- Since 1974, LeSportsac has owned its offline brand, but the handbag and luggage maker’s ecommerce experience never stopped breaking its heart
- After one month on Shopify Plus, it saw gains in conversion rate by 7%, units per order by 37%, and average order value by 20%
- Since then, LeSportsac has increased sales another 12% with AI personalization
- “It was the perfect combination of bringing all our channels together, as well as the cost being exactly what we needed,” says Berly Isaak, LeSportsac’s head of global marketing
In the summer of 2017, more than four long decades after it first opened for business, the decision makers at LeSportsac readied themselves for change.
It was an interesting moment for the iconic New York lifestyle brand, maker of famous handbags, luggage, and accessories. The company was enjoying unquestioned success: a bustling flagship store on Madison Ave., more than 190 retail outlets across the globe.
And yet, for all it had, here was LeSportsac. Displeased. Dissatisfied. On its lips was the taste for something more.
Its bugaboo was clear: ecommerce. LeSportsac had, like other big names in its space, sold online for some time. But the experience LeSportsac was able to deploy through its web platforms never quite matched the experience it provided in real life.
So it searched, all the while sitting with an unusual problem. In the soon-to-be $706 billion industry of online fashion, apparel, and accessories, how can an already-thriving brand push for even greater heights?
The answer was found in a common denominator.
“We started looking at other companies, other brands and experiences that we liked,” says Berly Isaak, LeSportsac’s head of global marketing. “We started realizing that Shopify was involved in all of them.
“We’re like, ‘Oh, my God. This is Shopify! And this is Shopify! It was the perfect combination of bringing all our channels together, as well as the cost being exactly what we needed.”
‘It Was Like Heartbreak After Heartbreak’
For a lifestyle brand to last more than 40 years, innovation is often not far behind.
In 1974, Melvin and Sandy Schifter began LeSportsac as an outfitter of travel-style, parachute nylon bags. All that happened next was aggressive global expansion, the development of a signature collection catalog as long as the island of Manhattan, and the establishment of a legacy name in fashion, one as beloved by subway commuters as A-list celebrities.
In many ways, the heart of LeSportsac has never changed. Its well-priced, well-made bags and accessories have not, to the certain pleasure of its rabid and devoted fanbase, been greatly altered since the company was born.
Yet with proven functionality and a hallmark style in place, LeSportsac has found design to be chief among the means through which it continues to grow.
Inside its New York headquarters is a studio space where, Isaak reports, “magic happens.” It is here where LeSportsac’s in-house design team works, and where its famous prints are born. “They’re artists,” Isaak says. “They’re really, truly artists.”
So it was that LeSportsac found it had all these great and unique products, but was being underserved by its ability to market and sell them to its global customers online.
LeSportsac had long sold on the web, but tech- and execution-wise its ecommerce engine never quite ran properly:
- Customers would visit its site and see code
- Updates and changes took months to implement
- When traffic spiked, a crash would often follow
“It was like heartbreak after heartbreak,” says Isaak. “Especially from a marketing perspective, when you are working with external partners, whether it’s some sort of media program or anything like that, and you’re driving traffic to the site.
“For your digital hub not to work properly, it was incredibly frustrating.”
‘You Had to Scrape My Jaw Up From the Floor’
LeSportsac sought a new ecommerce partner, though tech fixes, while needed, only made up part of what the brand required.
“Our business needs grew beyond what our old platform was providing,” says Isaak. “It was time for a change.”
A company at its size, with such powerful products and such history behind them, could succeed on any platform. Yet to achieve further growth at this level, LeSportsac would need an ecommerce outlet that enabled it to truly reflect its brand ideals online.
Above all, it was about inclusion, not just catering to all customers and offering fair prices, but also having something much more difficult to define — the control to finally display the feeling of inclusion across its entire commerce experience.
To get there, the choice was Shopify Plus.
Forget for a moment that migration was a snap. “I think you had to scrape my jaw up from the floor after seeing how quick and easy it was,” says Mallory Rosen, LeSportsac’s ecommerce manager. Because the star of the show here isn’t the switch. It’s what this company was able to do via multi-channel marketing once its new Shopify Plus site went live.
“There’s a very strong cohesion in all aspects of our branding now, from store to advertising to the website,” says Rosen.
“We’re able to keep a whimsical, fun feeling across the channels. There’s no word in the dictionary to describe how completely different it is.”
