TrueFit Studio

Designing a more inclusive omnichannel shopping experience through a self-service retail model.
  • SERVICE DESIGN
  • UX DESIGN
  • ROLE: UX Designer
  • TIMELINE: October - December 2018
  • TEAM: Se One Park, Nicole Pinto, Rosie Sun, Allissa Chan

OVERVIEW

Challenge

AEO wants to make their brick-and-mortar shopping experience more inclusive for customers who shop in extended sizes, but have have to be strategic about their inventory, which often means tailoring their offerings to shoppers in the middle of the bell curve.

While this strategy makes financial sense, limiting their offerings in this way can make shopping a frustrating, time-consuming, and downright alienating process for customers who shop in less common sizes.

Solution

TrueFit Studio is an inclusive, self-service fitting experience that allows customers to enjoy the experience of shopping in-stores, regardless of size.

Customers can visit Truefit Studio in store to try on jeans in any size manufactured by AEO, available in 2-3 flagship styles. For customers who are uncomfortable discussing their purchases with associates, TrueFit studio allows for end-to-end self-service. Just pick your favorite pair, scan to the TrueFit terminal, enter your information and you’re ready to go. Items in extended sizes will be shipped to your home via free 2-day shipping.

Try On

With TrueFit Studio, Customers can try on jeans in any of AEO’s sizes and fits, available in limited stock for try-on only.

Scan

Once they’ve found a great fit, customers scan their favorite pairs to a tablet in the Studio Fitting Room.

Select & Order

After scanning their item, customers use the tablet display to select style and fit, and finalize their purchase.

Receive

For items that can’t be purchased in store, customers will have their order fulfilled directly to their home address.

A Shopping Experience Designed for Everyone.

At participating stores, the TrueFit Studio Experience will enable customers to try on AEO Jeans in any size and fit. “Online-only” sizes will be available to customers in a limited supply for try-on only.

All The Choice of Online, Yours to Try In-Store

TrueFit Studio brings the vast selection of online shopping to the in-store experience. After scanning their items to the fitting room tablet, customers can further personalize their selection by color, wash, quantity and fit.

End-to-end Self Service Retail

For those who enjoy the privacy of shopping online, TrueFit Studio allows for full self-service retail, enabling customers to size, select, and complete their purchase without interacting with a store associate.

Impact

We found that TrueFit Studio adds value to both American Eagle and its customers in a few unique ways:

More Inclusive Customer Experience

By creating an in-store shopping experience that anyone can enjoy, TrueFit Studio brings AEO’s body-positive brand values to the forefront of their customer experience. Design for inclusivity is more important than ever for values-driven consumers, and heck, it’s just the right thing to do.

Fewer Losses Due to Online Returns

When customers are “sized out” from shopping in-stores, they’re more likely to return items due to improper fit. This can be a frustrating process for customers, and expensive one for AEO. TrueFit Studio makes finding the perfect fit a breeze for everyone.

Omnichannel Shopping Experience

TrueFit Studio brings together the selection and privacy of online shopping with the physicality of shopping in store. For customers who’ve felt excluded from brick-and-mortar stores in the past, TrueFit Studio offers a convenient, comfortable way to enjoy to shop with American Eagle.

RESEARCH

Stakeholder Interviews

To kick off the project, our team conducted interviews with representatives from the Product and Technology Innovation teams at American Eagle.

Rather than present us with a concrete problem, the stakeholders we interviewed first outlined several broad goals to narrow the scope of our research and focus our thinking throughout the project:

Appeal to new customers beyond AEO's teenaged base, particularly in the 18-25 year-old demographic.

Incentivize customers to visit brick-and-mortar AEO locations

Cultivate brand loyalty and encourage customers to signup for AEO’s rewards program


To kick off the project, our team conducted interviews with representatives from the Product and Technology Innovation teams at American Eagle.

Rather than present us with a concrete problem, the stakeholders we interviewed first outlined several broad goals to narrow the scope of our research and focus our thinking throughout the project:

Associate Enablement

What new processes and services could we introduce to enable our associates to provide a better experience to our customers?

Consider how new responsibilities would balance against existing processes and services.

How might we incentivize employees to participate in new processes and services?  

In-Store Personalization

Showing customers more relevant items based on preferences increases their chances of purchasing, but currently there is no way to do this in-store.

