American Eagle Shopping Experience
A heightened in-store experience via fittingroom tech, sylist, and MPOS
Duration: 11 weeks
Partners: Brian Yang & Lauren Zemering
My Role: UX Research, UX Design, Visual Design
CLIENT-PRESENTED MPOS ISSUE
American Eagle Outfitters had in the previous year just distributed ipads and ipods amoung its high volume stores, aiming to increase sales with a personal associate-customer experience similar to that of Apple's. They wanted to use mobile point of sale (MPOS) to alleviate the shortage of employees, reduce cash and wrap real estate, and sell more products on the floor.
The problem is that the associates aren't using MPOS, and AEO corporate wants to understand how they can get store associates to adopt the technology, since a lot of money has already been invested in distributing hundreds of these devices.
UNDERSTANDING THE STORE, MPOS, CUSTOMERS, & ASSOCIATES
To design for the space, we had to first understand how the store operated, the goals and behaviors of the shoppers and associates, and why MPOS is not currently used. My teammates and I went to the Robinson Mall American Eagle and acted as pretend shoppers while each noting our surroundings and our interation with associates. We also did employee and shopper shadowing before doing more in-depth interviews. We gathered insights about the pros and cons of the MPOS system, as well as insights about the behaviors for both customers and associates during a peak store time.
Our initial research key findings:
- MPOS did not offer anything extraordinary or needed compared to registers and ipods that made them worth adopting
- The necessary check out materials don't come with the MPOS device, which also has internet/login issues
- Room 1 coverage is necessary (for theft prevention and helping customers), & it influences how associates are allocated
- Rewards card ask is very important - signing up means more return customers, but it can't be done on MPOS
- Nobody knew about the stylists / jean experts, & only 1 person knew about the AEO mobile app
- Customers mostly ask for help getting a different size or fitting rooms
- AEO's jeans, comfortable fit, and style are what attracts customers
Mapping Research Findings
To synthesize our research, we created a concept map, a customer journey map (based on the observed types of shoppers), and an associate experience map.
The insights we got from these maps helped inform our opinions and designs. Some key realizations were:
- People who use the fitting room & people who are assisted by associates are more likely to purchase
- Currently MPOS is being used at the end of the shopping experience, AFTER customers have already assessed the clothing and budgeted, making efforts to sell additional items futile.
- While the journey of the customer was linear, the associate's day is very much variable, switching between multiple tasks and helping multiple people at once.
- AEO Wants to increase sales, but pushing unsuited items will result in returns & lower customer satisfaction
MPOS Research and Testing
At this point, we were pretty convinced that MPOS for checkout is not the best use of the device, but to guide our clients to that conclusion as well, we tested MPOS in more optimal situations for effectiveness. We asked all the associates to point out where they imagine mpos could work best, and tried out MPOS at the most commonly identified areas: in room 1 on the women's side, and right in front of the fitting rooms. In these tests:
- associates wanted to leave the MPOS stations to do other tasks
- people still went to the main registers anyway, and had to be guided to the MPOS station in room 1
- associates suggesting additional items with the mpos did not result in customers buying more
- putting MPOS in front of the fittingroom cuts the shopper's journey short, preventing them from picking up additional items
We also mapped out various shoppers' paths throughout the store to see if there were any other key places where a lot of customer-associate interaction happened as well. We were trying to find out where the associates would have the opportunity to influence the shopper with MPOS. However, it showed that each customer's journey and interaction with associates is different.
To make sure adoption is successful in our own design, it had to be in line with what the associates/adopters want. Thus, we asked them what their ideal experience and customer interaction would be. (Shown above)
The Brick and Mortar Advantage
The MPOS devices supported an 'Order Online Ship to Store' functionality which got us wondering why customers come to store? What benefits are offered through a brick & mortar store that shopping online doesn't afford the customers? To successfully integrate both the distributed tech and the existing brick and mortar store infrastructure, we considered what humans do well versus what technology does well.
Focusing on the Fitting room
While the clients really wanted to use MPOS, we focused on the reason behind that drive → that MPOS will bring in more sales. Zooming out, how else might we use these devices to increase sales? Because people who try on more items are more likely to buy products, we wanted to focus on the highest point of influence: when shoppers are trying on and assessing the clothing items. The associates trained in AE inventory and styling are called 'Stylists', and their expertise combined with the strength of being able to try on clothes in store led us in the direction of supplementing the brick and mortar advantages with technology in the fitting room. We then did more in depth fitting room research by observing stylist and customer interactions, speaking with the different stylists and customers about their experiences, and getting feedback on the initial prototype.
Some fitting room takeaways:
- Stylists sometimes have to leave their zone to find items, when other associates can also do that task so that the stylists can fully use their expertise at the fittingroom
- Stylists want to be recognized for all the sales they push & pride themselves in bringing back loyal customers
- If the stylist doesn't suggest the right alternative for a customer's unwanted items, it's a lost sale
- By using shopper behavior & history, AEO can make sure the suggestions taylored to personal taste & relevance
Our multi-component solution tackled the problem by focusing on the fitting room experience, which we found to be the highest point of influence for our customers. AEO can build the relationship between customers and associates while also converting browsers and second hand shoppers into buyers. We transformed the MPOS device into a tool that allows associates to help customers find the right products, prevents loss, and expediates the check out process. We pitched the solution and video to the clients at AEO headquarters with positive feedback. It was an incredible first client-project experience that yielded a lot of lessons learned.
SHOPPER FITTING ROOM IPAD
Provides live item availability/options and accomodates for self-help and social experience:
Conveniently request items directly from the fitting room:
Provides info on "who has what", data driven suggestions, and item requesting capabilities during 1-on-1 interactions:
ON-FLOOR ASSOCIATE IPOD
Live notifications for needed items and requests to clear the fitting room rack:
RFID enabled convenient checkout + unavailable items can be shipped for free:
Personal recognition boosts morale for the associates: