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Gap prioritizes responsive Web as part of $300M digital investment

Gap is betting on responsive design as part of a three-year digital investment that also includes mobile point-of-sale and in-store pick-up.

During Gap’s annual investor meeting last week, Art Peck, president of growth, innovation and digital at Gap, San Francisco, unveiled a number of new digital and in-store priorities that the specialty retailer has in the works. Mr. Peck stressed the point that these investments are meant to turn mobile content and commerce into contextually-driven efforts.

“The opportunity to better monetize the huge amount of incremental traffic coming off of this device we see as very significant, and you will see pretty radical progress in our mobile Web experience, and the experience delivered to this device over the course of the next several months,” Mr. Peck said during the meeting.

“Responsive design — a big buzzword in the industry,” he said. “What it means is you design your Web site once. By rule of configuration, it automatically reconfigures the content according to the real estate size.

“We are rolling out responsive design right now as we speak [with] an improved check-out experience, improved browse experience [and there are] a number of things happening that will enhance our ability to monetize the traffic off of this device very quickly.”

Moving towards mobile?
The specialty retailer will launch a order in-store pilot program in June that will let consumers reserve products from more than 1,000 Gap and Banana Republic stores through a smartphone, tablet or desktop.

Additionally, Gap is testing mobile point-of-sale technology, which also includes inventory and product information. Per Mr. Peck, mobile point-of-sale feeds into a bigger personalized, loyalty program that will be tested beginning in May.

The specialty retailer also plans to roll out ship-to-store, find-in-store features and personalized in-store offers. Specifically, Mr. Peck highlighted browsing and purchase-based product recommendations as a priority to make online shopping more personalized.

Over the next three years, Gap plans to invest $300 million in technology to mesh the bricks-and-mortar and digital worlds together.

At the same time, the executive acknowledged that the retailer still has a ways to go in getting mobile right.

“If I said that we were 100 percent where we want to be on mobile, I would be lying to you,” Mr. Peck said.

“It is growing faster, and by faster, there are two or three very important metrics to look at,” he said. “One — email opens. Email is a huge driver of the business for us. We have seen our email opens spike significantly just over the past 12 months.

“The second thing is Web traffic. Old Navy has the highest percentage of visitors coming off this mobile device of any of our brands.”

Reserve online functionality

Fast-paced retail
Similar to other retailers, ?Gap’s news comes after a slow 2013 holiday season and beginning of the year that has retailers upping their digital initiatives to lure new shoppers into stores.

Gap is also under increasing pressure to keep up with fast-fashion brands including H&M and Forever 21 that are pushing into mobile at full speed to appeal towards younger, tech-savvy shoppers.

In fact, Abercrombie & Fitch plans to re-shift its brand image to align more closely with the fast-fashion brands through a new merchandising and loyalty program that will hopefully recoup some of its losses (see story).

Gap’s investments suggest a move towards marrying up the in-store and online experiences into one omnichannel approach going forward.

“I think it’s a wise move as it solidifies their interest and validates the importance of having these omnichannel programs in place,” said Lauren Freedman, president of the e-tailing group, Chicago.

“As a Gap customer myself, I now can move from reserving to completing the transaction which makes it even more efficient for me and other others,” she said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York