For eBags, success in mobile is all about the details

Orlando, Fla.—In the past two years online retailer eBags has made a huge push into mobile, and now that investment is paying off in spades.

EBags began in 1999 as a site devoted not just to selling bags, but bags that specifically cater to travelers. It's about the right piece of luggage, backpack or tote for a particular journey.

Since then, the company has expanded to carry more fashion items, and is growing its sister site, But it's also on a journey to travel with shoppers and meet their location-based needs via mobile devices. FierceMobileRetail sat down with eBags President and COO Rob Cassidy at RILA's Retail Supply Chain conference in Orlando, Florida to find out how the retailer is marrying e- and m-commerce.

In 2014, the specialty retailer saw a fairly significant uptick in sales and traffic from mobile devices. In fact, mobile sales outpaced traffic, growing by 85 percent as mobile traffic rose 70 percent.

Cassidy declined to say if the traffic coming from mobile devices was incremental or a shift from computers. "We don't think of it that way, we're completely agnostic," he said. "It's just a different format for us."

The important thing, said Cassidy, is that the retailer had a mobile strategy and infrastructure in place to capture that traffic just as shoppers shifted to m-commerce in large numbers in the second half of 2014. "I don't think we'd have seen that kind of growth, if we hadn't made the investment a couple of years ago," he said.

One such building block for eBags was to make mobile a division within the company and have an executive take ownership of it, namely Brooke Wolfe, director of site merchandising. Prior to this, the company had several groups, each with some responsibility for mobile.

EBags doesn't have a dedicated app, something Cassidy believes is better suited to those retailers with high-frequency shoppers. Instead, the retailer is working on a responsive and adaptive platform to deliver a seamless and cohesive experience across devices.

And one that delivers a signature experience, according to Cassidy.

"You can tell when a company is focused on trying to create a signature experience," he said. "As a specialty retailer, [you] have to have a signature experience. If you're a transactional retailer, it's much harder."

At eBags, this means features such as the Obsession app, "purposely built for the mobile shopper," explained Cassidy. Using an algorithm that learns a shopper's interests by interpreting their responses to product images, the app figures out what she's searching for and returns more targeted or appropriate product listings as she swipes through inventory.

Success in mobile is about the details. Said Cassidy, "We see mobile as an opportunity, rather than a challenge."

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