NEW MEDIA CHOICE: THE GAP WEB SITE

Launched amid huge hype and predicted by Goldman Sachs to generate ’incremental business’, sales from The Gap’s online store are expected to outstrip its flagship Manhattan store in 1998.

Launched amid huge hype and predicted by Goldman Sachs to generate

’incremental business’, sales from The Gap’s online store are expected

to outstrip its flagship Manhattan store in 1998.



The online store only serves the US at the moment. Presumably the

company is aware the price difference between UK and online products

could damage business here. Online products are 37% cheaper, according

to the price check I did.



The Gap joins other retail big hitters in the US who are adding Web

sites to their retail portfolio.



The sector is becoming so significant that Forrester Research expects US

online sales to hit dollars 17bn (pounds 10.5bn) by 2001.



So great expectations from The Gap. But how good is the online

store?



Stylistically, the look of the store has been captured online, but below

the surface, it appears to lack imagination.



Every retailer knows that shopping is different from buying. Shopping is

an experience that goes beyond the purely functional elements of having

to purchase essential items. Strangely, it’s the retailers which

originated on the Web that seem to have cottoned on to this. Amazon, the

online book seller, creates communities around interest in particular

authors, but in The Gap you get none of this.



Even though a customer is asked to register, the store doesn’t ask for

any personal details that could be used to show products which he or she

would be most likely to buy, thus missing out on an opportunity to make

this experience relevant to each customer.



When it does try, with a mix-and-match gizmo for clothes, it works

well.



It’s entertaining, and the product information is kept in the background

until needed. But this approach is not one that drives the customer

through the store.



The site is product-focused, rather than customer-focused, missing the

greatest opportunity the Web offers: the ability for a retailer to

tailor responses to the individual visitor.



New Media is edited by Amanda Lutchford, who can be contacted at

amanda.lutchford@ haynet.com



Client: The Gap

URL: www.gap.com.



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