Opinion: Why are big retailers like Gap getting omnichannel retail so wrong asks Rachel Wilkinson of Vivid Brand

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

Clicking on the Gap deal button for 20% off Sale/women/dresses, I found my hearts desire reduced to £29.99. It was in my basket within 20 seconds flat - surely a retailers dream.

But hold on. There's a Gap in my town so I could buy it there to check it fits and have it to wear tomorrow.

In the high street I swooped on the dress and took two sizes to try on. But as the Cashier rang up the bill it came up at £49.99. "I think that's a mistake," I offered. "It's on sale and should be £29.99."

The cashier insisted I was mistaken so I proffered my e-mail from Gap, then the mobile page showing the dress on sale. "Oh, that's an online-only deal," he said breezily as if online was totally disconnected from stores.

I heard him repeat "That'll be £49.99 please,” and thought I'd stepped back to 2001. He remained adamant: the only way I could get the dress at the reduced price was if I went online again. The Cashier pointed at an in-store ordering point. The 20 second dream transaction was turning into an annoying effort.

I found the iPad dead so shuffled back to another queue and waited. A handsome assistant offered another iPad and told me to help myself.

After going through the online order again I asked if I could arrange for the dress to be delivered to the store near my office. "No we don't do click & collect" (of course you don't) " ...but you can get free delivery ordering in-store."

Half an hour later - and three hours after my initial enthusiasm - I finally received an order confirmation e-mail. But I left feeling massively annoyed and wondering why Gap could not grasp the concept of omnichannel shopping and the convenience of click 'n' collect.

Cut to Sunday morning. My mobile wakes me, a mysterious number in the US.

"Hi, I'm calling from Gap. I need to verify your order". I'd already paid online the day before, verified my transaction with Visa on Natwest and received confirmation. "Yes Ma'am, I understand that, but we're based in the US and need to verify your bank details. We're going to tele-conference your bank into this call for verification. Do you accept?"

Incensed not only at being woken on Sunday morning, but by the insane idea of teleconferencing my bank to verify a £30 transaction that had already been verified, I impolitely cancelled the order. Why would Gap think this remotely acceptable for shoppers making in-store, online purchases?

As I seethed my email inbox pinged. I simultaneously received a cancellation confirmation and a new 'Extra 20% off Sale prices' offer from Gap.

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

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 the retailer’s system.

What can retailers learn from this?

44% of all UK retail transactions involve interaction with multiple channels such as in store, online, mail order and catalogue (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.

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 on any other channel will drive your customers away.


Rachel Wilkinson is digital director of Vivid Brand