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Gap expands omnichannel inventory program for added convenience

Gap and Banana Republic are expanding their “Reserve in Store” pilot to help holiday shoppers save time by reserving items on the go and easily picking them up in-store.

The retailers first piloted the program in San Francisco and Chicago, and it will now be available at all United States Banana Republic stores and in more than 200 Gap stores in 15 major U.S. markets. The cross-channel initiative ties together the digital and in-store realms of shopping to drive consumers to bricks-and-mortar locations.

“We’re focused on omni-channel strategies designed to strengthen and integrate the shopping experience, whether customers choose to shop online, on the go or in stores,” said Paula Conhain, manager of corporate communications at Gap, San Francisco. “Reserve in Store makes it even more convenient for our customers to shop with us whenever and however they want.”

Reserve in store
To reserve an item in-store, consumers can visit Gap or Banana Republic’s mobile or desktop site. On each product page, copy below the “Add to bag” option reads, “Reserve in store: find it now.”

After consumers select their preferred color and size, they can click on “Find it now” to find a nearby store. They can let the site use their GPS location or manually enter a location.

The retailers’ sites then lists nearby stores, noting if the item is available at each store.

Consumers can then click “Reserve in store”, enter their name, email and mobile number to receive confirmation of the reservation. The confirmation should arrive within an hour, and they can then visit the store to easily pick up the item.

Reserving from mobile

Consumers can reserve up to five items per day, and the items will be held in the selected store until close of business the next day.

The feature builds on the “Find in store” feature which is available on Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy and Athleta Web sites. The feature tells consumers if an item is in stock at a particular store.

Now Gap and Banana Republic shoppers can act on that information and bridge the gap between online and real world.

“One main advantage physical stores have over virtual is to not have to wait for shipping,” said Brennan Hayden, executive vice president and chief operating officer at WDA, East Lansing, MI. “The big advantage online stores have is to not have to wait to get to the store to pick out a product. With the in-store reserve, it allows a bricks-and-mortar store to provide the best of the online experience without the downside.

“It’s a little risky to roll out a new feature at the holidays, since if something goes wrong it could hurt sales at peak time,” he said. “On the other hand, both online and in-store sales peak at the holidays; and mobile phone shopping is projected to spike even more than those.

“The bottom-line is, there is a race by in-store and online retailers for the this hybrid model, and so I makes sense that a leading retailer would not want to risk being left behind during peak time.”

Mr. Hayden is not affiliated with Gap. He commented based on his expertise on the subject.

In-store shoppers
As mobile commerce picks up, retailers are putting more effort into bridging mobile and online to the in-store experience to drive more in-store traffic.

While it is important to let consumers shop however and wherever they want—enabling a great mobile experience, for example—retailers still have an interest in driving in-store traffic, since those shoppers tend to have larger basket-sizes. When consumers are walking around aisles and seeing actual products, they may be more likely to add them to their cart.

Retailers have therefore been experimenting with different ways to connect the online experience to the physical store.

A number of retailers, including Gap, have rolled out ship-to-store capability to drive shoppers to bricks-and-mortar locations.

Walmart, Sears and Nordstrom are a few examples of retailers making a bigger bet on ship-to-store efforts this holiday season (see story).

Other merchants such as Best Buy, JCPenney and Adidas have been using mobile check-ins on foursquare as a way to drive traffic into stores (see story).

“Retailers are aware that the walls are porous, that two-thirds of their consumers’ purchases are cross-media,” said Gary Schwartz, Toronto-based author of “The Impulse Economy” and “Fast Shopper, Slow Store.” “That is the reason that a third of digital media spend is allocated to cross-device campaigns. The challenge is identifying how to best create a seamless and intuitive experience.”

Mr. Schwartz is not affiliated with Gap. He commented based on his expertise on the subject.

“Every brand and retailer is trying to develop ‘cross-media’, ‘omni-channel’, ‘multiscreen’ services to connect their incumbent retail touchpoints,” he said. “The retailer that succeeds with this task will need to move away from reactive solutions and totally revision their retail offering based on the consumer journey.”

“Although smaller retailers have embraced innovative clientelling, showrooming and cross-channel selling solutions, we have yet to seen a black swan arrive in the mainstream retail market.”

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York