This article was published in November 2010 Internet retailing
Despite having more than 130 high-street stores in the UK and Ireland, Gap’s online presence has lagged behind, with the UK e-commerce site only launching in August 2010.
So having taken the plunge, how good a job has been done in making the site usable and persuasive?
The homepage looks uncluttered and compares favourably with other fashion retailer websites which have a habit of crowding their homepage and providing links to multiple products and promotions.
The free standard delivery on orders of £50 or more and the free returns are prominently displayed and will help to overcome a key online shopping barrier of who is responsible for the costs of returning goods.
Shoppers are also offered a real benefit for signing up to receive the newsletter, with an offer of a 15% discount. This is a persuasive tool, with people always more willing to provide information if they themselves will get something in return.
There is a link to the Banana Republic microsite, but this is hidden away in the top left hand corner of the homepage above the Gap logo.
Few website users will notice this and it would be no surprise to see this link moved in future, particularly if Gap are monitoring the numbers of people switching between the two sites.
The main navigation into the Gap products lies through a menu at the top of the page. Unlike most other online fashion retailers, the menu offers no roll over functionality and so shoppers cannot shortcut straight to a specific product line such as ‘Women’s trousers’ from the homepage but have to make an additional click from the Women’s section through to the product line.
By not implementing any roll over functionality, the website is making it slightly more time-consuming to make a purchase and perhaps inhibiting the exploration of the site.
On the main landing pages, the links into the product categories are very small, potentially causing problems for those with vision difficulties or poor motor control.
The main product landing pages are well put together, with clear pictures of the product ranges available.
A ‘quick look’ option enables the shopper to have a closer look at a particular item, without clicking away from the wider range – akin to pulling something off the rack in a bricks and mortar store.
It is also possible to add a product straight to the shopping basket from this ‘quick look’, although this functionality will be inaccessible to many disabled users browsing the website using assistive technologies.
The Gap website, however, has no filter functionality. This means there is no way to refine a product search, by factors such as colour, price or size.
Many other online clothes retailers such as Javari and ASOS have implemented such tools, which can significantly improve the process and allow shoppers to more easily find products that match their requirements.
The individual product pages are well designed. Key product details are summarised and the size, colour and number of items selectors are easy to use.
Shoppers can view the product from several angles and a nicely implemented zoom function is activated when the user hovers the mouse over any part of the main image. It is also clear whether a particular item is in stock or not and the ‘add to bag’ call to action is obvious.
Once a product has been added to the shopping basket, feedback is quite clear, with the item appearing in the top right hand of the corner of the screen.
While it is obvious whether a product is in stock or not, there appears to be no indication of whether a product is low in stock.
Highlighting that a product is nearly out of stock can be very persuasive as shoppers decide to make the purchase immediately, rather than risk missing out. Some other online retailers have implemented this effectively, including newlook.com and amazon.co.uk.
The checkout process is relatively straightforward, with the required details collected on one page, with clear feedback confirming the inputted answers.
The shopping basket is visible throughout the checkout process, allowing the user to double check the purchases and edit if necessary.
In order to qualify for free delivery on orders of over £50, the shopper has to remember to add in the discount code from the homepage.
Since the shipping cost could easily be deducted from the final total automatically when a purchase of more than £50 is being processed, it is hard to escape the thought that this has been deliberately implemented this way to maximise profits from customers forgetting to do so.
While the Gap website has been well designed, nothing has been done to differentiate the shopping experience at Gap from most other online clothing retailers.
Indeed, some key functionality that appears on other websites has yet to be implemented, potentially making it harder for shoppers to find an exact product to meet their needs.