How might this solution might consider different sources of data on past customer behavior? e.g. online vs. in-store.

Ideally, a personalized in-store experience should be delivered seamlessly, with little to no need for input.  

Omni-Channel Fullfillment

What are some new or additional fulfillment experiences that AEO should offer and what would be the ideal design for those services?

How new fulfillment solutions might leverage different touchpoints such as the AEO mobile app, website, and physical locations?

Consider leveraging other retail service models like subscription, reservations, rentals, etc.

Returns & Exchanges

How might we leverage mobile, web, and in-store infrastructure to deliver a more convenient returns process?

What does the ideal returns and exchange experience for AEO customers?

Having established a broad understanding of the company’s goals and the problem space we’d be designing in, our team set about conducting our own user research to identify opportunities for service innovation.

Customer
Survey

Based on the targets identified in the interviews, our team designed and distributed a survey to investigate the perceptions and behaviors of younger consumers (age 18-25), particularly with regards to online and in-store shopping.

64.1% of participants say inconsistent sizing / finding a good fit was a source of frustration when shopping.

72% of participants say that finding a good fit was their foremost reason for visiting stores in person.

Participants who perceived AEO as a “Teen brand” were less interested in purchasing clothing from AEO in the future.

Convenience and comfort were the most commonly cited reasons among customers who prefer to shop for clothes online.

Our survey revealed that finding an appropriate size and fit was a significant pain point experienced by shoppers both online & in-store. Despite the ease and comfort of shopping online, leveraging the ability to try on clothes without worrying about returns could be a way to encourage customers to visit AEO stores.

Moreover, to bolster appeal with young adult consumers (20-25), American Eagle would do well to differentiate itself from the “Teen Retailer” category.  

Contextual Inquiry

To understand our findings in context, we visited American Eagle & Aerie locations to conduct several rounds of contextual inquiry with both shoppers and American Eagle associates.  

Our focus was to explore how the pain points identified in the survey manifested in the shopping experience, and how that experience could be shaped by their interactions with AEO associates.

We conducted 3 rounds of contextual inquiry with AEO shoppers — which focused on customers’ goals, feelings, and experiences as they shopped — and 2 rounds conducted with AEO associates, which focused on their understanding associates roles, the protocols they follow, and mapping key touchpoints with shoppers.

Key Insights

Based on the results of our research, we identified several key trends, opportunities and pain points that would serve as a jumping off point for our ideation phase: 

Body-Positive messaging helps brands like AEO stand out among Teen Retailers

The shopping habits of younger consumers (18 - 25) are increasingly driven by loyalty based on brand values.

Aerie (AEO’s sister brand) has been very successful in cultivating loyalty among teens through body-positive marketing campaigns.

American Eagle could capture some of this appeal by emphasizing its body-positive brand values through its services.

Customers enjoy the convenience and privacy of shopping online, but finding the right fit is easier in-store.

Customers reported that shopping online was appealing due to the convenience and comfort of shopping from anywhere.

However, shopping for clothing online can be a pain if customers are uncertain about ordering the correct size and fit.

The ability to tangibly try on items before purchasing was the primary appeal of in-store shopping.

Many shoppers are uncomfortable speaking to associates for help with fit and sizing

Younger customers are less inclined to interact with store associates and prefer to resolve issues for themselves wherever possible.  

Customers were particularly reluctant asking for help with issues related to fit and sizing (e.g. finding item in the right size).

This effect was mitigated when customers felt that associates could empathize with their concerns about sizing.

Customers who shop in extended sizes find shopping in-stores time-consuming, frustrating, and alienating.

Feeling excluded from a brand’s clothing based on size made customers less likely to consider that brand in the future.

Many customers considered “online-only” sizing to be euphemistic that their needs are abnormal or invalid.

Customers who wear extended sizes may avoid shopping in-stores if they believe they may not find anything in their size, or if it will be difficult to do so.

SYNTHESIS

Service Blueprint

To identify promising opportunities for service innovation, we developed a service blueprint that captured our findings from contextual inquiry. The diagram below captures the key actions, processes and touchpoints that drive customers’ in-store shopping experience:

User Persona

To engage with the problem from the perspective of AEO customers, our team developed several user personas based on the behaviors, attitudes and pain points identified in the discovery phase. In the end, we focused on the experience of Maria, a customer who enjoys the exploratory aspect of shopping, yet often has trouble finding items in her size:

Maria
Maria is a young professional with an interest in fashion, who struggles to find clothing that fits her body type.

