Alibaba’s Tmall Global now features goods from 14,500 overseas brands, 80% of them selling in China for the first time.
The iPad app keeps track of purchase orders and budgets, eliminating the need for paper lists and manual data entry. It also helps a buyer to create online merchandising displays on the go and share her activity with staff at home on the Joor web site.
Online B2B fashion marketplace company Joor Inc., which operates JoorAccess.com where retailers browse and purchase wholesale from such brands as Chanel, Elie Tahari and Ann Taylor, has launched an iPad app for buyers to use while on showroom floors or at runway shows. That helps speed up meetings between retailers and brands and reduces purchasing errors, because it eliminates the need to fill out paper forms and later re-enter the data manually, Joor CEO Mona Bijoor says.
“Usually in the market you don’t prefer to lug around your laptop or carry around paper-based line sheets to take home and fill out,” she says. “The app doesn’t replace the interactions on the showroom floor, but it’s meant to complement them.”
Brands—Joor works with more than 750 and adds about 20-30 per week, Bijoor says—upload their product information into Joor’s e-commerce platform. They pay a monthly fee and a per-transaction fee, which Bijoor declined to specify, to list those items on the Joor web site and iPad app, she says. Retailers may join the Joor web site for free but pay $200 per month per merchandise buyer using the app. They connect with brands inside the marketplace, similarly to how people find one another on the social network LinkedIn, she says, in that they can view products and their details only from brands from which they buy merchandise. That protects brands’ proprietary data, Bijoor says.
“The value is not just the app but the data behind it,” she says. “You can build an app, but without the data it’s not valuable.”
The mobile app extends the functionality of the web site in a new way for retailers, Bijoor says. A buyer can place orders directly from the app and plan product assortments as she goes by creating lists or putting together coordinated merchandise displays, such as a particular pair of pants with a jacket and shirt. Any information a buyer saves in the app, including her purchases, she can then share with other members of her team within the retailer’s organization, Bijoor says. That way, a buyer at a trade show, for example, can create looks for her store department on the app, and her assistant back at the office can view them by logging into the Joor web site.
The app also allows a buyer to add her own custom photos of items when she sees them, and attribute tags to describe them. That helps her organize the products into lists for buying or budgeting, Bijoor says. And, if the buyer uploads her budget ahead of time, she can track whether she is over or under budget for particular items as she goes. For example, she might realize on the floor that she has purchased too many black sweaters and needs more gray ones.
She can also create custom reports on the fly using the app’s built-in analytics tools to see, for instance, how many shoes she is buying versus how many handbags. This speeds up the time to correct errors in her assortments, Bijoor explains, because the buyer needn’t wait until she gets back to the office and enters all her purchases into spreadsheets to figure out where she purchased too much or too little.
So far, since the app launched early this year, about 50 Joor member buyers, all from department stores, have signed up to use it, Bijoor says. “The feedback is definitely that it speeds up the appointment,” she says. It also helps buyers to make smarter decisions on the spot, she adds, “When you’re a merchant, you’re really focused on how your assortment rolls up across a variety of variables—you get very strategic about what you’re buying while in the appointment.”
The iPad app for retailers eventually will be available on Android, too, and for smartphones, Bijoor says. The marketplace started with the iPad because “the tablet just lends itself really nicely to scrolling through the products and viewing details,” she says, adding that most of Joor’s retailer clients already use Apple devices.
Joor’s in-house team of designers and engineers built the first version of the buyer’s app in about six months, Bijoor says. They continue to roll out updates about every week.
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