Edwards told the board that handbags, luggage, backpacks and business cases represent just one opportunity for eBags. He wants to expand the company’s product offerings by providing myriad other accessories typically associated with travel or a journey. “Many people don’t carry luggage anymore,” Edwards says. “We can fit any bag to your journey.”
eBags will soon follow Edwards’ direction and market audio devices, mobility cases, activewear, reading glasses, books, music and tracking devices – all products that individuals often bring on trips.
Some of the categories were added to the eBags product line in the fourth-quarter 2015, and the remainder will follow in early 2016, Edwards says. “I like these categories a lot,” he says. “There’s tremendous upside to them.”
There’s little question that eBags has positioned itself as a leader in the online sales of bags, backpacks and luggage. The company enjoys approximately 36 million visits annually by customers interested in more than 60,000 products from 550 brands, including the eBags brand.
The timing is right for expanding the company’s offerings, Edwards says. “It’s an emerging market because travel is strong again,” he says. Additionally, millennials are placing more emphasis on experiences than goods, another factor behind the rebound of travel, he says.
eBags.com became accessible to shoppers in more than 200 countries in mid November to meet the growing global demand for the brands the company carries, Edwards says.
Edwards worked for major retailers prior to arriving at eBags. He was global executive vice president of merchandising for Staples and served as CEO of Borders from 2009 to 2011. Both experiences helped prepare him for his new role, he says. Edwards also was CEO of Lucy, an activewear company for women.
Edwards was at Borders when the company declared bankruptcy but took lessons from the company’s downfall, he says. “Bankruptcy teaches you more about business than any other scenario you can go through,” he says. Borders’ bankruptcy, for example, provided a strong indicator of the rising strength of online retailers, he says.
Edwards chose to come to eBags because “the shift to working for a leading online company attracted me,” he says. He adds that traditional approaches to retail no longer work, and wants to incorporate technology into eBags’ sales.
“Every retailer is challenged to develop leaders who embrace change,” Edwards says. “Companies and investors must actively harness innovation and smart risk taking, while taking a longer-term view toward transforming and winning. We live in an ever-changing mobile world that quickly adjusts to revolutionary technologies and services. To succeed, a company’s culture needs to place a high value on data, customer information, speed and change.”
Edwards keeps a keen eye on eBags’ competition, which includes department stores as well as Amazon. “Our pricing is parallel with anyone in the industry,” he says. “But we win on selection, shipping, experience, rewards program, returns and great customer service. We’re a specialized retailer online. We own the mobile space.” That’s largely because department stores have been forced to create mobile apps on the fly in order to catch up, while eBags started as an online business in 1998, he says.
eBags is looking to technology to solidify its position as a leading-edge company in the market. The company’s website has won several awards, and the retailer is teaming with Iterate Studio to create an innovation lab.
“eBags’ innovation lab consists of two elements,” Edwards says. “The first is a rapid test center designed to improve the velocity and number of experiments conducted on eBags’ websites each month. This will speed up our absorption of unique digital tools that are proven to improve shopping for the 36 million people that visit our site each year. The second is a digital research and development lab designed to enhance the company’s business model.”
The company is soon to launch a mobile application that allows users to look at photos of bags and swipe right if they love the bag or swipe left if they don’t. A customer’s likes and dislikes provide eBags with data that helps it display a personalized list.
Customers also can upload a photo of a bag they like and the mobile app will immediately display products that resemble the uploaded photo.