AEo Co-lab

Experiment with style

Academic Project

Instructor: John Zimmerman, Skip Shelly

Time Span: 8 Weeks

Contribution: Research, Concept Development, User Experience Design, Prototyping

Team Members: Janice Chen, Tina Chen, Michael Liu, Christopher Reyes, Qianhui Sun, Meng Wan

Objective

Create a new service offering for American Eagle Outfitter. This innovation should co-create new value between AEO and its customers or one of its critical stakeholders.

Solution

AEO CO-LAB is a service innovation for American Eagle Outfitter, which creates a social space for shoppers to style themselves and their friends with more products. It includes a modular shelf and an interactive touch screen.

 

With CO-LAB, customers are able to use downtime to enhance their in-store shopping as a social experience to make more purchase.

Preferred Future

Imagine you are shopping with a friend, you bring them along to give you advice on the clothes you pick. Most times, you’ll go into the fitting room, and come out and ask for their opinion.

With AE CO-LAB, located in the fitting room, you will scan your clothes before going into the fitting room- and your outfit will appear on the touchscreen. Your friend is then able to interact with it, choosing accessories that will match the outfit and make their recommendations for you while they are waiting.

​Design Process

​Research

Our goal of the research is to understand market needs and potential, and find one specific problem space inside of the whole retail system. The research could be divided into two main parts: primary research and secondary research. We went through in-store visiting, associates interview, AEO customer survey and SET factors to immerse ourselves into the context and get on board.

Primary Research

Bring Our Refined Questions Having In-store Visiting

In-store Visiting

We managed 3 field trips in total to AE Rose Park Mall and Aerie Southside. We talked with the associates and spotted a couple of problems, like the delay in the inventory system, the gap between online and physical stores, the ambiguity of job division among all employees.

Store Analysis

As part of our research, we wanted to look into the affordances of physical space, and how the store’s layout encouraged different types of users to explore its offerings. A rough model of the Aerie store in Southside was created, and we recalled some of our paths throughout the store to retroactively consider our influences.

Additionally, it was a helpful way to consider the store from the associate’s perspective—some areas are cut off from the associate’s view if they’re behind the counter, but they get
a clearer view if they’re out on the floor interacting with customers or tidying up.

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Interview: AEO Sales Associate

Worked there in high school, then on and off through college

  • Overall had a positive experience working for AEO

  • Associates told to be “friends first, then make the sale.”

    • Personal experience for some shoppers, oftentimes dealt with younger girls going for the first time

  • Overnights/store setup

    • Favorite parts since it didn’t involve working with customers

    • Requires setting up the store with new clothing to specifications
      of corporate’s Visual Merchandiser

Survey Potential AEO Customers

50 Participants

The age range mainly fits demographics that AEO aims to target from 15 to 25.

In this primary research stage, the goal for surveying potential AEO customer is to help us approach customer journey of shopping experience. We generated 16 questions inside of the survey from the beginning of shopping to the end and we have several key insight from it. 

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Current AEO Customer Journey

Secondary Research

Gather Information about AEO and Entire Fashion Industry

Market environment analysis with SET factors

Social

  • Young people’s purchase decisions become more influenced by media like Instagram and peers around them.

  • Group, family, education level, self-identity are all important social factors in making a purchase decision.

Economic

  • Retailing is the largest private employer in the United States.

  • Declining foot traffic in malls.

  • People have demands for more mobile-centric, and better and faster customer service.

Technology

  • Using app to gather customer data.

  • AR & VR project virtual representation of the objects.

Current Service Blueprint

I mapped out the current service blueprint of AEO and demonstrated the whole journey from five different aspects: end user, front stage, back stage, evidence and internal interaction with other teammates.

Ideation

Gathering all the findings from research stage, we reframe the problem as an approach to discover design opportunities, which could lead us to the final design space.

Insights from Research Synthesis

Inventory gaps and delays

Getting lost both in store and online

Associate roles need to be flexible & ever changing “routine”

Disconnect between physical and online experiences

Design Opportunity #1

Closing the inventory gap

There is a 6-hour delay between the actual stock and what is on display in the system. Associates are sometimes confused to find out that the items on display cannot be found in store.

Design Opportunity #2

Increase shopping effciency

Customers are frustrated with wasted time and efforts on shopping experience both online and in-store. It's troublesome to find effective information overall since information inconsistency.

Design Opportunity #3

Streamline transformation

A single associate sometimes has to take care of multiple tasks at this stage. We want to make the task division clearer among associates.

Limitation

After synthesizing all the realistic situation, we decided to move on with #2 design opportunity as a final domain to explore after we figured out: 

  • In the in-storage inventory of each franchise, they classify all the items according to their categories in different movable shelves.

  • AEO office takes care of the shipping and reimbursement of inventory of each franchise in the district.

  • Whenever AEO office sends the inventory to AE store, they need to scan everything to get the AEO office updated of their progress.

We do not have access to the information we need in order to design for employees effectively.

​Prototype

Speed-dating to prototype rapidly

From our research and findings, we did a brainstorm session to get our ideas up and running. Each of us presented 7 storyboards as potential concepts to to different potential AEO customers and asked for their feedback. The 7 storyboards are smart shelves, accessories wall, style boxes, in-store personal stylist, online styling survey, stylists at home, casual shoppers.

Prototype Findings:

  • People want to have better style

  • Customers may interpret associate help as intrusion

  • Satisfactory suggestions for styles could build credibility

  • Returning is annoying for customers

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From speed dating findings, customers don’t think associates have credibility to style customers. We don’t consider associates styling for customer anymore both in-store and out-store. Since people love to be styled but not with associates, which made us shift our focus from associate-customer styling into customer styling for themselves.

Also, findings of speed dating show people really like the idea that AEO provide an accessories wall around fitting room area, which is a convenient path for customer styling themselves after trying new clothes on.

To combine these two insights, our final problem space is exposing social shoppers to accessories. Customers could get a good use of accessory provided by AEO around fitting room area to have a instant and effective styling on their own or inside the group.

We finally reframe our problem as

How can we use customer downtime to enhance in-store shopping as a social experience?

Understand the Audience

Our focus is on more casual, social shoppers in a mall context. American Eagle is part of a series of stores they enter in a shopping session, and they often go with friends or family either to socialize or to provide counsel. As such, they aren’t necessarily loyal to the AEO brand, but they are more willing to listen to their friends and provide styling suggestions when shopping.

Concept

New Service Blueprint

Interactive Digital Display

  • Scan product to see how it will look with other accessories

  • Simple swipe motion to look through different AEO products

  • Contains both online and in store products

  • Sales Associate can help with finding products in store or ordering online

CO-LAB

  • Modular shelf

  • Flexible to change according to each store’s needs and layout

  • Incorporate AE x ME campaign

  • Only need basic upkeep by sales associates

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