‘It’s Really Like the Sky Is the Limit’
Upon its arrival on Shopify Plus — guided by One Rockwell, a Shopify Plus Agency Partner — LeSportsac found that it could more greatly control the front-facing parts of its ecommerce operation through a detailed and sophisticated backend.
It didn’t hurt that the company was spending less to operate on Shopify Plus, too.
Suddenly, data was an ally. LeSportsac marveled over the opportunities that appeared through its new sales metrics.
“We get optimized business now based on funnels,” says Rosen. “We can identify our repeat customers, our VIP customers, maintain the proper conversion rates for acquisition versus retention. It’s really like the sky is the limit right now. Before that, there were many limits closer than the sky.”
Rather than work to keep its platform up and running, now its platform is working for them.
Nosto, a Shopify Plus Technology Partner that enables retailers to more easily deliver personalized shopping experiences, has been a particular favorite of the LeSportsac team.
“That ability to create personalized recommendations, follow customer history, create A/B tests, and really make smart business decisions based on what our customer behavior is has been a joy for us,” says Isaak. “Maybe next season we should be buying more into this bag, or – there is just so much more opportunity now because we have the data.”
Nosto has helped LeSportsac use artificial intelligence to drive hyper-targeted personalization. In real-time, customer behavior data is now funneled to LeSportsac's marketing, merchandising, and design teams, which can pivot quickly on the website if needed – swapping in, say, a new product add-on suggestion that might cater more appropriately to each specific customer.
“What we wanted to see was what type of customer was coming to the site, from age group, gender, location – we didn't have that customer information previously,” Isaak told Glossy.
LeSportsac’s AI push has driven ecommerce sales up 12% since its site overhaul, and its website click-through from email has increased by 30,000 per month.
A business even of LeSportsac’s size does not need long to notice the results of new ecommerce strategy.
Compared to the final month with its previous platform, LeSportsac in its first month on Shopify Plus enjoyed …
- A conversion rate increase of 7%
- An increase in units per order of 37%
- An average order value boost of 20%
“Every week, I ask, ‘Oh, how were sales?’” says Isaak. “And Mallory will tell me, ‘They’re good!’”
Always Evolving, Transforming
The stakes truly are high for LeSportsac.
It has stores all over the world, and is a particularly strong brand in the Asian market, though in North America its digital flagship is its most important customer touchpoint. LeSportsac had to get it right.
With a renewed faith in its ecommerce reach, it is time for this brand and its products to do the heavy lifting online.
LeSportsac features a classic line-up of bags and accessories, but its website is now the perfect avenue to show off the ways in which they evolve, transform, and stay relevant.
The brand’s design team is an invaluable resource for new patterns and prints, though also LeSportsac is not afraid to adventure outside its own walls to breathe fresh life into products.
Collaborations with Nintendo and Hershey have become gotta-have, wait-in-line kind of rollouts for this company, a move that has kept it as contemporary today as it has been in its nearly 45 year history.
‘We Can Only Go Up From Here’
When a lifestyle brand sticks around for as long as LeSportsac has, it becomes impossible to separate its present from its past.
Nowhere is this better illustrated than with the brand’s Weekender bag, a company landmark since day one. “Essentially,” Isaak says, “it’s like our Coke bottle.”
LeSportsac constantly improves the function of these bags, for not lost on anyone within the business is that, in 1974, when the Weekender was first designed, people weren’t walking around with an iPad in their bag, or with a cell phone attached to them everywhere they went. The Weekender is always updated to meet its most current demands.
But at its heart — and this is important — it is still the Weekender.
Isaak has worked with many fashion brands, from Calvin Klein and Kenneth Cole to J. Crew and Ralph Lauren, but never in her career has she seen such a connection between a consumer item and the people who have spent years loving it.
“It conjures up something emotional in people,” she says. “We’ve had widowers send us notes that it was the favorite bag of their deceased wives and things like that. You find our whole team crying. This brand has such an emotion tied to it, because you carry your bag every place that you go. It’s part of you.”
It is this spirit that propels LeSportsac, always paying homage to its storied past, forward.
An ecommerce tentpole, finally free from restriction or frustration, will allow it to grow as far as its ambitions will take it.
“We know we have to evolve. We never want to be static,” says Isaak. “We want to make sure that, yes, we’re servicing our loyal customers, but that we also have an opportunity gain new ones, as well.”
“There is just so much opportunity now. I feel so incredibly hopeful, because I can really, truly say we can only go up from here.”