Exclusive: eBags Harnesses Augmented Reality for Better Customer Experiences During COVID-19
Online travel bags and accessories retailer eBags has had its finger on the pulse of technology for the last 22 years, a trait that has proven especially helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since 1998 the company has grown from a scrappy startup into a top online retailer, which was acquired by Samsonite International in 2017.
After first leaning into photography, then video, to showcase products on its website, eBags began to question what technologies it should experiment with next as mobile usage grows. At that time, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies were really starting to take off, Chris Seahorn, SVP of marketing and merchandising for eBags, tells RIS. The retailer honed in on AR and 3D imagery as its next tech to pilot.
“We felt the ability to interact on a mobile device with a bag and see it in a real environment would be the next wave of what customers would want to see and would really resonate with our customers," says Seahorn.
To test the technology eBags set out to evaluate a few providers, eventually turning to Vertebrae, a provider of 3D and AR commerce solutions for some of the world’s largest brands, including Adidas, Crate & Barrel, and Coach.
eBags began testing the initiative in 2019, however Seahorn notes the retailer really started leaning into it as the COVID-19 pandemic hit and they saw customers were less comfortable going into a store. The company started out by piloting the tech on 10 different products and has since scaled up to 86 items. Its investment in AR and 3D technology helped eBags maintain week-over-week growth since April, beating expectations and benchmarks for the luggage industry overall during the pandemic.
The AR Experience
The ability for shoppers to see, feel and touch a product is important, particularly when buying luggage, backpacks, and travel accessories.
This challenge became more acute when the COVID pandemic drove shoppers to digital commerce in record numbers and eBags was faced with helping shoppers overcome concerns about whether or not products would arrive on their doorsteps looking like they were pictured online, explains Seahorn.
To quell concerns, eBags enhanced its top-selling private-label backpacks, organizers, and carry-on luggage with 3D imagery. The imagery enables shoppers to spin and flip virtual products to examine details such as straps, zips, and pockets up close, while the AR experiences place virtual products in real-life environments help shoppers accurately gauge size and scale.
Seahorn says eBags ended up attracting a new audience during COVID that either couldn’t go into a store or didn’t feel comfortable going into a store, but also wasn’t at ease buying backpacks and luggage online.
“If we could bridge that gap in order for them to do so, they would be more comfortable,” he notes. “Being in the travel space during COVID, we did see decreases, but we didn't see them as much on these core products that had this [technology] as we did throughout other categories on our site.”
In fact, eBags found that conversion rates have increased 112% on mobile devices and 81% on desktop browsers for shoppers interacting with 3D and AR assets, compared with those who do not. In addition, the revenue per visit (RPV) increases by 87% for those shoppers engaging with 3D and AR.
“And a lot of it, I think, is that we tried to attract new customers and tell new stories, and we were able to bridge that gap around not being able to go into a store but still have the ability to really interact with the product and see it in a real environment,” he continues.
Not only has eBags’ rollout of 3D and AR with Vertebrae boosted sales; it’s also proven consumers’ willingness to try immersive shopping. Thanks to the seamless integration and easy-to-use design, eBags’ highest engaged shoppers are 35% more likely to convert when supplementing traditional photography with 3D and AR.
“You never know what's going to happen, so it’s important to have your finger on the pulse of what technologies might be resonating with customers,” Seahorn advises retailers.
“AR and VR are going to be technologies that a lot of these ad platforms [Google and Facebook for example] are going to embrace. And I think the people that are ahead of it now are going to have an early adopter advantage.”