a lot of back and forth in orders where styles get cancelled or prices change, so making sure the app is instinctual is really important.
“Essentially it’s a virtuous cycle. We spent a lot of time in the beginning years focused on signing high-quality brands, which forced retailers to join because brands wanted to flow all their volume through the system. Then we hit critical mass around key brands, and now retailers are the ones forcing brands to join because we offer them software which helps them fulfil their needs. So we just continue on that virtuous cycle through offering really good products which make them smarter and faster around their business.”
What differentiates JOOR from potential competitors is that the company focusses on driving the fashion ecosystem, rather than simply making the ordering process easier. JOOR intends to own the luxury space before entering a new vertical, at which point it will chase the appropriate brands and corresponding retailers, with the experience and client base behind it to hold a great deal of sway.
With regard to future planning, JOOR maintains a 24-month roadmap with a dedicated product team which looks at the roadmap and ensures everything is prioritized, whether it drives transaction volume to the system or the ability to take on new verticals. It ensures JOOR has a consistently clear vision of what it wants to achieve over the next two-to-three years.
“Priorities change all the time,” Bijoor says. “We ask ‘is this feature universal? Will it benefit the majority of our brands? Will it drive transaction volume through the system? Will it drive revenue to the business?’ At that point we have the ability to roll out a feature to a certain set of clients, then we can make the right decision.”
To track the success of its technology, JOOR puts a lot of metrics in place in order to analyze usage and adoption rates of the app, ensuring it can always test, tweak, and modify features to suit the user. Bijoor’s goal on the product side is to achieve at least a 60-70 percent adoption rate across brands and retailers. On the customer satisfaction side, JOOR meets with brands quarterly for check-ins, and releases surveys to the brands and retailers requesting feedback on clients’ service, product performance, and JOOR’s support. “Across the board we ask for feedback so we can always improve,” says Bijoor.
It’s irresistible to conclude by asking somebody like JOOR’s founder how – if at all – being a female CEO in the technological sector has impacted her and the business, and she responds by being pleasingly unconcerned about the potentially inflammatory subject.
“There are a lot of biases in the world and you can’t spend your time focused on why something didn’t happen,” she explains. “You don’t know what peoples’ biases are, so I don’t think about them. I don’t feel like I’ve had any barriers to building the business because I’m a woman. I don’t deny there are issues there, but I choose not to pay homage to it.”
Whether or not this subject has affected Bijoor personally, she did make the conscious decision to send her two young daughters to a STEM—based school. It is a proven fact that girls veer from the technology and science sectors at around the fourth grade, when they become insecure in their interests and are discouraged from pursuing male-dominated subjects, and Bijoor does not want her children to follow this trend.
“I go out of my way to remind them that girls are smart and hard-working, and now my kids see no difference between genders,” says Bijoor. “They believe that anybody can be smart if they study, and that’s how I see it too – if I do my duty, and work hard, then results will come.”