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Abercrombie & Fitch + Fuel Cycle

Establishing Customer Empathy Through Constant Connection


In the dynamic realm of retail, Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (A&F Co.) faced the common obstacle of navigating a diverse customer landscape with multiple distinct brands. Recognizing the need for continual evolution and a closer understanding of their clientele, A&F Co. embarked on a journey of reconnection and rediscovery. This case study delves into how A&F Co. utilized Fuel Cycle to strategically leverage online communities to fortify its connection with customers. 

The Problem

A&F Co.’s diverse portfolio of brands meant they had to cater to a broad range of customers, each with various needs and preferences. However, a period of disconnect in their history revealed a gap in understanding their customer base. Abercrombie & Fitch Co. aimed to redefine its strategy to reconnect with its customers, learn about their preferences, and stay attuned to their ever-changing expectations. 

The Solution

In recent years, Abercrombie & Fitch Co. has experienced a positive evolution, with a key focus on embracing customer empathy. This case study will focus on one aspect of this transformation, which was A&F Co.’s strategic partnership with Fuel Cycle. A&F Co. established multiple Fuel Cycle online communities, two for the Abercrombie & Fitch brand and one for the Hollister brand, aptly named the Hollister Insights Lab. These communities, comprised of engaged members known as ‘Insiders,’ have opened the door to valuable insights and become a key piece of A&F Co.’s customer-centric approach. 

The online communities provide a platform for ongoing dialogue, enabling A&F Co. to gather insights, understand customer sentiments, and foster a sense of belonging among its members. Let’s look at some of the key engagement strategies that A&F Co. uses to keep the community Insiders engaged. 

Monetary and Beyond: 

Abercrombie & Fitch Co. recognized the importance of moving beyond traditional incentives to reward respondents for their participation in research. While monetary incentives, like “MyAbercrombie” points played a role, greater emphasis was placed on creating value for the customer by making them feel heard and emphasizing their influence in the business decision-making process. 

Engaging Activities:  

A&F Co. curates community activities to foster meaningful interactions among its Insiders, including: 

  • The Question Corner: A dynamic community forum where Insiders are invited to pose inquiries on any topic related to A&F Co. The A&F Co. Insights team collaborates with various departments to deliver comprehensive and detailed responses, transforming the exchange into an informative and interactive experience.
  • Welcome Discussions: A&F Co. takes a personalized approach by hosting ‘Welcome Discussions’ within its communities, providing a platform for Insiders to introduce themselves and extend warm greetings to fellow members. This member-to-member engagement has thrived, evident in the remarkable milestone of over 10,000 comments.
  • Surveys: A&F Co. orchestrates a diverse array of surveys within its online communities. These surveys serve as a versatile tool, capturing nuanced insights ranging from consumer sentiments about specific products (e.g., the likelihood of purchasing a heavy jacket in winter) to probing deeper into personal aspects such as mental health during specific seasons. This holistic approach enriches A&F Co.’s understanding of its customers.
  • Virtual Focus Groups: A&F Co. elevates engagement by conducting virtual focus groups tailored for its community Insiders. One notable instance involved a focus group for individuals packing for a vacation. The moderators virtually joined participants in the packing process, unraveling details about their choices and origins. These immersive activities not only captivate Insiders but also serve as a fertile ground for identifying white space opportunities and sparking innovative ideas.

These thoughtfully crafted initiatives transcend traditional engagement methods. They not only encourage active participation but also offer a window into the diverse perspectives of Insiders, providing A&F Co. with invaluable insider information and paving the way for continuous innovation and customer-centric strategies. 

The Results

The adoption of Fuel Cycle’s online communities yielded positive results for Abercrombie & Fitch Co., including: 

Proactive Decision-Making: 

With the insights from its online communities, A&F Co. has been able to take a more proactive approach to decision-making by actively responding to customer needs, utilizing real-time insights derived from community interactions. This shift towards proactivity has been instrumental in fostering a deeper understanding of its customer base.  

Deeper Understanding: 

Fuel Cycle’s progressive profiling capabilities have allowed A&F Co. to construct comprehensive member profiles over time. By integrating community data with other information like purchase and browsing behavior, the A&F Co. Insights team gets a holistic view of customer segments. This enhanced understanding has empowered A&F Co. to implement more targeted and effective strategies, aligning closely with the preferences and behaviors of its diverse customer base. 

Emotional Connection: 

A&F Co.’s community-driven approach has not only contributed to a heightened understanding but has also fostered an emotional connection between A&F Co. and its customers. This emotional bond has been pivotal in cultivating a loyal customer base, as customers feel more engaged and connected with the brand and see that their input is truly factored into A&F Co’s decision making. 

Valuable Insights for Teams: 

The insights gathered from the communities have become a valuable resource for teams across A&F Co. These insights serve as a guiding force, offering teams actionable data to enhance their decision-making processes. By tapping into the wealth of knowledge derived from community interactions, A&F Co. has positioned itself to adapt swiftly to customer preferences and market dynamics, thereby maintaining a competitive edge in the business landscape. 


Abercrombie & Fitch Co.’s collaboration with Fuel Cycle exemplifies the power of online communities in establishing and maintaining customer empathy. By embracing constant connection and engaging strategies, A&F Co. not only transformed its brand but also built a foundation for long-term customer relationships based on understanding, trust, and shared experiences. 

The Fuel Cycle Difference

Fuel Cycle’s award-winning Research Engine is the most comprehensive intelligence-gathering ecosystem that exists today. Our platform enables decision-makers to maintain constant connections with their customers, prospects, and users to uncover real-world actionable intelligence. By integrating human insight with critical business data, and through automated quantitative and qualitative research solutions, Fuel Cycle’s Research Engine powers product innovation, brand intelligence, and enhanced user experience.

Breakthroughs require action. We built Fuel Cycle to ignite it.