Join us for this live webinar today at 10 a.m. Pacific, 1 p.m. Eastern. Register here for free. 

Joe Megibow is Chief Digital officer of American Eagle Outfitters, responsible for digitally-enabled customer experiences across all channels and touchpoints. VB recently caught up with Joe to ask how geo-location, omnichannel and predictive analytics play in American Eagle’s digital strategy.

Chief Digital Officer isn’t a common title. What does it mean in the context of your work at American Eagle?

The whole notion of a Chief Digital Officer is a rather recent occurrence. It’s one of those titles that was sort of spontaneously invented and means different things to different people.

The common thread is digital transformation, so you find CDOs in traditional companies that are trying to become digital companies. There’s many different versions of the role, from a pure strategy function to very tactical hands-on. The thing to keep in mind is that the word digital in the title isn’t just a euphemism for ecommerce, it’s about how you view digital holistically across the organization.

To give an example, whereas only about 15% of our sales happens online, if you normalize between in-store and digital property visitors, we actually get 25% more traffic every day digitally than we do in the stores. What that means is that the people who go to our stores are online. They’re going online before they go to the stores, while they’re in the store, and after they leave.

Digital isn’t a channel, though we sell online, digital is how we engage with our customer purchase to purchase. My mission is to figure all that out and deploy ideal solutions across the company. So I own product marketing, engineering, customer service, digital marketing, CRM data and predictive analytics — Basically the digital world.

Can you tell us a little bit about how American Eagle is using geolocation in your marketing strategy?

Geolocation is in its infancy. Historically it’s meant GPS and geofencing but even that is very tricky for a specialty retailer like us. Network connectivity in malls is inconsistent. WiFi within malls and stores is inconsistent. Even with GPS, indoor accuracy isn’t great and doesn’t account for altitude. So if I’m in a 3-story mall on the top floor in a food court, or two floors down in one of our stores, it’s the same latitude-longitude coordinate for very different user experiences.

Proximity is certainly useful but the challenge has been waiting for the infrastructure to catch up. Even the better solutions like beacons have limitations in that the only person a beacon can talk to is someone who’s downloaded my app. That’s certainly my most loyal customer, but it’s a very small percentage of my base.

Are you seeing many instances of competitors using geo technology to actively target customers and take revenue away from one another?

There’s always been some of that. It stems from things like, Do you bid on your competitors keywords and Do you show-up digitally when there’s a consumer showing interest? That said, we need to recognize that brand matters a lot in my space. So, if a customer is seeking out a competitor’s brand, to try and just show-up there and win them over isn’t necessarily going to work out well for me.

The trick for me is not how to launch an aggressive onslaught against my competitor, it’s how do I have the best product and make sure my customers know it to encourage them to shop with me. They’re going to the mall anyway, and I know they’re going to shop at a few stores, so how do I make sure I’m one of the stores they go to?

Again, going to the mall is probably one of the last steps on that journey, so have I engaged with them for all those preceding steps, and can I reach them with that last minute reminder. A lot of our focus isn’t on getting them in the store, it’s on – if I can get them there – how do I get them to do the things we want them to do? If they engage and try something on, my probability goes way up because our stuff is great.

Your customer base is mobile savvy and very social. Is engaging with them via apps and social media important to your strategy?

Social is critical, I’m not so sure about apps. The inclination that the individual big retailer in a mall environment is going to get penetration from a branded app, I’m not sitting there. We know that we’re not the only retailer our customer is ever going to shop up with. We’d love that, but it’s probably not going to happen.

Given that any single customer is going to shop with 20 different retailers a year, it’s unlikely they’re going to download 20 different apps. But as soon as you start to think of the app as an engagement strategy for my most engaged customers, it shakes the entire thing up because what happens is that the app is no longer just a sales vehicle, it becomes part of my overall engagement strategy in the lifecycle of my customer. What we’re working on is creating that omnichannel experience where we have one experience and it just works.

More than half my daily traffic in the US alone is mobile because that’s just who my customer is – for example 40% of our chats are coming in on smart phones. Mobile web is critical for us in a mobile-first way of thinking, but the app is something different. We’re not looking for it to be just another version of the mobile web site, we want it to be something else. It really is tied to loyalty, social, engagement and supporting the customer.

How is American Eagle addressing the challenge of pulling-in data from all the disparate pockets that an omnichannel strategy calls for?

There is absolutely a ton of data out there to consider but the key thing to remember is that the volume of data doesn’t matter if you can’t do anything with it. So, long before you get to things like predictive analytics, you need to be clear on who the customer is that you want to market to.

At American Eagle, we talk about the Single Deal Customer – basically getting to the point of having a single view of all the data relevant to a customer, and how we can make that accessible to our relevant business units and operationalize it. There’s certainly a lot of solutions vendors out there and we are going through the process of understanding our own ideal scenarios.

For us, it comes back to being able to tie-in all that disparate data to what actually happens in our stores. Like many larger enterprises, we have a hard email connection with most of our customers, which is a great starting point to build an omnichannel strategy from. Ultimately, the challenge is to make the upstream connection to our digital marketing and connect the dots to deliver a seamless, engaging experience for the whole of our customer’s journey.

Don’t miss out!

Register here for free.

In this webinar, you’ll learn:

  • The difference between geo-fencing, geo-targeting and geolocation
  • The savvy geolocation techniques being used by today’s top marketers
  • How to integrate geo-fencing or geo-targeting technologies into your marketing strategy, regardless of budget
  • How competitors may be luring your customers out of your business through their own geo-fencing activities on your own home turf.


John Koetsier, VP of Research, VentureBeat
Joe Megibow, SVP/Chief Digital Officer, American Eagle Outfitters

This webinar is sponsored by FollowAnalytics.