erin ryan
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Service Design

Date: Fall 2018

Team:

Angela Huang

Amanda Kennedy

Felix Liu

Jerry Jee-Uk Yang

Skills:

Research

Service Design

Digital Prototyping

Invision

Sketch

Aerie RealFit - A More Personal Customer Loyalty Experience

Aerie RealFit is an addition to American Eagle Outfitter’s existing loyalty program, aimed at providing non-transactional value that grows over time to customers through a more personalized bra fitting experience.

Goal: To introduce a new service that would increase customer engagement with the American Eagle Loyalty program in a way that encouraged long-term brand loyalty and positive brand image.

This project was completed in partnership with American Eagle Outfitters as a client in the course Service Design in Carnegie Mellon’s Human-Computer Interaction department


Problem:

The stated goal of American Eagle Outfitter’s customer loyalty program is to increase customer engagement, beyond the point of transaction. Today, despite this, American Eagle Customers are not using their AEO Connected Accounts beyond the checkout point.

Solution:

Aerie RealFit, a service that moves the customer’s first interaction with the loyalty program to the fitting rooms, where they can sign up with the loyalty program to get better bra recommendations and more accurate sizing on future purchases.


Research

The primary goal of our research was to understand both how customers were using their loyalty program, and how they were shopping in the physical retail space.

We decided to focus specifically on Aerie as it seems to be more open to different innovations and has more potential to empower young women. In addition, due to the buying cycle and habits for intimates, establishing strong customer loyalty would be especially effective and profitable for Aerie.

Competitive Analysis:

We compared the Aerie loyalty program to four others - two targeting a similar demographic to Aerie (Urban Outfitters and VS PINK), while two sold more luxury items for an older/wider demographic, but were brought up by the AEO store representatives as exemplary  loyalty programs (Sephora and Nordstrom).

In comparison to their competition, American Eagle Outfitters’ loyalty program offers less to members. And while luxury brands are able to offer more benefits in their loyalty programs, as their customers pay more, brands like Victoria’s Secret PINK, that sells very similar products to American Eagle’s Aerie, offers the most services of all five brands that were compared.

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In Store

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Associate Interviews

We interviewed an Aerie store manager, as well as a sales associate at the Aerie location. We wanted to learn more about dynamics between employees within the store as well as how these associates learn about the loyalty program. We also asked questions about how they would sell the loyalty program to others.

Key Takeaways:

  • Most customers that come into the store are around 17 - 25 years old.

  • A training manual was also used to train associates on the loyalty program. However, this training manual is out of date.

  • Each store has a daily goal number of signups for the loyalty program. One associate mentioned an individual quota, the other mentioned a shared quota.

  • Getting people to sign up for the loyalty program is easy. Credit cards are much harder.

Customer Interviews

Aerie promoted its AEO Connected loyalty program in all parts of the store. Banners called out the program on many of the surfaces in the store. However, when we interviewed customers after they checked out:

  • 3 out of 5 of the participants did not know what AEO Connected was, despite having confirmed that they were a part of the AE rewards program.

  • None of our participants had the AEO Connected Mobile App

  • Aside from using coupons, none of our participants used the AEO mobile app on a regular basis

When asked about their in store and online shopping experience and habits:

  • Participants said that they appreciated the body positivity movement that Aerie advertises. The comfort and positivity appealed to them.

  • All participants shopped for Aerie products online.

  • Sizing and consistency in Aerie products were issues that prevented many of them from purchasing from Aerie repeatedly.

    Key Takeaways from In-Store Research:

  1. Customers do not engage with AEO Connected outside of the point of transaction

  2. Aerie’s customers are unlikely to sign up for the AEO Connected credit card due to lack of trust and credit - they are more likely to engage with Aerie in other ways, like their social media accounts.

  3. Aerie customers find it difficult to take advantage of the AEO Connected program’s “Buy 5, get one free” bras and jeans deals unless they share their account with their mother/sister/friend.

 

Service Blueprint

Two primary gaps were identified from the Aerie Loyalty Program service blueprint:

  1. Customers were introduced to or reminded of AEO Connected very late into their in-store experience at the checkout point. In addition, the checkout point is the only touchpoint in which customers interact with their AEO Connected accounts

  2. There is a huge gap after customers purchase their items in which they don’t interact with their AEO Connected accounts at all.

