In a pilot test, Mystery Ranch backpacks that have augmented reality have a much higher conversion rate than products that don’t.

Mystery Ranch’s products are extremely complicated, says director of marketing Ryan Holm.

Its backpacks, which cost $125-$1,100, are made for carrying products while consumers are on a mission, such as hunting, fighting fires, police enforcement, military, or outdoor trekking. Their construction—in terms of material, pockets and zippers—are tailored to the backpack’s intended use.

It’s important for shoppers to know how big the backpack is, how much it can fit and how it will fit them, Holm says. As an online retailer, that means it needs to provide shoppers with a lot of images, such as images of people of different shapes and sizes wearing the backpack. The range of images helps shoppers gauge how big the product is and how it would fit them, Holm says.

However, the cost of photo shoots, photo editing and the time it takes to load images on its site is prohibitive, Holm says. “It’s not cost-effective to increase our photograph library substantially,” he says.


Instead, the retailer decided to implement augmented reality on its product detail pages. With augmented reality, a shopper can see the product in 3D in her own space and can accurately assess how big it is relative to the objects around her, Holm says. Plus, Mystery Ranch does not need to invest in hiring models, Holm says.

Mystery Ranch did a pilot using augmented reality with 10 of its products with AR vendor Vertebrae to see if shoppers used the tool and how it would impact their purchasing behavior. So far, the results have been positive, Holm says. “We’re impressed with it,” he says.

From Jan. 1-Feb. 26, 10% of its site visitors used the augmented reality feature, and of those shoppers, 90% of them made the purchase, Holm says. Plus, its conversion rate for shoppers who engaged with augmented reality spiked to 3.74% during this period, up from its usual site average of around 0.7%, he says.

Because of the clear conversion rate increase, Mystery Ranch is now looking to have more of its product catalog available in augmented reality, Holm says.


Currently, features a homepage banner that alerts shoppers it has products to view in augmented reality or 3D. If a shopper clicks on this, she is taken to a landing page of the 10 products available with this feature. Within site search results and on product detail pages, Mystery Ranch indicates the product can be viewed in 3D.

If a shopper is on her smartphone and she taps on the augmented reality button, her camera launches and the retailer will impose a 3D, dimensionally accurate picture of the product onto the screen. The shopper can then see how big the product is relative to the objects in her living space and walk toward it with her smartphone to see product details.


Screenshot of the augmented reality feature on

Screenshot of the augmented reality feature on


If the shopper is on her desktop, she can see a 360-degree view of the product, spin it around with her mouse and view a QR code that she can scan with her smartphone. If she scans it using her smartphone camera, the augmented reality feature automatically launches.

In the long term, using augmented reality is more cost-efficient than conducting photo shoots to increase its image library, Holm says. For example, it may cost Mystery Ranch roughly $10,000 for a photo shoot for a catalog of products, whereas it cost the retailer about $8,000 for these 10 products, he says. Holm also factors into the investment the increased sales from products that have augmented reality features, and a potentially decreased price from the vendor the more products it adds in AR. Vertebrae charges an annual subscription fee for the platform, based on the total number of 3D/AR assets, the vendor says.

It took roughly five months to go live with the project, including working out the contract details. Vertebrae completed most of the development work in two months, Holm says. The retailer went live with the feature in November 2019. During the development period, Mystery Ranch and Vertebrae created a shared channel on workplace messaging platform Slack, so they could easily send instant direct messages to each other.

“It was super helpful to create the channel with both developers and not have massive email threads,” Holm says.


The augmented reality feature is part of Mystery Ranch’s larger plan to improve its user experience. Sales increased 40% year over year in 2019 for Mystery Ranch to reach roughly $6.0 million, Holm says. He attributes the increase to improving the user experience, such as making the site faster and tweaking its checkout page.

Other items on Mystery Ranch’s to-do list this year include making its site compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and improve its fraud management software so it can approve good transactions and decline fraudulent transactions faster, Holm says.

Plus, three years ago, the retailer hired a director of operations that has helped improve its supply chain. Previously, the retailer often had out-of-stocks. “We were selling out of all of our key products in key colors, styles and sizes,” Holm says.

Now, Mystery Ranch is more accurate at forecasting its sales. Plus, it has improved its financing so it can make bigger buys of the products it needs to or make multiple buys to replenish its inventory more quickly. Now the retailer is capturing sales that it would have missed out of because it would have had an out-of stock note, Holm says.