eTail West: AEO's lessons in 'not sucking'

It's not every day industry executives get candid about the mistakes they've made and lessons learned, but that's exactly what attendees got during a keynote session Tuesday at eTail West in San Antonio, Texas.

Finding the keys to omnichannel success often requires getting back to basics, building the foundation. "This is where we need to stop sucking," said David McBride, senior director of omnichannel analytics, American Eagle Outfitters. "This is not about a shiny object, fix the basics."

The basics at AEO included some surprisingly simple fixes and the odds are good that there is still plenty of low-hanging fruit. AEO is looking to grow from 2013's $3.5 billion in sales with 13 percent coming from digital to $5 billion and 25 percent digital by 2016. It can't all come from low-hanging fruit, but early results are yielding big spikes in shopper use and satisfaction.

AEO shoppers were encouraged to leave opinions and give feedback, but that function was not optimized for mobile. Thirty percent of Web site visits were made from mobile devices but those trying to leave feedback received an error message and were encouraged to "keep checking back."

That message played for more than a year.

A quick three week fix and the number of same day reviews went up 20 percent, overnight. "Not sucking," said McBride.

"Discount codes, this is an area where it's easy to suck," he said. Shoppers were getting error messages when entering discount codes. The top failing code was pretty easy to find, as was the root of the problem. Shoppers were entering the correct code as they saw it on screen, but there had been a typo. The code was misrepresented and didn't match the actual one in the system. It was an easy fix.

AEO went further to avoid coding errors before they happen. Numerical zeros and the letter O were often transposed, so it stopped using them and ultimately coded the site to automatically fix the problem. Sign-in errors drove roughly half of all account complaints, prompting new messaging to better identify errors to missed fields to shoppers, and improvements to usability are all driving customer engagement and satisfaction.

"Everyone came to the party," said McBride. "We changed colors based on what customers have told us."

Click here for more FierceRetail coverage from eTail West 2014!

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