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
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
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
Client: The Gap