Gap Inc. wants to relieve the frustrations of shopping by getting “human-centric” and taking a “start-up mentality” to introduce new technologies.
“The fashion industry is ripe for disruption, the way taxis were,” said Gap Brands’ Gil Krakowsky, vice president of global strategy, business development and consumer insights.
“We have not served customers well,” Krakowsky said. “We have made it extremely hard for regular customers to understand when they are looking at a garment on a web site or on a shelf whether it’s going to fit them and going to look great. It’s a pain point. It’s superfrustrating to be shopping online or pre-shopping and not having the sense of how something is going to fit.”
Krakowsky highlighted several Gap initiatives, among them, a dressing room app using augmented reality and Google technology to enable shoppers to select an avatar on their mobile, based on their measurements and see an outfit on the avatar to examine the fit from all sides and angles. Gap began testing it in January.
Using the dressing room app and viewing a dress on the avatar, “You can see how it hits your butt, how tight it is on the thighs, how long it is, whether it hits below the knee, above the knee,” said Krakowsky. “It allows you to understand all aspects of how a garment will fit.”
Initially, Gap experimented using in-store body scanning to create a more precise avatar of a body type. “We did it in a concept store used by our employees, but they didn’t really like getting naked and having their bodies scanned. Even our own employees didn’t like having Gap Inc. store information about their naked bodies.” So Gap decided to go with an app enabling shoppers to select measurements for an avatar with a body type like theirs.
With its approach to technology, Krakowsky said Gap Inc. has taken a “start-up mentality” to develop a viable product quickly and get it out to customers quickly. It took Gap just 60 days to get the dressing room app running.
The need for quick action is there. “It’s incredible how anxious people are about the act of buying jeans,” Krakowsky said. “If we create confidence going into a transaction or a shopping journey in a store that something is likely to fit the way they want, then we have ultimately generated ‘customer love.'”
Krakowsky said, “The disruption in retail is happening in part because the technology landscape is evolving, partly because customers are evolving, and partly because the industry has not done an incredible job in making it easy for customers to engage with it.”
The dressing room app, Krakowsky said, is one of several items on Gap’s agenda to adapt the retail experience and create a less friction-filled shopping experience. “I believe if we do that effectively, we will build an engine of competitive advantage,” Krakowsky said.
Among other changes for the selling floor, Gap is reworking the language it applies to jean fits and “how you walk someone through a denim guide on the web site,” Krakowsky said. For some customers, Krakowsky acknowledged, the language has been meaningless.
“We have started transforming the way we present denim to women to make it much easier for them to select silhouettes. On the denim walls, it’s easier to find things.”
The efforts have included developing new signage and different product descriptions, based on input from customer panels. “This is not high technology but it really changes the ease in which people can shop,” Krakowsky said.
When developing technology to change the shopping experience, speed, scalability, and obtaining consumer input are built into the process early on, Krakowsky said.
“We are starting to build a different kind of muscle,” he said. Each time we do something like this, it evolves our culture a little bit. Gap is a big company. But you know what? It is a big company of progressive, energetic individuals.”