Maria prefers to shop online, as visiting stores in person can be a time-consuming and uncomfortable experience.

Although it’s nice that she can shop the brands she loves online, any time Maria visits a store she can’t help but feels that few retailers have made her experience a priority.

Goals

To comfortably shop in any store without needing to consider her body type.

Wishes she could base her purchasing decisions on clothing she liked, rather than what was available in her size.

Enjoy the experience of shopping socially with her friends and family.

Find something that fits well, looks great, and face minimal hassle in the process.

Frustrations

Feels uncomfortable sharing sizing information with store associates, especially if she feels they can’t relate.

Feels alienated when shopping with friends and family.

Finding a good fit in-stores can be a time-consuming and ultimately disappointing experience.

Frequently resorts to ordering several of the same item online and returning the ones that don’t fit.

Customer Journey Map

Next, our team worked with the personas to develop a series of Customer Journey maps, intended to capture the highs and lows of a shopping experience for a customer in our target demographic, and identify key touchpoints where a new service could make a meaningful difference.

IDEATION

Concept Generation

Based on our understanding of the problem space captured in the artifacts above, our team generated dozens of service concepts designed to address the key pain points identified in the discovery phase.

In particular, we were inspired to create a service that would make shoppers feel confident, comfortable, and accepted when they shopped with American Eagle.

Points of Variation

Using our Customer Journey map as a general framework for the in-store fitting experience, we identified several key points of variation that had the potential to shape the fitting experience, and explored how these might be tweaked to create the most comfortable, confident shopping experience for future AEO customers.

Key Variables
  • Discovery

    How should this new service be introduced to customers? How will customers be supported?

  • Associate Interactions

    When and how will associates interact with customers? Who should initiate these interactions?

  • Store Infrastructure

    How will the physical space be organized? What new infrastructure will be needed?

  • Digital Infrastructure

    How might digital touchpoints play a role in the experience? Mobile? Web? In-store Tablets?  

  • Checkout

    How will customers complete their purchases? What happens after the transaction is complete?

Storyboards

Purposefully tweaking the above variables in different combinations, our team created about half a dozen variations of the in-store shopping experience which we captured in the form of storyboards. Our purpose in creating these storyboards was to guage how shoppers in our target demographic might react to different aspects of our proposed service innovation.

We designed these storyboards as a low-cost means of prototyping against what we estimated to be the biggest risks of our proposed service innovation. By testing storyboards with users, we could resolve the points of variation to optimize our design to the needs of shoppers who had previously been excluded.

In particular, we sought to resolve the following research questions:

Are customers comfortable with a full self-service checkout flow? When and how should sales associates have a role in the the process?

Are customers more comfortable performing self-service on their own mobile devices or using a mounted display?

Do customers find the shopping experience gratifying even if purchases can’t be picked up immediately? How can we create a more satisfying home-delivery experience?

Will customers feel an expanded selection of sizes overwhelming? How might we make the sorting / selection process more intuitive?

Speed Dating

By testing storyboards with users in our target demographic, we could better understand how to tailor certain key variables to make the in-store shopping experience as approachable and enjoyable as possible for shoppers of all kinds.

Overall, our team tested the service concepts with 15 participants, the majority of whom were representative of our target audience — that is, adults in the range of 20-30 who’d been excluded from shopping in particular brands based on their sizing needs.

Insights & Feedback

Based on the feedback collected during Speed Dating, our team arrived at a handful of high level insights concerning both the viability of our concept as a whole, as well as the particulars of our implementation.

User Needs & Concept Validation

Participants felt their needs were not a priority to most clothing retailers, and that they often avoided shopping in stores as it could be an uncomfortable experience.

Being able to try on items in their size made customers feel seen and validated, even if the items couldn’t be purchased.

Participants were concerned about feeling further alienated if the experience were targeted at shoppers with less common sizing needs, as opposed to AEO shoppers in general.

Self-Service & Associate Interactions

Participants were very conflicted about the role that technology and associate interactions should play in the fitting experience.  

Some participants wanted to be able to complete the entire transaction without an associate, while others felt it was only proper for an associate to assist with the process.

