EBags’ Social Selling: The Role of Community Shopping

The e-tailer has sold more than 14 million bags since its inception more than 13 years ago and caters to an outspoken consumer base.

Peter Cobb, cofounder and senior vice president of eBags, knows a thing or two about e-commerce.

This story first appeared in the September 26, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The e-tailer has sold more than 14 million bags since its inception more than 13 years ago, and eBags.com carries 585 brands and 48,000 styles. It’s been profitable for a decade, but perhaps the most telling statistic for Cobb is that the site has seen 2.4 million product reviews from its outspoken consumer base.

“It was social commerce before social commerce,” Cobb said of the engaged shopping community, highlighting a specific backpack that garnered 1,811 reviews — both good and bad. When a user gives a product a “thumbs down,” this automatically alerts a customer service representative, who contacts the consumer (and the brand if a certain item gets several of the same negative complaints or comments).

However, in terms of actually selling product on social channels, eBags is still figuring out how to monetize in the space. The e-tailer has nearly 120,000 fans on the platform, but it still only accounts for less than one percent of overall sales.

For Cobb, there are several trends in online retail — the aforementioned user-generated content element, as well as large imagery, curation and personalization, scarcity leading to conversion and the innovations of tech giants. He believes that mobile shopping is “where it’s at,” and that many are underestimating the power of transaction on this channel.

He calls Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple the “four tech titans,” citing that 47 percent of global Web users visit Google every day, 43 percent visit Facebook, one third of Internet shoppers begin research on Amazon and 21 percent of iPhone users and 49 percent of iPad users shop on their devices.

According to Cobb, it’s features such as Amazon’s same-day delivery that will force other e-tailers to innovate in the same category. Having this shipping option is a “unique advantage” and he expects Macy’s, Wal-Mart, Target and Staples to follow suit.

Video is another area that Cobb wants to expand on the site. Currently, there are 800 videos, but Cobb plans to ramp this number up to the thousands in the near future.