Given the growth of e-commerce over the last decade, and its offline presence, the lack of a Gap e-commerce site in the UK has been a bit of a mystery.
This was finally rectified this week with the launch of a transactional site for Gap and Banana Republic (with a .eu domain).
I've been seeing how the new site measures up...
The homepage is clearly laid out, with two tabs to switch between the Gap and Banana Republic websites. At the moment, a message greets shoppers from the UK, while the free delivery offer and returns policy is heavily promoted.
There is also an offer of 15% off in store and online purchases when you sign up for the newsletter, which is a good way of quickly building up an email database:
One thing missing from the homepage, or indeed anywhere, is a site search option, which is puzzling. The US version of the site, which is broadly the same, has this option, and I can't see any reason not to include it here.
Site search offers users a shortcut to the products they want generally converts well, and can benefit retailers by providing an insight into customer research patterns, so I think Gap is missing a trick here.
Also, if customers like a particular product that they have seen in offline advertising, in store, or on a promotional email, then site search is the obvious route into product pages for customers with a clear purchase intent.
Chris Lake pointed out the missing site search on Gap.com three years ago, though the US site has since added the option. It seems strange that it hasn't been included on this site.
The rest of the navigation is clearly laid out and works from six clear menu options on the homepage. Instead of providing sub-categories via drop-down menus, users need to go to the section and choose a category from there.
At the moment, the site lacks filtering options, so there is no way to filter and sort by size, colour, price etc. At the moment, since there seems to be a limited range of stock on the site, this isn't so important, but once more product are added it will become essential to make product selection easier for users.
The site has a 'quick look' option which allows shoppers to click on products within search results and see product details and even add items to the basket without needing to go to the full product page.
This quick view feature is becoming more common on e-commerce sites, and is meant to increase transition rates from product list pages to product detail pages by offering customers an easier and smoother route to view product availability and make a purchase.
The main product pages are good, with a decent range of product photos and a zoom option, while the available sizes are clearly marked, though delivery charges are harder to find. Since shipping costs are a key factor in many customers' purchase decisions, and Gap has a flat rate anyway, this should be clear.
The checkout process requires registration, which can be a barrier to sales, though any potential damage is mitigated by the fact that not too much information is required to progress.
The checkout is a fully enclosed, one-page process:
A single page checkout like this is designed to reduce abandonment rates since it requires less effort on the part of the customer, and it does allow users to review all of their details and make edits without going back and forth between different pages.
There are a few irritations with the checkout though. One is that there isn't a postcode lookup tool, something which can reduce the amount of work a customer has to do to complete the purchase.
Another is the entry of the discount code. Having signed up for the email offering 15% I was looking for where to enter my code. I would have preferred to do it on the basket page, and certainly before entering my card details, so I can be sure the discount has been applied first.
However, the code entry box has been placed after the card entry, while the box has been labelled 'promotions', which could be confusing for some. The word 'code' should be included.
Also, as the screenshot below shows, I came across an error message when I copied and pasted the code from my email:
It turns out that the reason was a full stop which I'd picked up when I copied the code.
This could have been executed better by Gap. Firstly, customers have to print the voucher if they want to redeem it in store, which makes it less likely that it will be used, while the code is impossible to remember, meaning people will have to copy and paste to use it.
Placing a full stop next to the code means that a number of customers will make the same mistake I did, causing unnecessary frustration.
A better idea would have been to make the code shorter and more memorable, something like 'GAP15OFF", or at least think about how people will use it and make it nice and easy to copy and paste.
Gap's entrance into the UK e-commerce market is long overdue, and given the popularity of the brand and its existing high street presence, it should do well online.
It lacks some of the bells and whistles of other online fashion sites, such as video, virtual wardrobes, looks, blogs etc, but does the basics well.
The website is generally well designed and user friendly, but there are a few problem areas, described above, where Gap could make things easier for customers and thus increase conversions.