The article I am reading in Fast Company’s April issue sparks this blog post, as I connect the dots between Gap Inc. CEO Art Peck’s words and my recent encounters of online vs. retail store shopping.
Danielle Sacks reports about Gap’s new CEO and his vision of regaining the company’s iconic reputation it once had. As Sacks puts it, after a “15-year reign over classically cool, affordable style,” Gap “slept through the fast-fashion revolution […]; overexpanded; and became too ubiquitous for today’s niche-minded fashion crowd.” In the article, Peck calls Gap’s heyday Retail 1.0, followed by the fast-fashion wave, Retail 2.0. Now, he is out to win in Retail 3.0: “a mobile-fueled future in which physical stores will have an entirely new role.”
Yes, we have heard predictions about mobile becoming the leading form of digital media. But hold on a second. Physical stores will have an entirely new role. This is where my mind quickly turns back to the conversation I had with my mother two days ago.
Lately I have been entirely preoccupied with finding the perfect furnishings for the apartment we are moving in to next month. As I like to hear a second opinion, I discussed some of the options I was weighing with my Mom, sending her numerous product links of online offerings. Soon overwhelmed, she cried out asking me why I am so keen on shopping online for furniture, especially since it is impossible to find the perfect couch or rug without seeing it in person. I found myself slightly annoyed by having to respond to her question, but then I realized that the answer wasn’t obvious at all. “Well, it takes lots of time to go to all of these stores, Mom,” I explained. “I’d much rather check out the selections online and visit the stores to see and feel specific products I already know I like. Since I probably won’t make the purchases in store, I will end up coming home and ordering what I liked most online.” Even though it might sound like a long process, in my mind this is the most practical and comfortable way of doing it.
Some call this behavior showrooming, something I have been engaging in a lot lately. Partly due to the fact that waiting in any line in Manhattan can get nerve-racking, I prefer to go to the stores to see certain products, perhaps try them on in case of clothing, and order them online from the comfort of my home.
This is why Art Peck’s forward-thinking attitude caught my attention in the Fast Company article. “What will that store of tomorrow deliver?” is the million-dollar question, a puzzle he is working on solving as we speak. I came to find out that he was the one behind the introduction of the “Reserve in Store” and “Find in Store” features on the Banana Republic website, both of which I have used successfully and can only wish the furniture stores in question would also have on their websites. They would save so much time!
Focused on developing omnichannel offerings that bridge the gap between physical and online stores, Peck is experimenting with showrooms, mobile registers, interactive digital walls and even some vending machine formats. He admits to not having the exact answer just yet, but he knows that he would like to make mobile the “central point of all customer interactions:” No one knows what the retail store of the future will look like and the road to finding out will be rocky, but Gap is headed in the right direction under Peck.