For self-service check-out, some participants felt it was more secure to use their own mobile device, while others insisted that a mounted display would be easier and more convenient.

Item Availability & Fulfillment

Though customers would prefer to take home purchased items immediately, being able to try on items in their size was a significant improvement over their current retail experience.

Perks like free shipping and next-day delivery mitigated most participants’ concerns about being able to take home purchases.

Participants had some qualms about the perceived hygiene of “try-on only” items. They felt items that weren't for purchase should be cleaned or swapped out frequently.  

PROTOTYPING

Research 
Objectives

After validating the proposal through Speed Dating, our next step was to develop a workable prototype of our service concept so it could be experienced and evaluated by customers in our targeted demo. In particular, we were looking evaluate the TrueFit Studio experience on the following fronts:

Metrics for Evaluation
  • Ease & Usability

    Do participants understand the service as they engage with it? Are they able to move through the experience without additional instruction?

  • Value

    Does our prototype deliver on the value suggested by earlier feedback to the concept? Are participants more comfortable, more likely to visit an AEO store, more likely to be a return customer?

  • Conversion

    Are participants able to complete their purchases successfully? Do they opt to sign up for AEO Connected when prompted?

Experience Prototyping

In order to evaluate the TrueFit Studio Experience with participants, we were faced with the challenge of prototyping an experience that would, at full fidelity, require lots of resources we just didn’t have — things like store infrastructure, product inventory, and associates.

Moreover, we realized that it would be difficult to test and evaluate what was intended to be a private experience. Wherever possible, we took measures to simulate aspects of the experience that we weren’t able to fully recreate.

Participant enters the Studio fitting room, browses and “tries on” jeans in various sizes.

Participant scans their chosen item(s) to the mounted display and completes the checkout.

Participant discusses their experience in a brief exit interview with researchers.

Service Enactment

Despite practical limitations to the fidelity of our prototype, we planned to evaluate the TrueFit concept with participants by simulating as much of the experience as possible through a service enactment.

With members of the research team posing as store associates and “wizard of oz’ing” interactions with the mounted display, we were able to simulate the core aspects of our proposed service innovation.  

Recognizing that our prototype’s fidelity would make it difficult to draw definitive conclusions about customers’ behaviors in the experience, we focused on getting as much feedback as possible on aspects of the design that were reasonably well-simulated, as well as reactions to the concept as a whole. Overall, we conducted user testing with 8 participants.

Insights from Testing

Based on the results of our service enactment, our team was able to extract valuable insights to guide the refinement of our design, including the tablet UI and the TrueFit Studio service flow.

Full self-service retail requires additional prompts and guardrails to prevent users from getting stuck.

While customers appreciated the privacy and control of self-service checkout, some participants found the process long and tedious.

Several participants expressed some reluctance to enter their credit card information to complete the self-service checkout.

Participants were somewhat confused about availability and fulfillment of certain items, particularly because the UI failed to indicate which sizes were “try-on” only.

TrueFit Studio is a more comfortable fitting experience for most customers, even those with more common sizing needs.

Regardless of sizing needs, participants indicated that searching for well-fitting items was the most time-consuming and arduous process of clothes shopping.

Participants across the board indicated they valued the more streamlined, individualized approach to the fitting, especially for garments as particular as jeans.

This feedback prompted us to consider how our design could not only create a better shopping experience for underserved customers, but for all AEO customers.

FINAL DESIGN

Solution

TrueFit Studio is an inclusive, self-service fitting experience that allows customers to enjoy the experience of shopping in-stores, regardless of size.

Customers can visit Truefit Studio in store to try on jeans in any size manufactured by AEO, available in 2-3 flagship styles. For customers who are uncomfortable discussing their purchases with associates, TrueFit studio allows for end-to-end self-service. Just pick your favorite pair, scan to the TrueFit terminal, enter your information and you’re ready to go. Items in extended sizes will be shipped to your home via free 2-day shipping.

Try On

With TrueFit Studio, Customers can try on jeans in any of AEO’s sizes and fits, available in limited stock for try-on only.

Scan

Once they’ve found a great fit, customers scan their favorite pairs to a tablet in the Studio Fitting Room.

Select & Order

After scanning their item, customers use the tablet display to select style and fit, and finalize their purchase.

Receive

For items that can’t be purchased in store, customers will have their order fulfilled directly to their home address.

