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Gap’s Take On Typical Buy-Online-Pickup-In-Store Programs: Too Efficient

Written by Evan Schuman
April 24th, 2013

When Gap looked at buy-online-pickup-in-store programs, the president of Gap digital saw the programs that others chains have as very efficient. Indeed, far too efficient. It allowed the shopper to come in, get their merchandise and leave far too quickly. The chain on June 10 will launch its answer to this feature, something called reserve-in-store, and it is designed to get the shopper into the store and to keep them there for as long as practical.

Art Peck, Gap’s president of growth, innovation and digital, said that this really what their shoppers want. “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,” Peck said. “That’s a wonderful thing. And it allows us to then build a custom shopping experience around that. 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.”

The most concrete difference between the two approaches is that Gap will force shoppers to pay for their goods in-store. After it’s reserved online, the customer has until the end of the next business day to show up, pay and pick it up.

That’s good for getting shoppers deeper into the store, but not so good for guaranteeing the sale. As Retail Systems analyst Nikki Baird said so well to an Internet Retailer reporter: “That’s the risky part of reservations: losing a real ‘right now’ sale for the promise of a ‘maybe’ sale.” Baird’s fear is if there might be only one item left of a popular product and the store won’t sell it to a shopper because someone on the Web reserved it, with no money down.

There is another risk. Not so sure that shoppers have the same contempt for convenience that Peck articulates. There will certainly be times when a shopper will want to buy a small navy-blue mesh raglan sweater and wants to grab it on the way home and may not cotton to the idea of being the center of your custom shopping experience. (Yes, I said “cotton” because it’s an apparel story. Deal with it.)

Starbucks recently debated a similar question—”Is it better to get them in-store or to get a lot more people to visit the website or interact with the mobile app?”—and strongly came down on the side of “it’s better to have them interacting digitally.” Starbucks’ rationale was simply that a percentage of those digital visitors will indeed end up in the store, which is far better than forcing them into the store. This is sort of the honey-versus-flypaper concept.


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2 Comments | Read Gap’s Take On Typical Buy-Online-Pickup-In-Store Programs: Too Efficient

  1. Mike Jones Says:

    When have customer’s ever been against more efficiency? Seems like a big gamble by the Gap.

  2. Marty Ramos Says:

    Hmmm…they must really hate hointer.com then…

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