American Eagle's Secret to Simplifying Store Communications
When it comes to product launches, marketing and other store-level events, retailers invest a lot of money to research, brand, package and market. Yet many of these big projects lose steam when it comes to executing at the store level. The tasks that are necessary to execute are often ineffectively communicated with tools such as emails, conference calls and handwritten notes.
American Eagle Outfitters has found a solution. For the retailer — which operates 1,026 stores in the United States, Canada and Mexico, and is in 176 international locations via license partners — the goal is for “every customer to leave happier than when they came in,” says Ellen Horn, lead, store communications. That requires giving store managers the ability to put the customer first.
To do that, American Eagle Outfitters (AEO) needed to provide information to its store managers (SMs) in one place and one version so they did not spend valuable consumer-facing time searching through forwarded and unprioritized emails. To get a handle on store communications, AEO implemented the Task Manager™ solution from Reflexis.
What’s more, AEO dug deep into the solution to take advantage of some of its more useful features, including its store-specific calendar, which allowed the company to communicate in a holistic way without burdening individual stores with specific tasks or communications that were not relevant to that specific location.
How does AEO use the tool? From the home office, it loads information into the systems such as floor sets, pay days, holidays and specific market events such as tax-free weekends, and then pushes that information out to the appropriate stores on a time-relevant schedule.
“What’s great about it is the teams get a holistic view of communications,” says Horn, because it includes both the business drivers and the specific tasks or projects that need to be completed during the week or month. At AEO, the company has moved to a three-month calendar. “For the first time ever, store managers can see what is going to happen in their business and schedule to it,” says Horn.
Additionally, store and district managers can add storespecific items, such as associate availability, PTO requests or market mall-specific events to inform the home office, says Horn.
To simplify things further, AEO developed a daily planner screen to provide a “oneshot” snapshot of the business, a “huge win” for SMs, she says, who can now log in to this unified dashboard, see what they need to do, and then get back on the sales floor without digging around for a lot of information. Previously, SMs spent approximately two hours every day sifting through communications — and that didn’t even include execution; that was just figuring out what needed to be done, quips Horn. Since using Task Manager, that process has been reduced to about 15 to 20 minutes.
Other benefits of the solution: AEO has seen an approximate 70 percent increase in completed projects year over year because it can track what’s been completed vs. what hasn’t, and communications have been reduced by 30 percent.
Next up, AEO is looking into the solution’s mobility feature. It has iPads in all of its stores and wants to bring the app onto the devices so that store managers can operate on the go, without having to leave the sales floor, enabling them to better service customers.
Jordan K. Speer is editor in chief of Apparel.
Editor's Note: If you liked this article, check out all of our 2017 Top Innovators.