AEO TrueFit Studio
se one park
The American Eagle Outfitters TrueFit Studio is an experience that allows anyone who walks into an AEO store to find their perfect pair of jeans.
The TrueFit Studio is a fitting room experience that stocks “try-on” jeans in every size of a particular style of jeans, including sizes that are typically online only. This gives customers a pressure-free space to truly discover which pair of jeans best fits their body. Customers can also order sizes unavailable in-store from an ipad available inside the Studio and have these jeans shipped to them for free, to make the jeans shopping process as seamless as possible for everyone.
We proposed this concept to address poor in-store experiences for customers with sizing issues, as creating a more positive sizing experience for all would help attract more shoppers and build customer loyalty for our client, American Eagle.
To understand our problem space, we conducted research through a variety of methods: broad secondary research to better assess possible areas of focus, a survey, a contextual inquiry at an American Eagle store in a mall, and competitive analysis.
Our goals were to gain a deeper knowledge of AEO’s current systems, as well as potential directions for our service innovation. Based on our research, we determined that our innovation would focus on increasing traffic to physical locations by creating a more personalized in-store experience for customers.
We created a survey to better understand the shopping habits of AEO’s target demographic of college students & young professionals. We received 79 responses. Our findings indicated that sizing is a considerable pain point for shoppers, enough so that even though a majority of respondents prefer shopping online, 72% are more likely to visit a physical store to make sure clothing fits them. However, many respondents also noted that going to a physical location might be intimidating, especially if they were unsure about what sizes fit them.
We visited an American Eagle store in a mall to perform contextual inquiry. We focused on both the store environments and interactions between store associates and customers, as well as current implementations of in-store personalization.
We conducted competitive analysis of a wide range of brands, both with direct competitors to AEO and brands that AEO representatives had indicated they found innovative. We found that overall, AEO fails to adequately personalize the shopping experience for all users. Customers at stores like Sephora and Nordstrom know that they can walk into either store and find products or clothing that best fits their own body.
Our research findings are distilled in a graph that showcases each retailer on the continuum of being aspirational vs accepting and having high or low levels of personalization.
Through our research, we found that American Eagle suffers from perception as a teen retailer from the 20-25 year old demographic, or the upper end of AEO’s target market. We concluded that AEO needs to shed this image to more effectively capture this target market, potentially by leaning into their motto of inclusivity. AEO already does a lot for body positivity in terms of marketing campaigns and online offerings. However, their in-store experience is lacking, especially for customers who experience sizing issues.
We needed to craft our service innovation to help those customers with possible sizing issues who feel uncomfortable approaching an associate for help with sizing-related problems.
Ideation & Concepts
After several rounds of brainstorming, including an initial idea that heavily utilized the AEO app, we decided to tackle the sizing problem in a way that minimally leverages technology instead of being the primary driver of innovation. We also decided that since American Eagle’s specialty is jeans, we should focus our innovation on increasing the number of jeans sold.
We learned through our research that American Eagle carries many “online-only” sizes. This 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. We decided that this is a critical problem space that our service innovation should tackle.
Our service innovation could not only help users who are tail-end customers, or customers who are petite or plus-sized, but it could also help all users who are just unsure of what jeans ft them. Once customers find the pair of jeans that best fits them, they tend to develop brand loyalty and constantly come back to the same company for jeans.
Focus: in-store try-on experience
We wanted to seize upon this area and held several design sprints to try to come up with an idea that solve this issue in this problem space. We ran six sessions of one minute sprints on different ways to tackle this problem. This process helped us converge into one specific concept that we wanted to explore: developing a new fitting room experience that allows users to try on a pair of jeans before purchasing them. There would be a set of “try-on” jeans that a user could try on, but not directly purchase, in each store. All possible sizes of these jeans would be available for a user to try on. Our general concept would co-create value for both customers and AEO by incentivizing customers to enter American Eagle stores to try clothes on to find their right ft and subsequently increasing jeans sale.
Once we settled on creating an in-store try on experience, we began to explore different variations of our idea. We held several ideation sessions, during which we created a general framework for a customer journey through this experience. We then identified key touch points within this journey and brainstormed possible variations that transformed each touchpoint.
We conducted a series of speed dating sessions as a means of further validating the needs of our target audience, using a set of 5 storyboards to explain our concepts. We explored several points of variation in the customer journey to better understand the needs of our target audience, and gauge their reaction to certain aspects of the proposed experience. In particular, we were interested in how participants reacted to areas of risk we had identified, including:
How do customers feel about the concept of “try-on-only” jeans?
Would customers be comfortable with the idea of a “self-service” checkout experience in the fitting room? Is this a preferable alternative to checking out with a sales associate?
Would customers prefer to encounter all available jeans in the fitting room itself? Or select from the jeans in a shared space just outside the fitting rooms?
Would customers prefer to perform the self-checkout process on a mounted display in the fitting room, or on their mobile device?
How do customers feel about ordering in-store and having jeans fulfilled to their home via shipping? Does this compromise the value of the service innovation?
speed dating insights
The inability to find appropriately-sized clothing while shopping in-store is a significant pain point for our audience. In general, customers who shop in extended sizes find shopping in stores to be time-consuming and uncomfortable, and as a result many avoid it altogether.
There is no clear preference when it comes to the checkout flow implementation. Some customers expressed a preference for using a mounted display to scan items, while others citing security concerns preferred to check out on their own mobile device. Still others insisted that employees should be responsible for helping with checkout.
Though customers would prefer to leave with the jeans they purchased, having jeans available to try on in-store was a vast improvement to the status quo shopping experience, even if the purchases had to be fulfilled via shipping.
Based on the feedback we received from participants, our team was able to resolve many of the points of variation in our customer journey map, and refine our proposal in preparation for a service enactment session. We ran a service enactment with 8 participants in our target demographic, giving each participant a set of tasks to complete.
We began the service enactment by briefly explaining to our participants the purpose of our innovation and directly prompted them to enter the TrueFit Studio to try on our jeans. There were several pairs of jeans with tags that contained the size and QR code on it. Participants proceeded to “try on” a pair of jeans and checkout using the mounted display in the studio. We had a paper prototype for mounted display, and a team member was in the fitting room to “run” the interactions of the UI. Once the participants completed the task, we interviewed them for 10 minutes to debrief and gain a deeper understanding of their thoughts on the TrueFit Studio.
Our research goals for the service enactment were to:
see if users understand how to use the service
learn whether they get a sense of inclusivity and brand loyalty from using our service
observe how they interact with the mounted display when checking out the items and refine the interface as needed
In general, we learned that shoppers that are considered “average sized” also value the True Fit Studio. Every shopper, no matter what size they are, experiences size discrepancies between brands and stores. We also learned that shoppers value their time and physically looking for and trying multiple pairs of jeans can be a burdensome process. Our studio mitigates this issue by providing all possible jean sizes in one location for the customer to readily access.
For our final concept, we created a service blueprint to clarify points of interaction within our experience. We also identified a key persona, the shopper that’s often left behind by traditional retailers, and an ideal customer journey through the TrueFit Studio.
Our final service innovation centers around crafting a personalized experience for customers who have sizing issues. We wanted to design a service that allows any customer, no matter their size, to walk out of an American Eagle knowing they will be getting a pair of jeans that best fits their body.