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American Eagle exec: Small mobile changes can reap big rewards

September 16, 2013

The American Eagle Outfitters iPhone app

NEW YORK: An American Eagle Outfitters executive at the Mobile Marketing Summit: Holiday Focus 2013 said that even little upgrades to a mobile strategy can have a significant pay-off.

While the retail brand’s target audience is younger consumers who are among the biggest adopters of mobile, as a traditional mall-based retailer, American Eagle Outfitters had until recently lagged in embracing mobile marketing. This has begun to change, with small steps such as integrating loyalty coupons with Passbook resulting in big gains.

“It doesn’t take much to move the needle,” said Joe Megibow, senior vice president and general manager of omnichannel ecommerce at American Eagle Outfitters, Pittsburgh, PA. “You just have to listen and prioritize.

“We are not anywhere where we want to be right now, but we’ve gone from an average of 75 to 100 [ranking] in the app, but with these changes we are now sustaining in the 20s,” he said.

“With some of the tweaks we’ve done, we have conversion up 65 percent.”

The Mobile Marketing Summit: Holiday Focus 2013 conference was a Mobile Marketer event.

Mobile first
American Eagle Outfitters is s leading bricks-and-mortar retailer with more than 1,000 stores in North America targeting 15 to 25 year old.

Mr. Megibow has a strong background in ecommerce and mobile and was hired to help American Eagle Outfitters address the way that its target audience is increasingly embracing mobile, social and digital channels.

Some initial steps had been made to address the changing consumer, Mr. Megibow reports that when he started in his new position, he found a startup-sized team dedicated to mobile with no process or governance.

American Eagle makes coupons available on mobile

Additionally, there were separate customer records for SMS, push notifications, the loyalty program, co-branded credit card, email and POS.

Despite this, mobile was growing.

“Mobile was just growing despite anything we were doing,” Mr. Megibow said. “This is a youth customer, they are there.

“We are already about a third of business on mobile – that is just how they are coming,” he said. “When I came in, we were close to 62 percent of email opens on mobile – we are now close to 80 percent of emails are being read on mobile devices.

“I see that and I say, whether or not you think you are a mobile-first company, you are a mobile-first company.”

In-house control
With mobile growing, the company decided to bring many of the ecommerce operations that had been farmed out back in house so it could have more control over the experience.

“In our stores, we are so protective of our brands yet online, we have outsourced the platforms, the developers, the mobile team, digital marketing, analytics,” Mr. Megibow said.

“Then it grew and now we have to bring that al back in house and that is a challenge,” he said.

One of the first steps Mr. Megibow took was to start designing emails for the smaller screens on mobile instead of designing them for the desktop, as mobile is where the majority of emails are being read.

Mobile reviews
Another recent step American Eagle has taken was to enable mobile reviews to address how customers are interacting with the brand.

Previously, customers who had made a purchase online and received a thank you note from the retailer asking them to comment on the product and clicked on the link from a mobile device would end up on a page informing them this
service was unavailable.

With so many emails being read on mobile, this was a problem.

Within a week of making reviews mobile, the company saw the total number of reviews increase 20 percent.

American Eagle is also looking at ways to support its mobile app.

For example, it sent an email to opted in customers offering them 25 percent off in store if they downloaded the app. Within a week, it saw downloads increase by 10 times and a significant improvement in the app’s ranking.

Coupon integration
Another step the retailer took was to integrate coupons with Passbook in response to customers who were asking for a simpler way to redeem coupons.

“It turns out [integrating coupons with Passbook] is not that hard to do,” Mr. Megibow said. “We did another reiteration, did some performance enhancements and launched that.

“Overnight we went from a two-and-a-half-star app to a three-star app,” he said.

“It is largely the same app, just a little faster and has Passbook.”

American Eagle also put iPads in more than 200 of its Aerie stores and built an app for it.

Now, when there are long lines at the cash register, the associates can use the iPad for internal operations such as reorders and to help customers.

In the areas where stores have an iPad, American Eagle has seen a 40 percent lift in store-to-door orders.

Going forward, the company is planning to launch a single, consolidated data warehouse to house all of the data about its customers so it can better understand customers across channels.

It is also looking at other ways to eliminate channel conflict so that the customer has a seamless experience no matter where he or she is shopping the brand.

“We’ve put very little effort into this and still mobile revenues are up 122 percent,” Mr. Megibow said.

“It is the fastest growing channel that we have,” he said.

Final Take
Joe Megibow is senior vice president and general manager of omnichannel ecommerce at American Eagle Outfitters, Pittsburgh, PA

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