Tech Overlook

Jeans, activewear, cloud: Gap Inc. partners with Microsoft to create a more seamless shopping experience


Nearly 50 years ago, a real estate entrepreneur named Don Fisher had a problem: He couldn’t find a pair of jeans that fit, even after going to three stores. With his wife Doris, they decided to open their own store with jeans in many sizes and styles, a radical concept at the time. It was the first-ever Gap store.

Today, Gap Inc. is a global retailer with six brands, over 3,100 company-operated stores and product sold in more than 90 countries. Customers still come looking for the perfect pair of jeans, but now their expectations for where, when and how they shop have transformed. As the company looks to the future, it is continuing its growth and role as a retail leader with a new cloud strategy announced Friday.

With Microsoft as its primary cloud provider, the retailer will accelerate mobile and digital capabilities, modernize its supply chain, improve the in-store experience and deliver new ways to shop.

Store customer pays for clothing at a mobile checkout station with smiling employee
Mobile checkout at Old Navy.

“Gap Inc. is focused on using technology to transform how we provide a frictionless customer experience wherever and however our customer wants to shop,” says Sally Gilligan, chief information officer at Gap Inc. “Our journey and partnership with Microsoft will enable us to be more resilient and stable as a platform, scale more efficiently, and innovate and build solutions faster.”

Gilligan is leading the company’s technology evolution with Rathi Murthy, Gap Inc.’s chief technology officer. Their work will facilitate ongoing growth of the retailer’s active and value business, and support expansion of online and mobile services across its brands, including Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic and Athleta.

The elasticity of Azure will help Gap Inc. quickly scale for future holiday seasons, as the company migrates hundreds of applications to Azure over the next several years, starting with critical inventory, store and site management systems.

Cloud capabilities will allow efficient, reliable scaling with all peaks and valleys of consumer demand – from holidays to back-to-school season – and streamline a supply chain that moves over 1.2 billion product units a year. Azure will also support the company’s DevOps model of rapid software builds, releases and tests.

“Azure is going to play a very, very big role for us to be able to scale our business seamlessly,” Murthy says.

People process packages in a large distribution center
Gap Inc. distribution center in Fishkill, New York.

Gap Inc. is also building a centralized data platform on Azure to enable personalized shopping experiences and faster responses to a changing retail landscape, with more consumers shopping digitally and researching products online before they head to a store. The company will be able to better understand customers’ tastes and preferences with advanced analytics, data visualization and machine learning. It will be able to deliver tailored merchandising and marketing, and win more omnichannel, cross-brand shoppers.

Such shoppers are valuable consumers and Gap Inc.’s most loyal customers. That’s why the company’s technology teams have made it easy to shop online across brands, with easy toggling between sites and universal checkout for customers to combine items from several brands, like Gap and Athleta, in a single cart that ships together.

“We’ve seen a huge transformation in the whole retail industry in shopping patterns,” Murthy says. “Our online business continues to grow, so we need to make sure our platform is fast, responsive and able to scale.”

Headquartered where it began – San Francisco – Gap Inc. is also empowering its now-global workforce with Microsoft 365 solutions. The modern tools will help employees collaborate across brands and channels, and enable them to work faster and more efficiently through the company’s transformation.

“You can’t be on your legacy platforms if you want to empower your best talent,” says Murthy. “You’ve got to be on the next-generation platform. That’s where Office 365 and Windows 10 come in.”

Three people working together with laptops and a hand-held device
Gap Inc. employees work on technology solutions.

Murthy and Gilligan also share a passion for creating a modern, diverse workplace. Whether it’s developing female talent, working with students and community, or fostering innovation for everyone, the work is all part of a comprehensive strategy to build a faster, better Gap Inc.

“For me, diversity is not just diversity in race and gender, but diversity in thoughts and action as well,” says Murthy, a longtime mentor for other women. “Our customers are 70 percent women and it’s important to have the same representation in-house, in technology, in all aspects. Then we are best able to serve our business.”

To learn more about Gap Inc.’s digital transformation, read the press release.  

Top photo: Rathi Murthy (left), Gap Inc. chief technology officer, and Sally Gilligan, Gap Inc. chief information officer. All photos courtesy of Gap Inc.



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