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American Eagle looks beyond loyalty to drive omnichannel experiences

SAN ANTONIO, TX – An American Eagle Outfitters executive at eTail West 2014 said that the retailer is working to move beyond loyalty to connect and track consumers across channels.

During “The Keys to Omnichannel Success at American Eagle Outfitters,” the exec listed a few specific examples of challenges the retailer has encountered and the ways the company went about fixing omnichannel problems. With digital increasing from 13 to 25 percent of American Eagle’s revenue, incorporating multiple channels into the shopping experience is becoming more important for the retailer.

“It’s increasingly challenging if we want to link customers from mobile, desktop, the store,” said David McBride, senior director of omnichannel analytics at American Eagle Outfitters, Pittsburgh, PA. “Our loyalty program is great for that, but it’s not quite enough.

“These are things we need to focus on to give consumers an incentive to self-identify so we can give them a better experience across platforms,” he said.

Omnichannel challenges
One of the most common challenges with omnichannel is tracking consumers across platforms and trying to link customer IDs from mobile and desktop devices.

A specific challenge American Eagle encountered was making sure email links led to the correct locations.

American Eagle asks consumers to provide feedback after every transaction, but when a consumer clicked on the link on mobile it was leading to a page that said “Sorry you can’t do this on mobile but keep checking back.” That had been happening for 12 months, per Mr. McBrde, but after the retailer fixed the link, reviews per day went up 20 percent.

According to Mr. McBride, around 30 percent of visits are on a mobile device, and almost 80 percent of emails are opened on mobile, up from 62 percent in 2012. This points to the large importance of getting it right on mobile and ensuring links work on the devices.

Another difficulty American Eagle encountered in omnichannel was with sign-in. When consumers signed in to their account on the Web site, they were sent back to the home page instead of where they were in the funnel. After fixing the problem, American Eagle saw an overnight improvement.

“For us, omnichannel is largely around erasing the gaps,” Mr. McBride said.

“You need to look at your current process and say that sucks, we don’t want to suck,” he said. “If you can take care of some of those, then you get to a harvest stage where you can see growth and you can provide an experience innovating. We are eager to be innovating.

“By no means am I here on this stage as the expert saying everything’s ready, and we’ve figured it all out. We’re at the early stages at the journey.”

To make sure that the apparel brand constantly improves the omnichannel experience, American Eagle employs a number of different analytics and feedback tools. For instance, the retailer placed a link to OpinionLab on its home page so that consumers can provide feedback.

American Eagle also leverages Tealeaf and Dogfood.

Mobile jeans
American Eagle also saw a big boost in mobile after launching an app-based promotion. Consumers would earn a discount when they purchased in the app or showed the app in store.

This led to a doubling of sales that weekend in addition to a tenfold increase in app downloads and the app ranking No. 2 in the Lifestyle category.

Mr. McBride also touched on the importance of SMS for American Eagle.

“It’s an important leg in the stool,” he said. “It’s important to recognize that it is an engagement opportunity and in some cases it’s a conversion opportunity, but it’s at least giving us the opportunity to be in front of the customer.

“We are getting used to fact that it may not convert as well. We need to be flexible as we look at how we’re marketing to customers via SMS,” he said.

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York