AEO True Fit Studio

Service innovation for American Eagle Outfitters

Our client American Eagle Outfitters used to be known to as a popular teen fashion brand. In recent years it has been striving to transform its brand image in order to appeal to a more diverse customer base with innovative technology.

We designed a service innovation AEO TrueFit Studio to increase traffic to physical stores by offering customers an all-inclusive in-store shopping experience. This new service allows customers of all sizes to have find their perfect fit of jeans in-store through a comfortable and private fitting space.

  • Skills
  • User Experience Design
  • Contextual Inquiry
  • Storyboarding / Journey Map
  • Service Blueprint

  • Tools/Languages
  • Figma
  • InVision
  • Adobe AfterEffects

Phase 1: Discover

American Eagle Outfitters is a popular clothing brand favored by college-aged young adults. However, it suffers from perceptions as a “middle school” clothing retailer in the eyes of 20-25 year olds. The company is currently seeking to attract a more diverse customer base and promote customer loyality. To gain deeper insights into the problem context and thus better serve our client, we took the following steps in our research structure:

1. Initial information from our talk with the brand representatives to understand their needs and wants for this innovation.

2. Broad secondary research into four areas (in-store personalization, omni-channel fulfillment, return and exchanges, associate enactment) to determine which innovative direction we want to dive in futher on.

3. Understand customer's current state from primacy research, including survey with targeted customers and in-store contextual inquiry.

4. Conduct additional secondary research to gain an overview of current practices of AEO's competitors on the market.

Contextual Inquiry: Deep Dive into Customer Journey Contextual Inquiry: Deep Dive into Customer Journey
When we visited the American Eagle store, we decided to focus our observations on the various touchpoints in interactions between the in-store associates and shopper. We saw that features on the the AEO application add little value to the in-store shopping experience: many customers aren't even aware of the app. There is also a mismatch between the role in-store associates and the expectations set by customers. Many customers find associates to be intimidating and are unwilling to seek help when they encounter sizing issues.

Competitive Analysis: Evaluate AEO's current stance in market
Competitive Analysis We conducted competitive analysis on the servicescape of apparel retailers such as Sephora, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Lululemon. We found the common pitfalls for retailers is their inability to personalize shopping experience for all customers. Some customers feel marginizalied in the received service due to sizing issues, lack of privacy, and unpleasant associate interaction in store.

Future innovations should focus on enhancing American Eagle’s accepting and associate engagement driven shopping experience while rehabilitating their image to increase traffic among 20-25 year olds.

Phase 2: Synthesize and Pivot

Based on our research findings, we create artifacts to model the current service experience. This includes personas, current customer journey maps, service blueprint which describes the current state visible and backstage interaction. By evaluating the current service state, we hope to find opportunities for innovation to bring new value to the service.

We first developed three key customer types that American Eagle could pivot to improve their in-store experience:

  • The Social Shopper:
    Social media heavily influences their buying habits as they are avid users on platforms like instagram and facebook. They struggle to purchase clothing from other brands due to inconsistency of sizing across brands.
  • The Exploratory Shopper:
    A shopper who likes to browse but feels intimidated to shop because they don’t know what they want or what fits them.
  • The Focused Shopper:
    A shopper who knows exactly what they want and what brand to purchase from. They want their shopping experience to be time-efficient and independent.

3. Ideation and Iteration

Storyboarding
We learned through our research that American Eagle carries many “online-only” sizes, which means that customers in need of these sizes are unable to try these jeans on before purchasing them. Consequently, they are left ordering several sizes of jeans, hoping one fits, and returning the other jeans. Moreover, customers are reluctant to share their sizing information with associates. We decided that this is a critical problem space that our service innovation should tackle. Storyboard

Service Enactment
we ran a service enactment with 8 participants in our target demographic of 20 to 25 year olds. Each participant was given a series of user tasks to complete as they experienced the TrueFit Studio like at an actual AEO store. Our research goals for the service enactments were to:
1. understand if users understand how to use our service
2. learn whether they get a sense of inclusivity and brand loyalty from using our service
3. observe how they interact with the mounted display when checking out the items. Service Enactment

4. Final Design

We envision TrueFit Studio to be a service in which users would walk into a fitting room that has all possible sizes of several styles jeans stacked for try-on. There would be minimal to no associate interaction involved in this process. Once the user finds a pair of jeans they like, they can proceed to checkout within the studio itself. They can use the mounted display to log into AEO Connected, choose what color jeans they want, and have the jeans delivered home.

Service Map

5. Takeaways

The most challenging part of the process is finding the 'point of entry' of innovation - what service can we bring to create new value, while minimizing potential risks of change? This requires a careful deconstruction of the existing system and thorough competitive analysis. The process of design also requires evaluation through different channels. It's difficult to get a service right, and it often takes many rounds of iterations and refinement.

This project allows me to see design with me a pair of fresh eyes, because we are designing with methodologies specifically targeted at a service. It's very different from what I've done in the past with UX design and visual design. Design for service is more multifactorial: while user experience is at heart of our priority, we also need to consider risk management, competitive advantages, scope of implementation, the integrability into the current system, etc.