Fashion Forward: Mind the Gap


When you shop at the Gap, and the shop assistant puts your tee in a drawstring bag there’s usually two receipts. One is for your store purchase and the other piece of paper asks you to fill out a survey; in return you get a 20% discount on full-price merchandise valid for three months. We jumped on the Gap’s offer and asked consumer insight expert Sharon Ripps what the survey really means.

Why does the Gap want to know if we’ve worked at a clothing store, ad agency, market research house or PR firm in the past six months?
It’s standard industry practice. It’s called the sensitive industry question and it seeks to eliminate biased respondents. If you work for a competitor, chances are you may not be completely honest about your experiences at Gap. Marketing research folks are also eliminated because we know too much and spend more time criticizing the tool than really answering the questions as intended.

This survey feels so limited. At no point do they ask me about the fashion and it’s a fashion store! This could be a survey for Home Depot.
This is a limited study; it’s very focused on a singular objective but a very important one. The intent is to measure customer’s satisfaction with the service they experience at a very specific Gap store, at a specific day and time. The study is built to obtain a New Promoter Score (NPS). It’s a gauge of a customer’s loyalty or satisfaction with a service experience. As a method, it was developed to simplify satisfaction results and communicate to all levels of an organization, up to the CEO and down to a front line cashier. Simply said, a company wants more promoters (people who will recommend the store to their friends) than detractors (those who would be less likely to recommend the store to their friends). There’s been research done, according to NPS disciples that demonstrate a strong statistical correlation between high NPS scores and revenue growth.

Is this survey just a way to come down on store managers?
Gap may very well use NPS performance as an incentive for store managers. The study is designed to allow Gap to create NPS scores for a range of variables; that’s why they collect all that tedious data off the sales receipt. They can cut the data by store, register, type of transaction, time of day, dollar amount purchased. They can slice the NPS by all these variables, helping them drill down to potential weak spots, i.e., low NPS occurs at midday at X store.

I want to tell the Gap more. I want to tell them that the shop assistants should look more sparkly, like those J.Crew kids who are layered with jewels and sequins and their sleeves rolled up. I want to tell them to stop spending so much money on advertising and invest in out-of-this-world, in-store installations like Anthropologie. I want them to be more adventurous with their fashion. And maybe they should abandon the folded t-shirt table as it looks a mess by the end of the day. There’s nowhere for me to tell them this.

You’re right. They should follow up with an open-ended question to get at the whys behind the score. This is a real outage. My guess is that they do ask an open-ended question but not in every survey. It’s probably a randomized occurrence as it is a lot of potential data to read, organize and evaluate as it must be done by hand (an actual person coding the data) rather than a machine.

But come on, what about the clothes on the racks?
This study is focused on providing a key on-going business metric, one that is linked directly to revenue performance. I’m sure the Gap does other types of research as well: advertising testing, image testing, competitive response, consumer immersions, as well as trending and fashion spotting, to name a few. These studies are best done with other methods.

Give us your feedback. What would you write on a Gap survey?

6 Responses to “Fashion Forward: Mind the Gap”

  1. Leslie Shifrin

    Sharon’s answers an on point. You got a REAL expert to answer, which in today’s world is rare. The Gap should have someone like Sharon Ripps working for them

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