When clothing retailer American Eagle Outfitters reported record annual revenue of $3.8 billion earlier this year, the company credited not only its youthful styles, but also its investments in technology. CEO Jay Schottenstein noted the 20% growth in the company’s digital business, which he called “exceptional.”
During the past several years, AEO says it has focused its tech investments in three key areas: mobile technology, digital marketing, and improving the digital customer experience, while replacing a range of legacy systems.
AEO’s website, for example, reflects the broad appeal of the American Eagle and Aerie brands, giving shoppers in 81 countries easy access to the retailer’s signature jeans, tops, intimates, accessories, and other lifestyle categories. Notably, many of the young people featured on the site and in the company’s marketing campaigns are real customers.
“We want people to feel good about themselves, regardless of who they are, where they're from, or what they look like,” says Brian Jones, AEO vice president of human resources. “We’re an optimistic American brand.”
AEO is spreading that optimism worldwide, via more than 1,000 stores in the US, Canada, Mexico, China and Hong Kong, as well as through licensees in another 25 countries. But that international expansion strained the limits of some of the company’s legacy IT systems, particularly its on-premises HR applications.
In part to accommodate the HR complexity of AEO’s partnerships across the globe, as well as the associated legal, tax, and reporting requirements, the company consolidated onto one global HR platform: Oracle HCM Cloud.
“AEO’s requirements included the aforementioned global capabilities, but we also wanted a platform that could accommodate the company’s mobile workforce, replace its amalgam of spreadsheets and on-premises HR apps, and document and standardize company processes worldwide,” Jones says. “We also need a platform that is secure by design.”
The AEO HR team had one more condition: It wanted a true partner that would consider the team’s recommendations for future platform capabilities.
Partners in Development
The first challenge Oracle and AEO resolved together were the “transactional issues” the HR team faced when it attempted to use Oracle HCM Cloud when transferring employees internationally or from one partnership to another. Oracle invited representatives of AEO and other multinational retailers to get together to talk through their challenges.
Oracle developers then went to work to update the global transfer function. Because the HCM software is delivered in the cloud, the fix was sent automatically to customers in the next update. “I was impressed that Oracle acted on its customers’ concerns so quickly, Jones says. “It was pretty cool.”
Jones brought a second challenge to Oracle’s attention, pointing out to Chris Leone, senior vice president for applications development, that the Taleo recruiting tool allows applicants to click on their LinkedIn profile and automatically update their job applications. Jones asked if current store associates could automatically update their profiles in AEO’s HCM system as well, to help them compete with external candidates for jobs and promotions. Wish granted. Oracle and LinkedIn last month announced Talent Profile Import, a feature that will let both external and internal job candidates easily import key elements of their LinkedIn profiles into their Oracle HCM Cloud Taleo profiles.Jones says Oracle continues to make a point of keeping him informed about its product development plans. “I feel like I have an open door to a lot of executives,” he says.