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Fashion Wholesalers Walk The Runway Into The Digital-First Economy

Describing something as a “learning experience” or “character building” is rarely a good sign. It’s almost always a sign of a bad situation being described politely, or bad behavior being evaluated after the fact. But some educational and character-building experiences can’t be avoided, and for players in the B2B economy, the learning experience of the last year when it came to digitization was a long time coming.

“With the pandemic people realized you can’t buy the old-fashioned way anymore. Digital is required,” Joor CEO Kristin Savilia told PYMNTS in a recent conversation. “The pandemic has shown a light on the fact that we were doing things wrong. We were traveling too much. We were having too many events, but we still were doing things on paper. The way we’re doing payments is also very antiquated, with paper, invoices, or email invoices, offline payments are also a big miss. These problems were all brought to light, and I think the permanent reboot and change that we’re going to see is actually really exciting.”

Which is not to say that a rebooted world will be a wholly different one. Joor, which provides a digital platform for fashion brands and fashion retailers to meet and transact, started its existence as a hybrid platform built for business customers interacting in the real world at fashion events like trade and runway shows, and beginning to edge into the world of digitally displayed and purchased goods.

The pandemic, which shot down all those physical events, created explosive growth for Joor as brands and retailers went overnight from experimenting with digital to diving in head-first out of necessity.

“After those first few weeks of uncertainty, we got a lot of inbound phone calls from our brands who all use Joor saying, ‘You remember that virtual showroom thing you told me about, you how does that work again? We need to start using it right now,’” Savilia said.

The Gift Of Urgency

And what they realized at Joor at that point, she said, is that this “right now” was going to last for a while. There weren’t going to be events in the summer or fall, and all of these fashion brands and merchants large and small needed a way to transact that was totally outside the physical environment. Joor needed to be ready to offer its clients something new.

Which, she noted, is how the idea for Joor Passport was born — making it possible for brands to create digital events and easy for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to easily log in to a single point for the 12,500 on Joor’s platform. In 2020 alone, Joor hosted 17 shows and in a six-month time period, it had 15,000 retailer shopper events from 130 countries, and those clients purchased 500,000 items.

“What we taught the industry and the trade shows [that] have all renewed with us and plan on using us forever, is that this is a way to extend the length and reach of your event,” Savilia said. “So physical events will still matter, but the fact that you can extend it with digital is here to stay.”

Joor has learned a lot, and enhanced its offering a lot around things like payments in this rarified year of digital-only transacting. With its digital invoicing, she said, Joor has managed to help brands speed up the wait for getting paid for goods from being a few months to being a few days. All of that was accomplished, she said, by adding on a bulk invoicing tool that makes it easy for brands to click and send invoices out to every firm they are tied to when merchandise ships. Those are the kind of changes on the back end that the entire B2B space needs, she said, because if the last 12 months have demonstrated anything, she said, it is that running back end on Excel spreadsheets and using paper invoices is just unworkable in the modern world. Those are the sorts of things, she said, that were banished by the pandemic and should never come back.

But other things like trade shows, runway shows and the physical side of the fashion business, she said, are going to come back. Joor will once again take up its hybrid role of connecting the digital plane of commerce to the physical through his presence at real-world events once they open up again. But, she noted, it will be a different environment that comes back, one more enabled by and driven by the data that brands and merchants have had access to for the first time as a direct result of their diving into the world of digital.

“I’m optimistic,” Savilia said. “I think we’re going to do it right. I think that selling in the wholesale world is closer to actually happening near when it’s going to hit the selling floor. I think there’s some changes that are going to be really positive. So I think we’re going to come back and  folks just are going to be adopting digital across the board, because that is where this needs to go.”

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