Success Story is a Sourcing Journal feature highlighting innovative solutions across all areas of the supply chain.
During a year when most stores closed for lengthy periods and many consumers were hesitant to return upon their reopening, apparel and accessories brands needed a spark to give consumers insight into their purchases without the “touch and feel” of a physical experience. Herschel Supply Co., a brand that prides itself on selling contemporary renditions of classic backpack silhouettes, as well as luggage, headwear, accessories and apparel, across 10,000 wholesale doors, has found that its use of 3D and AR product imagery online has helped give shoppers the comfort they need.
“It becomes that much more important to be able to express sizing and also style,” said Justin Bones, senior vice president of direct to consumer at Herschel Supply Co. “Half of them are using it for size and the other half want to see how it’s going to look on their table, while some people manipulate it to look like it’s sitting on their back. We’ve know that our consumers have been very cognizant about both.”
Leveraging the Axis platform from Vertebrae, Herschel showcases its products through high-quality AR and 3D assets that are featured front and center on product pages. The transition to 3D image manipulation and AR capabilities is instantaneous, without needing to download an app.
The lack of needing a separate application has been vital to the growth of the experience, as it has broken down barriers for Herschel to engage with mobile shoppers. Over the past year, the backpack seller is seeing a 49 percent increase in mobile conversions from those who engage with the AR features versus those who didn’t. In the fourth quarter, this increase bumped up slightly to 51 percent.
“I think there’s customers that are clearly engaging on a deeper level when they take the time and enjoy the experience,” Bones said. “These customers are more willing to purchase, which we love. We know that a signal to us of doing great product education is conversion. If we’ve done our jobs, we know the product’s great. And the e-commerce team knows it’s done its job when conversions come in.”
Bones said that Herschel Supply Co. has seen improvements in average order value through the site’s users as well, but noted that it is not the key performance indicator when testing the solution.
“We don’t necessarily see it as a selling tool, we just see it as an education tool,” Bones said. With the brand also selling duffel bags, totes and travel bags, he noted that Axis has even helped the company eliminate the confusion surrounding naming conventions for sizing and dimensions of luggage.
The Canadian lifestyle brand first partnered with Vertebrae in 2019 to enhance the online shopping experience, but the continued use of the platform, especially as the Covid-19 pandemic shifted more consumers online and into mobile, has helped Herschel further adapt to a rapidly changing shopper base.
In the five years since Bones joined Herschel Supply, the retailer’s mobile shoppers have increased from 45 percent of all online traffic to around approximately 75 percent, he said.
One thing Bones aims to improve is the number of products within Herschel Supply Co. that use the Vertebrae 3D and AR experiences. According to Bones, the company first put its core backpacks and duffel bags on the Axis platform prior to the pandemic, totaling a range of between 75 to 100 products. While the plan was initially to double that number, the pandemic put those intentions on hold.
Going into 2021, he says those plans are back on, not just for more products, but for new categories as well.
“We don’t have nearly enough products yet,” Bones said. “We’d love to have to full catalogue done. By that point, I think we’ll just have better, richer data to help us make decisions and ultimately give our product teams and merchandising teams that kind of feedback.”
Over the past year, Herschel Supply Co. has tinkered with the Axis system within its own site to continue improving the user experience. For example, the “View 3D and AR” tab now exists right under the items that are available to view.
“If you’re landing on one of our top SKUs, like our signature Little America backpack in a black-and-tan color scheme, you’re going to land first thing on that 3D experience and then with that AR experience ready to go,” Bones said. “Because of the results we’ve seen all year long, we want to make sure that customers who are on their mobile phones land there first and are offered up that AR experience quickly.”
Using Vertebrae Axis, shoppers visiting Herschel Supply’s product pages immediately view a 3D-enabled image flagged with an icon and a “drag to rotate” overlay prompt, giving them direct access to 3D interactivity for product exploration from every angle. They can rotate, zoom in and flip images to assess colors and materials and view positions of pockets, zips, and fasteners, all within the context of the product page.
Vertebrae’s platform appeared to be a hot item in the midst of the pandemic madness, itself closing out 2020 with massive growth. The company says it tripled revenue throughout the year and grew its client base by 150 percent over 12 months, including new partnerships with retailers such as David’s Bridal, Adidas and U.K.-based furniture retailer DFS. Vertebrae also expanded existing client implementations by 50 percent as clients continued to rapidly increase 3D and AR investments, and even expanded its relationship with Facebook to enable 3D and AR product experiences for brands and retailers across the social media bohemoth’s family of apps.
In 2021, Herschel Supply Co. will launch a real-time product customization feature on its website with the help of the Vertebrae team, starting with a trial of one its “core and well-known pieces” that Bones would not yet reveal.
“You can really build your own backpack and create something that’s to the customer’s style and have that come to life before you press the order button,” he said. “It’s pretty exciting. I think the consumers will be pretty proud of it when it comes to market.”