Gap's data maturity journey

Global fashion retail group shares how it has spent the last two years building out its personalisation capabilities

Gap might be a significant fashion retailer globally, but two years ago, the group was lacking a data-driven strategy that could bring personalisation to its digital and physical customer experiences.

Founded in 1969, Gap is located in 90-plus countries with 3500 stores via brands including Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Athleta, Intermix and Hill City. In all, the group achieved US$16.6 billion in net sales last year.  Yet even in 2017, Gap didn’t have the capability to be more personalised in its customer experience

Gap senior manager of Web analytics and instrumentation, Kelsey Todd, and head of digital performance and growth, Greg Phipps, said several catalysts converged to help Gap recognise the need for better personalisation including needing to change the mindset within the organisation around data, leadership’s renewed focus on the customer, and all brands requesting better personalisation capabilities. 

“All our brands requested better personalisation, however we had never successfully at scale personalised and have it be incredibly complex,” Phipps told attendees at the Tealium Digital Velocity event. “We define personalisation as actual data that can change a customer’s experience.”

However, disparate data located in various silos was a huge stumbling block. In addition, getting all data together is very slow, requiring digital and Web to deals with other teams across various functions. Gap also didn’t have a dedicated team to do all this. 

“We also knew as we personalised it would take a tonnes of content management. We had plenty of technology holes,” Phipps said. 

Delivering personalisation at scale 

To take a step forward, Gap went back to basics. It realised good data governance is foundational to data analytics and critical to personalisation. The next necessary step was confidence in customer identification, to provide the ability to take action on insights, in order to ultimately show up wherever customers are. 

The three steps started with data governance. Tealium IQ helped with this as Gap undertook a total redesign of its data layer strategy and moved all tags into Tealium IQ. 

“Data governance is very difficult for any organisation or industry. We had an added layer of complexity due to our shared e-commerce platform,” Todd said. “This joint shopping experience is great for shoppers, but it’s a nightmare for tag management, it can get messy very quickly. We overhauled our tagging strategy, we took inventory of all our tags and then prioritised, then saw data commonalities across all our vendors."

From there, Gap migrated all tags to Tealium IQ. "Then we had to repeat this seven times across all our brands, and six times across all global domains. Ultimately, we put in place a process that was repeatable and scalable, which is now all governed within a central team,” Todd continued.

The next step was confidence in customer identification. The data had been groomed by then and predictive models were stronger and more accurate. So for Gap it was down to execution. 

“Our teams had been sitting on lots of data and we had some models. However, in order to invest in tech you have to have a high degree of confidence in ability to identify your customers. We were sitting on lots of data, which we uploaded to Tealium AudienceStream CDP, to find new results,” Phipps said. “We were able to find some killer results.”

Finally, Gap needed the ability to take action. By 2018, data teams were growing, and Gap realised it was going to need more resources with different skillsets. 

“Behavioural badges are assigned within Tealium; if we have offline channel data it can also be added in to create badges," Phipps explained. "We had behavioural badges assigned, we created more badges and connectors, and then we could send these to any marketing channels, to keep it harmonised and orchestrated across all channels."

As customers navigate through the site, Gap could start personalising in the session. Over time, the ambition is to continue badging users towards the high-performing areas. 

Among the changes are landing page optimisation. “If you click on an email it will send you to a landing page. With Tealium we created 14 day badges for people close to the funnel, and sent them to an algorithmic-curated landing page if we think they are to close to making that transaction,” Phipps said. 

“We can personalise content at an individual level due to badges assigned. We have different types of content, unique landing pages, and much more.” 

To date, Gap has 300 plus data layers, 200 plus tags across all its domains, 534 badges and audiences created, 155 personalisation experiences run through the growth teams, and 87 unique permutations of the Gap homepage experience. 

With such capability, Phipps said Gap ended up discovering it was over-personalising, and recalled that back. 

“Next, we are focused on the next additions to the Tealium tech stack. We’ve been able to prove the value of personalisation, our teams have doubled in sized. Next, we will implement Tealium EventStream," he said. 
“We created a data governance team, now we have confidence in our datasets, and we’ve installed all the right technologies to take action for customers.”

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