Called reserve-in-store, the program begins in June.
Kevin Woodward , Senior Editor
Recognizing that consumers may want to visit a Gap Inc. store to try on clothing, and end up spending more as a result, Gap is adopting a variation of the order online/pick-up-in-store model designed to prompt consumers to spend more time in the store.
Called reserve-in-store, the program will start in June in 10 Gap or Banana Republic stores in each of two cities, Art Peck, Gap president of growth, innovation and digital, said during a recent Gap investor’s meeting. Gap currently does not offer online shoppers an in-store pickup option. Gap Inc. Direct, the retailer’s e-commerce unit, is No. 22 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 guide.
Having himself ordered online and picked up-in-store with an unnamed consumer electronics retailer, Peck remarked that he was in the store for only four minutes. “It's an amazing thing for me from a transactional efficiency experience in that store. It's a crappy thing if you're actually running the store because you just missed an opportunity to build a shopping experience around the fact that I was in there,” Peck said. “I was in there and I was gone in a heartbeat.”
Gap’s reserve-in-store program will differ from the in-store pickup option in that the shopper will pay in the store and not online, he said. Customers still select online an item in the style and size they want for a salesperson to set aside. “As a customer that unit will be held for you through the end of the next business day for you to come into the store, try it on, build a transaction and an outfit around it and take it out of the store,” Peck said.
A reserve-in-store model is a better fit for Gap than buy online, pick-up in store, he said. “Since we're in a tactile business where people want to try things on, they want to feel things, they want to know that it looks good, reserve-in-store, for us, depending upon the brand, is going to be a tremendous opportunity, number one, to get traffic in our stores that identifies themselves at the beginning of the shopping experience. That's a wonderful thing. And it allows us to then build a custom shopping experience around that.”
That shopping experience will be different for each of Gap’s brands, which include high-end apparel retailer Intermix, Old Navy, Athleta as well as Gap and Banana Republic. Its Piperlime brand is online only. The experience at Intermix will have a personal shopping feeling, he said, while at Old Navy, with its lower price points, it will be different, Peck said.
Gap’s move is a sensible one, says Lauren Freedman, president of the E-tailing Group Inc., an e-commerce research and consulting firm. “It drives customers to the stores and has the product ready, so it’s a great convenience for the shopper,” Freedman says. “They’re likely to buy incremental product.”
But one potential pitfall is balancing how long to hold items for customers who aren't yet in the store versus serving those who are there and want the exact same garment, says Nikki Baird, managing partner of research and advisory firm Retail Systems LLC. "That's the risky part of reservations; losing a real 'right now' sale for the promise of a 'maybe' sale," Baird says.
Peck also outlined Gap’s plans to personalize the Gap store shopping experience by tapping into data about the consumer. “We believe that this really will and has and is forming the bridge between the online world and the bricks-and-mortar experience,” Peck said. How Gap will do that is by asking why shouldn’t items in an online Gap wish list not port itself to a consumer’s iPad or smartphone and be available while she is in a store, he said. “That’s an obvious no-brainer. That shopping experience should be seamless across those channels and the show up and pop up in the store environment.”
He did not elaborate on how or when Gap might implement this capability.
The overarching goal is to engender consumer loyalty, whether the consumer is shopping in a store, online or on her smartphone, Peck said. “What we’re talking about with a multi-tender loyalty experience is giving you, the consumer, the incentive to self-identify at the beginning of your shopping experience, whether it’s on the web site or in a bricks-and-mortar experience,” Peck said. “It allows us to personalize a promotional offer. It allows us to personalize product information as you’re walking across the store.”