SAN FRANCISCO: Gap, the fashion retailer, is aligning offline and online sales channels for all of its brands in order to develop a more integrated experience for customers, who are often "running ahead" on digital.

Glenn Murphy, chairman and CEO, told an investor meeting that "the customer in our business is running ahead of us" and that the business needed to win on two dimensions.

"We need integrated customer experience," he said. "One brand, one experience, whether that's online, whether that's offline."

Leading Gap executives elaborated on his comments. "It all starts with the brand," said Steve Sunnucks, Gap's global brand president. "You have to have brand relevance with your consumers."

This meant getting customers to buy into the Gap lifestyle "so that they consider us when they come in to the market". And he added: "Our windows are our major traffic driver … We're investing in our windows."

As well as the bricks and mortar experience, Sunnucks predicted great opportunities online, noting that while around 12% of Gap's US business was online, it was just half that in Europe while in Asia it was only just starting.

Art Peck, the company's president of growth, innovation and digital, was more specific on the integration issue. He explained how the Gap app could not only find the nearest store but could also check store inventory.

"I've now materially raised the probability of having a successful shopping experience by being able to find those items that I pre-shopped online in the store," Peck explained.

The group is also launching a reserve-in-store feature that enables consumers to find a product online and reserve it to be tried on and purchased later.

Peck argued that a simple pick-up-in-store facility meant missing the chance to get customers to look at and try on other items.

It was, he said, "a tremendous opportunity … to get traffic in our stores that identifies themselves at the beginning of the shopping experience ... it allows us to then build a custom shopping experience around that".

Data sourced from Seeking Alpha; additional content by Warc staff