NRF 2018: Gap on how it chooses technology

Fashion retailer Gap takes an open-minded approach to choosing technology partners, and the company is not afraid to work with unproven start-ups.

That was a key message from an NRF 2018 presentation that featured Brandon Panepinto, senior product manager for store experience at Gap, who says the company is using new technology to better connect its store associates to the wider business.

“As we’ve walked around this conference over the last few days, it’s been important to see as much as we can,” Panepinto explained, saying several members of the Gap team have been exploring the expo halls for the latest relevant technologies.

“And we’ve tried to index more on what are the most innovative, interesting things. We’re not here to look at the little guy, big guy, whatever size guy, we’re all about how could this solve a problem we know about."

His comments came as part of an NRF case study conversation on stage with Jeremy Baker, co-founder of Zipline, a company that provides modern communications systems for retailers. The software is focused on facilitating and improving within retail organisations, so that stores can synchronise in-store merchandising, marketing and promotions.

Zipline’s platform provides a centralised way for internal communications, for example ensuring there is accountability when head office requests specific in-store execution, as well as speeding up the line of communication through its availability on multiple devices.

Gap Inc has been using the system since 2015, firstly through its Old Navy brand, but the wider group – including its 11 international territories – all use it now. It’s primarily for regional managers and store leaders, but the plan is to extend the usage to individual store associates to help boost their knowledge of the company and support them in their roles.

Panepinto said it enables Gap’s store network to be more consistent in their promotional and markdown strategies, acknowledging it was initally viewed as a risk to work with a start-up on a crucial part of retail operations.

Being able to test the product before going into pilot mode was useful, he added, saying “we like to play” before implementing this type of technology.

“It’s paid off, and no-one is regretting the decision [to invest in Zipline]. What’s next? There are more problems to be solved and the partnership is continuing.”