Se Eun Park
Lead Designer & User Researcher
We were tasked with creation of a new innovative service for our client, American Eagle Outfitters. Through user research and analysis, we decided to work on a physical/digital hybrid solution in order to provide a system that would generate co-creation of value between the customer and AEO. Customers would be able to buy items bundled together based on user suggestion & validation so as to increase wallet share with AEO.
This project is currently scheduled to be completed by December 5th.
Current progress is available below!
Identifying Problem Space
Julia Costa and Matthew Nichelson of the AEO Technology Innovation team kicked off the project with a short presentation on the current state of AEO and where they had been focusing on innovation. They recommended looking into the areas of associate enablement, returns & exchanges, in-store personalization, and omni-channel fulfillment as a starting point.
We began the process by brainstorming innovations that would fit into each category.
Through discussion, we noticed that while some categories, such as returns and exchanges, generated a lot of ideas, they were less revolutionary than others. There also seemed to be some overlap in certain areas, such as in-store personalization and associate enablement. In the end, we decided that we wanted to pursue the issue of in-store personalization (or lack of).
Interview & Survey Results
For the survey, we chose to gather information about people’s general in-store shopping habits that were not AEO specific. We wanted to measure perceptions of shopping, as well as identify pain points in the in-person shopping experience. While many were expected (long lines and limited sizes are aggravating), other findings surprised us, like a tendency toward maintaining shopping habits at stores over long periods of time.
We collected around 100 responses from folks within our networks by sharing the survey via email and social media. We received responses from people from 15 to 41+ and people living in both suburban and urban areas.
Some points that really influenced our innovation were that people did not necessarily want to talk to associates.
“I don't usually listen to style advice from associates because they don't know me and don't know what works for me. I understand that an associate's job is to help the customer, but sometimes I get stressed when they start talking to me and I am always worried I will be guilted into buying something.”
“Customer service, but please leave me alone to look at the clothes. I feel anxious whenever the shop workers try to help me.”
However, a lot of responses indicated the need for style advice or inspiration.
“I know some brands have this online, but lookbooks/style books! It'd be nice to have them available in brick and mortar stores too.“
“More style advice and visuals.”
The charts below reveal more concrete statistics of how people considered these two points in their shopping experience.
We developed a stakeholder map and concept map focusing on the in-store experience of AEO. This helped us to identify the different actors and pain points of the customer’s journey which gave us more insights to the connections between the customers and the business itself.
For our competitive analysis, we researched nine of American Eagle’s top competitors. When looking for information, we narrowed our search down to understanding target demographics, top sellers, store layouts, use of website and app, methods of in-store personalization, fitting room environment, average product prices, and overall gross profits. We thought that these parameters were important to understand how competitors appeal to their target customers through their physical stores. These pieces of information also helped us to understand the differences between AEO’s and competitors’ methods of personalizing through technology and store layout.
AEO has multiple competitors in the retail industry, almost all of whom are trying to enhance in-store personalization. This is occurring through technology as well as through methods to bond and create a relationship with the target demographic.
Every competitor has their own website and app, which they’re trying to use to extract consumer data and use it to match their store experience to what customers want. Every competitor is on social media and uses influencers to promote their brand but those methods cannot target individual customers’ desires.
For our service blueprint, we laid our focus on in-store customer experience. The blueprint begins from how customers gain motivation of going to an AEO brick-and-mortar store and ends when they leave the store. From the blueprint, we’re able to see how physical evidence and employee interactions affect customer experience at each phase of the service. An interesting finding is that customer’s in-store journey is split into multiple branches. For example, they may leave the store at any point. The reason that drives customer’s prompt decision is an interesting point to concentrate in our future research.
From our research, we began storyboarding different ideas to “speed date” with. We created around five storyboards based on the categories of preparing associates, displaying more style options, increasing associates’ style credibility, socially supported shopping, and utilizing customer meta-data in store. We gauged audience reaction and feedback and used that to refine and narrow down our potential solution.
I have only included the storyboards that I personally created; as a group we generated five different ideas in total.
After creating storyboards, we ran through each one with around twelve of our peers as well as each other to gauge initial feedback. Through this process, we ended up with a few takeaways which are listed below:
Customers are outfit-motivated and want versatility from their purchases.
Personalized recommendations are good, but easily verge on being creepy and inefficient!
Bundled deals are appealing, but it depends on what is in the bundle.
“I feel like there are some items that look really cute, but I have no idea what I would wear it with and I would be more inclined to buy if I knew.”
Hard-to-style items become more desirable when customers know how to wear them
Rather than come up with completely new ideas, we decided to combine the successful parts of each storyboard to create a modified innovation approach and visualized it through preferred future storyboards.
We decided to stage a user enactment of our idea that would allow us to gauge interest and effectiveness of our idea. To accurately do this, we began working on wireframes for the application, highlighting all of the key points of the customer journey. This was meant to showcase the process of suggesting outfits to be matched in store.
However, we decided that it would be more effective to user enact the in-store experience, and decided to mock up prototypes for customers that might see the matching tags.
We decided to simulate a shopping experience using the initial prototypes as a way to introduce our concept. We had three groups of participants enter the space and peruse the clothing on the hangers as if it were in a real store with minimal instruction.
From this experience, we were about to gauge audience appeal as well as identify points of confusion within the enactment:
Figuring in the discount was a huge selling point—most of the participants noted that if they really liked an item and were okay with the second item, they would probably purchase the bundle
A few of the participants were confused as to the “@” tag on the physical tags
Two participants stated that they would buy the bundle together (as one liked the top more and the other liked the jacket more)