Design Phase

Problem Space

  1. Customers were introduced to or reminded of AEO Connected very late into their in-store experience - at the checkout point. This is the only touchpoint in which customers are interacting with their AEO Connected accounts.

  2. There is a huge gap after customers purchase their items in which they don’t interact with their AEO Connected accounts at all.

  3. This lack of engagement results in a lack of exposure to AEO Connected during and after in-store visits as well as limited brand loyalty from customers.

Current State vs Preferred Future

Goal for Future of the Loyalty Program:

  1. To provide Aerie customers with interactive and personalized opportunities to engage with AEO Connected at multiple touch points.

  2. Customers can leave the Aerie store with something that would compel them to continually check their AEO Connected account or AEO app after their store visits.

Preferred Future State:

A future state of Aerie RealFit could:

  1. Reduce returns and exchanges

  2. Drive online traffic to physical stores

  3. Connect the digital and physical aspects of shopping at Aerie for a cohesive, omnichannel shopping experience

 

Brainstorming

Ideas were generated through individual ideation exercises and then evaluated by the group based on their value to the client, and the level of customer engagement we imagined they could garner.

 

Aerie RealFit Explained

The service we decided to develop, Aerie RealFit, begins in the fitting room, and has touch points at check out, on the app once the customer has returned home, and when they come back to the physical retail location.

  1. Bra Fitting Experience

2. Personalized Aerie RealFit app

3. Enhanced Repeat Store Visits

When they return to an Aerie store, any store associate is now able to scan a barcode in the customer’s app to be able to pull up all of their stored fitting information on their own device. This allows them to skip questioning about what the customer is looking for, and moved on based on a greater shared base of knowledge on both what the customer wants, and what they might like the most based on their preferences in the past.

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Co-Creation of Value for Client and Customer

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Through the Aerie RealFit feature in the AEO Connected program, Aerie can start an ongoing conversation with their loyal and most valued customers. The more customers engage with the service, the more value they gain through more accurate and helpful sizing and styling recommendations, which trickles back to Aerie as value gained through more customer information that can inform product inventories, material purchasing, and trend tracking.

User Enactment

In order to test our idea, we designed a hybrid research study where we enacted the first part of our solution with an Aerie shopper and then presented a storyboard to them that showcased the rest of the service.

Users were asked to go into the “store” and request a bra fitting from a store associate. The store associate would then bring them into a fitting room and “take” the individual’s bra measurements, as well as ask about their bra type preferences. Finally, the associate would input this information into an AEO Connected account.

Then, users were presented a storyboard showcasing the rest of the solution. Throughout this process, participants were probed for their thoughts and impressions on the process that they were going through.

Photos from user enactment

Photos from user enactment

Findings from User Enactment:

  1. Things they liked:

    2 out of 4 individuals expressed that they would be happy to provide feedback in exchange for reward points and better service through personalization online and in store. One of our participants mentioned that she viewed this service to provide more value the more that customers engage with the product.

  2. Things they disliked:

    Some common concerns from the individuals were that they were scared that the store associate would be imposing and pushy when introducing Aerie RealFit in the dressing room. In addition, another user was concerned about the privacy of her data and what it would be used for. Finally, we discovered that our store associates would have to be willing to provide support to the customer if they were not that knowledgeable about bras.

  3. How it changed our service:

    In the fitting room we decided it would make users more comfortable to be asked if they wanted to sign up for the service before they were fitted for bras, instead of after, so they felt less pressured to join, or to buy the items they’d been fitted for that they weren’t sure about.

    We also realized in having conversations with the users that in talking to a fitter about what they were looking for, they often discussed common issues they’d had in the past with other bras. This was then incorporated into a “Common Past Issues” item in the RealFit screen shown to associates in store during their next visit to jumpstart the finding of their next purchase.

Future Considerations

  1. Potential expansion of service to encompass the sales of American Eagle items like swimwear and jeans

  2. More implementation of sizing and styling recommendations in-store through updated clothing tags and app touch points