Marketing & Branding

How Gap Inc. Excels at Niche Marketing (and How You Can, Too!)

How can you save money and increase idea flow while still growing your company? You can start by checking out what larger companies are doing in their marketing and business models, and then tweaking it to align with your company. After all, why make the costly mistakes when you can sit back and learn from their lessons instead?

One such brand to look to is Gap Incorporated. The clothing company that has Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic, and Athleta under their umbrella is an excellent example of what to do and what not to do.

Gap Inc. has mastered their impressively accurate niche marketing concept. What is niche marketing? According to Brandchannel’s glossary, Niche Marketing is marketing adapted to the needs, wishes and expectations of small, precisely defined groups of individuals. It’s a form of market segmentation, but aimed at very small segments.

Sounds easy enough right? It’s marketing, so of course it’s not as simple as 1-2-3, but it can easily be copied for your own company.

How does Gap Inc. effectively use niche marketing? Just take a look at their various brands’ websites, and you’ll immediately see how they adapt to the needs, wishes, and expectations of small, precisely defined groups of individuals.

Old Navy

Upon first look at their website, you’ll instantly notice the fun and colorful homepage. Next, you’ll notice that the current sale is featured smack-dab in the middle of the page. One week it could be dresses, next week it could be discounted jeans for the entire family, and the third week it could be on-sale swimsuits and flip-flops.

Old Navy strives to showcase that they’re perfect for price-conscious consumers who still want to be fashionable. While not everyone may enjoy the clothing style they offer, everyone can certainly appreciate the affordability aspect that Old Navy is highlighting.

Gap

Check out this store’s site and you’ll get a very different look and feel right away. A bit more muted and understated, right? They also switch up what they show on their homepage. One week it could be a sale on polos, but the next week they could be advertising their latest jean cut (and yes, they are full price).

Gap is here for the customers who shopped at Old Navy while they were in high school and college, but now they’re working full-time and need work-appropriate attire that won’t eat up an entire paycheck. Even though shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops are extremely comfortable to wear, once you’re in an office environment this same style doesn’t fly. Gap tries to show they’re there for customers with their wide assortment of khakis and cardigans.

Banana Republic

Two words may come to mind when you see Banana Republic’s website: sleek and modern. The clean lines make the homepage appear organized and expensive, and nothing is out of place. You’ll notice their latest “collection” right away. It’s not just a new style of shirt or dress, but an entire collection consisting of shirts, pants, dresses, and more. Instead of consumers saying, “I bought this shirt last spring at Banana Republic,” they can say, “I bought this shirt from the Banana Republic’s spring 2011 collection.” Fancy, right?

Once Gap’s customers get that first big promotion at work and mature into their mid-thirties, Banana Republic (and Gap Inc.) is right there for them with the clothing for their next phase in life. Banana Republic offers consumers high quality fashion without having to head to 5th Avenue, Michigan Avenue, or Rodeo Drive.

Gap Inc.’s thought-process is most likely this: If people are buying clothing, then they’ll need shoes too. To get them, customers will want to shop with a company they already trust, i.e. Gap Inc! Besides, why should Zappos and Shoes.com get all the web traffic?

Athleta

I’m not sure exactly when exercising became so mainstream, but as someone who enjoys wearing yoga pants (even though I have no plans to actually exercise), I approve of the trend. Whether or not this trend took off in 2008, that’s when Gap Inc. acquired Athleta, which is a women’s active wear clothing and accessory company.

Athleta offers customers a chance to purchase a new kind of item (in this case, workout gear) from a company they know and trust already. Granted, exercise clothing may not be a necessity for a lot of customers, but there’s a profit in it nonetheless. You can’t blame Gap Inc. for wanting a piece of that profit.

While not everything Gap Inc. touches turns to gold (don’t forget the great logo debate from last year), they certainly are trying to get the largest piece of the clothing and accessory retail pie. Whether you’re a teenager looking for cheap, but fashionable t-shirts or a marketing executive in desperate need of classic and chic work attire, Gap Inc. has you covered in your specific phase of life!

Marketing segmentation can work for you, too, as long as you’re addressing legitimate customer needs. Just remember to strike a balance, otherwise you’ll end up spreading your efforts too thin. That’s a recipe for disaster you’ll want to avoid at all costs.

Do you shop at any of these stores, or have you in the past? Did you know that Gap operated under all of these brand names? Do you agree that this is effective niche marketing? Sound off below!

Image credit to ttarasiuk and Clipart.com.