With full end-to-end self service TrueFit Studio offers customers all the privacy and variety of online shopping, with the convenience and tangibility of shopping in-store. AEO is able to offer a limited supply of Jeans in all available sizes so customers can shop confidently knowing they’ll find something that fits perfect.

The TrueFit studio experience allows customers to sample a wider variety of jeans than ever before, and seamlessly complete their purchase using the mounted display (left).

Scan your favorite pair to begin

Once a customer has found their fit, they’re prompted to scan the item to the mounted display provided in the fitting room. We used animation to draw customers’ attention and make entering the self-service checkout as inviting as possible.

Choose from dozens of Styles, Washes and Sizes

After scanning their items to the display, customers are prompted to confirm and make edits to their selection where possible. Customers can even select from different fits and washes not available in-store.

Earn Rewards with AEO Connected

After confirming their selections, customers are invited to join AEO Connected in exchange for free 2-day shipping on their TrueFit purchases. Users were most likely to join AEO Connected when prompted at this step in the checkout flow.  

Check out with Privacy and Ease

We knew how important privacy is to our customers, so we made it as simple as possible for customers to complete their purchase unassisted. We leveraged animations to make the process approachable and intuitive.

Customer Journey Map

We revisited our journey map to capture how customers’ shopping experience could be made significantly more comfortable, confident, and enjoyable through our reimagined service flow. With TrueFit Studio, customers can visit and shop with confidence, knowing that they’ll leave with something that feels true to them.

Updated Service Blueprint

To demonstrate how our service innovation would integrate with existing processes and infrastructure, we developed an updated Service Blueprint.

This artifact was crucial to communicating how TrueFit experience would function in context, and identifying new systems and resources that would be required to support it. While this new service flow would require some investment in new inventory practices and infrastructure, the self-service model demands significantly less from AEO store associates.

TrueFit UI Full Demo

View the full TrueFit UI demo below to experience the end-to-end self service checkout flow:

WRAPPING UP

Pitching to AEO

At the culmination of the project, our team was invited to pitch our concept to AEO’s Chief Technology Officer and Technology Innovation team. After presenting our findings and bringing our design to life with with a live demo, TrueFit Studio was chosen from 12 competing concepts to be recognized as the Best Design for Social Impact.

Design Impact

TrueFit Studio is our answer to the question, how can AEO create new value for an underserved population of customers?

Our service innovation lets the customer feel in control of their experience by uniting the privacy and selection of online shopping with the tangibility of brick-and-mortar. The feeling of finding a great fit never goes out of fashion, so TrueFit Studio reframes the value of brick-and-mortar retail spaces as a tailored styling experience that’s accessible to everyone.

Value Creation

TrueFit Studio reimagines the retail space as a unique and personalized fit and styling experience, that capitalizes on aspects of the shopping experience that brick-and-mortar stores can deliver better than online. We found that TrueFit Studio creates value for both American Eagle and its customers in a few unique ways:  

More Inclusive Customer Experience

By creating an in-store shopping experience that anyone can enjoy, TrueFit Studio brings AEO’s body-positive brand values to the forefront of their customer experience. Design for inclusivity is more important than ever for values-driven consumers, and heck, it’s just the right thing to do.

Fewer Losses Due to Online Returns

When customers are “sized out” from shopping in-stores, they’re more likely to return items due to improper fit. This can be a frustrating process for customers, and expensive one for AEO. TrueFit Studio makes finding the perfect fit a breeze for everyone.

Omnichannel Shopping Experience

TrueFit Studio brings together the selection and privacy of online shopping with the physicality of shopping in store. For customers who’ve felt excluded from brick-and-mortar stores in the past, TrueFit Studio offers a convenient, comfortable way to enjoy to shop with American Eagle.

Reflections

Working with American Eagle was a really valuable learning experience for our team, and while we're all quite proud of the work presented here, we recognize that some of the most important outcomes of the project are lessons learned and things to do better for next time.

Some of the biggest challenges of this project were to do with the sensitive nature of the problem space. In designing a more inclusive shopping experience for AEO, we knew that our research would necessitate working with a diverse group of participants. We wanted to remain respectful of participants' needs in all aspects of the project and to represent their experiences thoughtfully in the final product.

Thanks to everyone at AEO who made this project possible!