CAMPAIGN INTERACTIVE: NEW-MEDIA CLINIC - Gap’s virtual outlet is too close to reality to attract shopaphobes

Men aren’t supposed to be into shopping, are they? So I must be something of a freak because I love it - as long as it’s not for groceries, which really is tedious.

Men aren’t supposed to be into shopping, are they? So I must be

something of a freak because I love it - as long as it’s not for

groceries, which really is tedious.



This makes me far from the ideal target for Internet-based

retailers.



Their whole strategy is designed to appeal to people who intrinsically

do not enjoy the shopping experience. The virtual mall provides the

shopaphobe with a technological escape clause: no more traipsing around

until your feet hurt only to realise that the first pair of trousers you

tried on three miles back was the one you should have bought. No more

rapid changes in temperature as you pass from the icy winter air outside

into the overheated department store, tucking your heavy overcoat under

your arm as you go. No more smarmy/pushy/rude shop assistants. No more

crowds. No more stress. (Ha! If you believe that, you’ve never used the

Internet.)



For me, this is all part of the fun. So put your supermarket online and

I’ll be first in the virtual queue, but if it’s clothes or even books or

records you’re selling via the Net, then don’t rely on the likes of me

because I’ll soon put you out of business. There are enough

stereotypical males out there, however, to convince the Gap that there’s

money to be made out of selling its clothes online. After launching an

online store last November, it has announced plans to expand beyond its

US home to the UK, France, Germany and Japan. The move is fortuitously

timed: it coincides with a report from Deloitte & Touche which predicts

a 300 per cent growth in electronic commerce in this country within the

next two years.



So will I be breaking the habit of a lifetime to join this growing band

of virtual vendees? Actually, a quick visit to the Gap site has left me

sorely tempted. It’s got this brilliant ’Get Dressed Interactive’ area

where you can drag all sorts of different clothes on to a model in lieu

of trying them on yourself. You can even alter the guy’s hairstyle, skin

tone and colour to make him resemble you as closely as possible.

Unfortunately, you can’t make him shorter or fatter, but you can give

him a goatee. As if I’d be that cruel.



Once you’ve decided what you want, you click through to an online

catalogue which carries actual photos of the items and enables you to

order them there and then.



The great thing about this is that it replicates (sort of) the shopping

experience in a way that involves you and makes the whole thing fun.

But, of course, it’s to avoid what I call ’fun’ that most online

shoppers use the Internet.



So where does that leave the Gap? In a no-man’s land, sadly, between

real and virtual shopping that does little to lend hope to its

expansionist plans. But at least it finally allows us to make sense of

the name.



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1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).