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Interview: Ken Daly, chief executive of JML

JML (John Mills Limited) is a household name. Their products can be found on every UK high street and they dominate TV home shopping. This consumer… View Article

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Interview: Ken Daly, chief executive of JML

JML (John Mills Limited) is a household name. Their products can be found on every UK high street and they dominate TV home shopping. This consumer product company specialises in the promotion of products with video screens in retail stores as well as selling through its website.

Here Natalie Bruins talks to JML chief executive Ken Daly, who joined the company in 1994 as a sales rep out of university, to find out more.

How important is an omnichannel experience for the consumer?

Consumers don’t see or think about channels, they just expect to find what they need at whatever touchpoint is most convenient. And consumers are spoilt for choice. This puts an enormous pressure on the retailer. Our model at JML is to provide shoppers with the right tools and advice to help them discover new products, on whatever channel they are on.

JML launched its first transactional website in 1999 at the dawn of the online retail era. Our DNA comes from making videos and video content for our products. The technology has evolved but essentially, this remains part of our footprint.

Tell us about some of the changes in consumer buying behaviour you have seen since joining JML 

The customer has changed beyond recognition in the 25 years that I’ve been with JML. In the mid 90’s, we promoted products with VHS demonstrations in stores. Today everything is digital. Creating an element of ‘theatre’ within retail is so important, and very much a part of how JML work. It is appreciated by shoppers and adds to the ambience of the store.

Media has changed 
We’ve been seeing this for many years and have had to react and respond to this transformation. As a result of on-demand services, people watch less advertising in the evenings. This is a major challenge for advertisers. For JML, our TV advertising is still largely daytime TV which has been less impacted. We still find daytime television very successful for our core market.

Video content is more important and more relevant than ever
In the fast-paced world we live in, it’s critical to find new, unique ways to make your product or service stand out in the crowd of marketers vying for your prospect’s attention. Video marketing is nothing new, but it’s certainly proving to be a powerful, effective part of marketing strategy — now more than ever.

As consumers, we’re watching videos all the time. Our attention span is shorter, and we want videos to be sharper, shorter and snappier.  We provide instore entertainment and consumers are still happy to stop and watch a film at the point of sales. The fundamental concept is still very successful.

Influencer marketing is an important channel to us
Consumers appreciate and expect a fresh approach. Video is a great way to make products stand out. Screens are still incredibly powerful at driving sales. When we launch a new product that consumers haven’t seen before, a JML branded video can make it a success very quickly. We are a heritage brand and the trust element behind our content is very important.

Putting media in front of a customer is very powerful
Bricks and mortar retailers need to embrace marketing of products with video at the point of sales much more than they have done. Supermarkets are far behind and some even reluctant to embrace video content in stores.  Not only can a video create a bit of instore theatre, but a screen can provide useful product information to the consumer which will not only increase dwell-time, but also relieve pressure on store staff.

Can you share any future plans with us?

Today, we have a very wide portfolio of products. Although we are a ‘hot products’ business, we don’t specialise in a specific category. One area of focus for us in the future will be to develop more focussed product ranges.

Earlier in the year, JML acquired a 50% stake in DeVancer, the company behind the iBeani branded range of electronic tablet holders. Their core product line includes the iBeani tablet bean bag stand which can be used with iPhones, iPads, Kindles, eReaders and any other tablet computers. iBeani is a great brand and we see a big opportunity to rapidly expand distribution and its range of products. The team are passionate about their product and live and breathe the brand. This will translate well into sales.

What makes JML such a successful player?

Unrelenting focus, it’s the detail and the investments that matter
Q
uality of service, delivery and product are fundamentally important to us. We believe that to stay ahead, you need to focus on doing everything well. Retail is all about detail. You must pay attention to every spinning plate with unrelenting focus.

Retail is tough. Lots of businesses have tried the JML model and failed. We are a complex business and it takes time and investment. We have remained proactive throughout our journey and developed our business model as the market has evolved but keeping to our key strengths.

What can we expect from your presentation at the TRB Omnichannel Futures conference? 

Building trust with your customers through experiential experience
Consumers trust video content from influencers that they trust. Video is an incredibly powerful form of content where you can use emotions, tone of voice and relevant information like no other. Trust is the foundation of conversions and sales. I look forward to sharing more about this at the TRB event in February.

Retail Bulletin readers qualify for a 50% early bird discount rate for the Omnichannel Futures Conference on 5 February. Use the discount code RETAILER50 when booking.

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