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Omni-channel and getting it right: What Gap and other retailers need to learn

In these days of 24/7 access to retailers, via mobile, online Instagram, Facebook, Vine and the good ol’ traditional High St, it comes as quite a surprise to discover that global fashion retailer Gap are getting it so wrong.

I woke up Saturday am to the e-mail I’d been waiting for: Gap was on sale and I could now swoop in on the dress I’d had my beady eye on since June. I never buy anything full price at Gap because luck favours the patient and also because Gap is pretty much guaranteed to have a Sale on every other month.


Clicking on the Gap deal button for 20% off Sale/women/dresses, I found my hearts desire reduced to only £29.99 (yay!) and it was in my basket within 20 seconds flat – surely a retailers dream.


But hold on I thought- there’s a Gap in my town, I’ll just go and buy it there so I can try it on to check it fits and have it ready to wear tomorrow.

At my local high st. store I swooped on the dress with pigeon like homing skills (having circled it for weeks prior to this moment) and took two sizes to try on. With my favoured size, I stood patiently at the cash till to pay. As the Cashier rang up the bill I realised it was coming up £20 too expensive at £49.99. ” I think that’s a mistake” I offered ” it’s on sale right now and should be £29.99″.

The cashier insisted I was mistaken and so I confidently proffered the e-mail I’d received from Gap that very morning and then the mobile page showing the dress on sale, to prove his error. “Oh that’s an online only deal” he said breezily as if Gap online was totally disconnected to Gap stores. Dazed and confused I heard him repeat “That’ll be £49.99 please”. I actually thought I’d stepped back to 2001, but he remained adamant. The only way I could get the Gap dress at the reduced price, was if I went online again. This is like HMV I thought to myself (and we all know how that ended up). The Cashier pointed at an in store ordering point. Sigh… Suddenly the 20 seconds retailers dream transaction was turning into an annoying effort. Was this dress worth it? I wasn’t sure.

Trotting over to the iPad I found it was totally dead and so shuffled back to yet another queue at the till. The Cashier apologised and said if I waited for him to serve the next 3 people in the queue he’d be with me to help. Yawn…. I waited. And waited. I watched as a handsome assistant strolled by and suggested that maybe he could help. In frustration (or annoyance) he thrusted another iPad he’d had hanging on his shoulder the whole time and told me to help myself. After going through the Online order yet again I asked if I could arrange for the dress to be delivered to me at the store near my work. “No we don’t do click & collect” (of course you don’t.. sigh…) ” …but you can get free delivery ordering instore” he said brightly. ( Every cloud….)

Half an hour later and 3 hours after my initial enthusiasm to purchase, I had finally made a purchase and received a confirmation order e-mail, but I left feeling massively annoyed with Gap and wondering why they could not grasp the concept of Omni channel Shopping and the convenience of click ‘n’ collect.

Cut to Sunday morning and my mobile wakes me up, ringing from a mysterious number in the U.S. Who on earth could this be? Could it be Tyra calling me to join The Next Top Model?

“Hi, I’m calling from Gap. I need to verify your order”. I did not understand. I’d already paid online yesterday and had already verified my transaction with Visa on Natwest and received an order confirmation. “Yes Ma’am, I understand that, but we’re based in the U.S. and need to verify your bank details. We’re going to tele-conference your bank into this call for verification. Do you accept?”

“WHAT? You need to verify Natwest? Or me? I’m confusted – VISA already verified the transaction via my bank yesterday and it was all approved. It’s for a £30 dress- Are you being serious?”

“Yes ma’am”.

At this point, incensed not only at being woken up, but by the insane idea of tele-conferencing my bank (and disturbing them in India) to verify a £30 transaction on a Sunday morning that had already been verified, I told her impolitely to cancel the order.  The dress was nice, but it wasn’t couture and I could certainly live without the ridiculous level of effort required to obtain a quite ordinary cotton dress I probably didn’t need on any level.

I wondered why Gap do not conference in everyone’s banks when we pay by card in store? Perhaps because it’s a ridiculous over the top thing to do? So why would Gap think this remotely acceptable for Shoppers making in store, online purchases?

Now I really hated Gap. But as I seethed with anger, I consoled myself with the fact that if they were regularly calling up every ‘foreign’ shopper’s bank to verify online payments that they would probably go bust soon and it would serve them right!

Suddenly my e mail inbox goes ping. I’ve simultaneously received one ‘Your order has been cancelled’ E-mail and a new ‘Extra 20% off Sale prices’ email from Gap.


Aha I think. I’m going to buy it again and now I’ll get another 20% off! Ha ha!! Take that Gap! If I add that discount to the insane cost of calling me from the US I can score a little victory against Gap’s system.

And so it was. I purchased my dress in the end, that was £49.99 in store, for the online price of £29.99 – an extra 20% off (+4.99 postage) = £27.99. Glory is sweet.



What can Gap and other retailers learn from this debacle?


44% of all retail transactions in the UK involve interaction with multiple channels such as in store, online, mail order and catalogue – Source Popai uk

  • Your shopper shops in store, online or via mobile. For the most part, these are not separate Shoppers. They will shop in whatever channel most suits them at the point they wish to browse or buy.
  • The Experience of Gap should be seamless cross channel.


1 in 3 ‘Click and Collect customers bought additional items in store – John Lewis

  •  Gap is Gap to your shopper, whatever channel she’s in. Whilst separating the channels behind the scenes may be a logistical need, the Shopper should not be aware of this. Complexity in supply funnels puts up barriers to purchase and will cause angst, annoyance and negativity towards your brand.


Multi-channel shoppers spend on average 4 x more.

  • Adding extra complexity to online shopping that doesn’t exist in store or on any other channel will drive your customers away.


See the article on Retail Design World here