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EBags boosts conversions by streamlining search and discovery

EBags, an online retailer of handbags, luggage, backpacks and accessories, has created an engaging, innovative way to find the essential handbag on mobile devices by letting users swipe right if they “Love it” and left to “Leave it,” ultimately delivering a better way for shoppers to sort through its vast array of over 12,000 products.

EBags recognized that consumers prefer to shop with a brand that provides them with a superior product discovery experience, and thus integrated relevance, control and simplicity into its custom-built Web site feature and algorithm, named “eBags Obsession.” The service interprets responses and quickly presents a new handbag option while keeping track of over 100 variables and each customer’s individual preferences such as color, style or occasion preferences and needs.

“We were really trying to play into the emotional attachment women have when shopping,” said Maureen Shea, director of merchandising at eBags. “You instinctively know at first glance if you like something or not.

“We provide a visual and quick way to find items without including price so customers are not driven by cost, but visually drawn to products through a discovery-based tool.”

“From the multiple inputs customers enter to serve up products we bring them a mix of best-sellers and new arrivals, so it’s not all legacy products, and we are evaluating features you may or may not have liked in a product and serve up other items with the liked feature sets,” she said.

Increasing conversions
EBags Obsession was created to boost the speed and efficacy of mobile device shopping on its native site, The Greenwood Village, CO-based etailer’s newest feature harkens back to the days of HotOrNot — the dot-com era sensation that allowed users to quickly rate the attractiveness of others.

Instead of photos of people, eBags Obsession shows visitors images of handbags and asks them to swipe left or right, depending on whether they find the bag appealing or not.

Initial results since the early August rollout have been positive, with the average user totaling 75-100 swipes before finding the ideal bag.

The custom algorithm learns from each swipe and alters the delivery of products shown by analyzing over 100 unique variables.

Aside from competitive pricing, providing the most relevant engagement is golden in today’s crowded marketplace, and it is expected because today’s customers make the leap from conducting just “transactions” to having “shopping experiences.”

No matter what the purchase may be, consumers want to interact with retailers in ways that are customized to their own preferences and to use natural humanized language to reference specific events they are shopping for — not terminology driven by standardized merchandising keywords.

Giving consumers’ control
In today’s retail marketplace, consumers are now in control thanks to new technologies and platforms (smart phones, social media, etc.) that provide access to endless amounts of pricing and product information.

A recent Accenture study found that 49 percent of consumers said the best thing retailers can do to make shopping more convenient for consumers is to better integrate in-store, online and mobile shopping and 89 percent of respondents said it is important for retailers to let them shop the way they want. But with this newfound control, customers also want retailers to be available on their decision journey, when and if they need the help.

In the ecommerce world, shoppers want and expect the ability to search and pull information on products on their own timetables. Research from Cisco shows that 85 percent of shoppers want self-service access to digital content. However, if they can’t find the exact product that they need, shoppers will not hesitate to click away from the site in the blink of an eye.

Retailers must give shoppers the option to drive their unique decision journey on their own terms and in their own language. In a recent webinar, Forrester analyst Julie Ask suggested that retailers move towards a “Big Mother” model instead of “Big Brother.” Retailers need to be helpful, not creepy, by delivering online shoppers relevant and contextual information, when, where and how they want to see it.

One of the problems with ecommerce is the tendency to equate “search” with “shopping,” when they are two very different vehicles.  Search is what consumers find when they visit virtually any Website: a box. They type in what they want; the technology does its job and sends back a list of products. Shoppers evaluate, click and the transaction is done.

Shopping is not a utilitarian function, but instead, a process of discovery. EBags Obsession evokes a digital representation of visiting a store and finding something wonderful and unexpected, proving excitement doesn’t have to be given up in order to shop online.

“We love to play on serendipity, and occasionally throw customers an item or two that is unexpected to introduce them to something new,” Ms. Shea said. “You oftentimes find things you wouldn’t think you were going to like, and that’s the joy.”

“Once we get out of beta we will look to consider an app. Push notifications would be amazing, but you have to get the traffic to an app.

“We’re taking feedback and learning from this tool, so we can continue to tweak and evolve it before it may make a transition,” she said.

Final Take
Michelle is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York