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American Eagle exec: Mobile feedback via chat, reviews helps drive sales

NEW YORK – An American Eagle executive at Mobile Marketer’s Mobile FirstLook: Strategy 2015 conference said that the retailer places high importance on mobile feedback via chat and reviews, which has translated to sales-building engagements.

During the “American Eagle Outfitters: How Mobile will Shape the Apparel Retailer’s Strategy in 2015” session, the American Eagle executive discussed the brand’s past challenges and successes on mobile while highlighting its primary focus of centering on consumer needs. With over 50 percent of site visits coming from mobile users, the teen retailer leverages in-app promotions and geo-location to create contextual messages to drive sales for its two brands, American Eagle Outfitters and Aerie.

“We had to set ourselves up so this was a strategic, critical part of our business,” said Joe Megibow, chief digital officer of American Eagle Outfitters. “You can’t predict how customers will use mobile.

“The bar is so high with customers right now. We discovered new things through serendipity and it’s fascinating to watch how behaviors change.”

Listening to consumers
American Eagle Outfitters spent 2014 as a year of reinvention, thanks to feedback gained from consumers via review capabilities and live chat options built into its mobile app. The brand found that the most effective way to drive sales was to circumvent any friction and go directly to the consumer.

“We put chat in the app, and it’s working,” Mr. Megibow said. “Customers are engaging with us through mobile chat.

“It was a ton of work, but we’ve seen significant growth. Conversion is off the charts.”

Approximately 85 percent of its customers read the retailers’ emails on mobile devices, proving that its target demographic of 15 to 25 year olds prefers to browse, shop and read while on-the-go. American Eagle placed feedback links in the AEO app and the mobile Web site, and enabled guests to review clothing items directly from the brand’s emails.

This resulted in the total amount of reviews coming in increasing by approximately 20 percent.

“Who would have thought fashion and technology would be so embedded together?” Mr. Megibow said.

“Mobile has brought fashion and technology together in all sorts of new ways. It’s part of fashion now.”

The chain also combined American Eagle Outfitters into one app with Aerie, its lingerie and apparel brand. Consumers can browse for products from both retailers within a singular app, and can select the style, size and color of a desired item to check whether a local bricks-and-mortar store carries the inventory.

Targeted offers
The brand drove app downloads and in-store traffic by leveraging in-app exclusive offers, and learned that all users, regardless of platform, must be taken into consideration when targeted via mobile. When American Eagle offered app users a 25 percent off coupon, the iOS app skyrocketed to fourth place in the lifestyle category of the Apple App Store, and 57th place overall.

However, the promotion did not work for Android users, which caused those customers to reach out and inform the brand. American Eagle then fixed the issue by exposing the offer to their Android consumers and ensured that it followed up with an updated app for them.

The retailer also focused on driving more customer traffic to its factory mall stores.

“[At factory malls] there’s a certain amount you intend to spend, and the stores you go to first get a bigger share of your wallet,” Mr. Megibow said.

This prompted American Eagle to use geo-fencing and target shoppers immediately as they entered a factory mall parking lot. Consequently, the retailer saw average sales increase by almost three times as much, proving that getting consumers into your store first is an imperative sales strategy.

American Eagle Outfitters is also testing beacon technology in more than 100 locations to roll out relevant offers to its shoppers (see story).

Using mobile, the brand is able to help its associates in locations nationwide by offering iBooks, training manuals and do’s and don’ts that assist them with selling to customers.

“Our associates are up to speed and faster with the product,” Mr. Megibow said. “Most importantly, it was built not as cool technology but to model the way associates and customers engage.”

The executive also called for other brands to ensure that their message remains consistent across all channels and platforms, as consumers should be able to receive the same content regardless of their location or device.

“Mobile Web should nearly be the same as desktop Web,” he said. “You should have one set of content and be able to deliver that to customers in a seamless way whether they’re on a mobile device or on desktop.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York