Anka Twum-Baah, is Gap’s new Head of Loyalty & Partnerships. As a female leader impacting the tech industry, Anka is hyper-focused on the customer experience, customer retention, and building loyalty in major ways. Proof in point, her work at Marriott, Amazon, and American Express has propelled their customer loyalty programs to be best in class.

What made you the perfect fit for the GAP loyalty team? 

“I would consider myself to be a marketer, corporate strategist, and business development specialist, which I’ve been doing for almost 20 years now. My sweet spot is where customer, technology, and product meet.  

Over the years I have worked in a variety of industries; I spent roughly six and a half years at American Express in different roles, where my last role was managing Membership Rewards for markets outside of the US based in London. After that, I worked at a start-up and then spent time in Hong Kong (nearly 4 years) working for Marriott APAC. At Marriott l led customer loyalty, creative, digital platforms and partnerships. Following Marriott, I spent a number of years at Amazon, Microsoft, and tech startups. It’s been an exciting whirlwind and I’m happy to be able to use my expertise to solve customer paint points – that’s why I love loyalty so much!” 

You’ve spent a lot of time in technology, hospitality, and financial services. Why did you want to make the jump to Gap Inc. and retail? 

“This is a very easy question … Gap is an iconic brand. Regardless of industry, I always choose to work for companies that I’m a fan of or customer of, so when the opportunity to work at Gap Inc. presented itself, I was thrilled.  

This is a pivotal and critical juncture in Gap Inc.’s history – a portfolio of iconic brands and the right loyalty program will allow us to provide more value for our customers. 

Lastly, being able to work with this team is an honor. While going through the interview process and meeting with senior leaders, I saw how much collaboration there was, so to be able to work alongside such innovative thinkers is very energizing for me.” 

What are you excited to do with the loyalty space here? 

“To start, I am so excited that the new program has launched! From a customer perspective, I believe it will change how Gap Inc. performs at the portfolio level. It is an opportunity to provide value, not only in the stores but also within our digital spaces. It’s also an opportunity for our customers to see Gap Inc. as we intend: a family brands – which will allow customers to engage with us in new and unique ways.” 

You’ve spent a lot of time in customer loyalty, what about this sector of marketing and technology draws you to it?  

“I’ve worked in loyalty for a number of years, but I’m also a customer and, especially in this day and age, there is so much competition for your energy and time. I want to be a part of creating efficiency and value for customers, and I believe loyalty is a very direct way of providing this. 

Having a loyalty program that allows someone to have more time for their families, or money to go on that special trip they have planned, or afford that extra onesie for their child – those are the things that get me excited because they can help change people’s lives for the better. For me, that’s really tangible.” 

How important do you feel like loyalty is for our business and what is your biggest hope for Gap Inc. in this space? 

“Loyalty is a priority investment for Gap Inc. I would even go so far as to say that, within retail and given our current economic climate, if you don’t have customer loyalty, then you’re going to see negative impact to your business. The marketplace is competitive and that won’t end. Without true customer loyalty you will get a handful of transactions, but you will not attract customers that have deep and meaningful relationships with your brand. 

Our customers will always remember buying their first denim jacket or pair of jeans with us. There is an intrinsic loyalty our customers have to our brands and our products that has carried us for the last 51 years. Sustaining that for the next generations of shoppers is key to our success.”  

As a female leader in tech, how have you navigated your career to get where you are today? 

“It’s not always easy! I have been on a number of executive or leadership teams where I am the only female leader – and most often the only female leader of color. It’s hard, but fortunately, the companies I have worked for have been transparent about where they fall short. They have called it out and communicated that it was something that they wanted to change.  

I have been fortunate to have other female leaders in tech serve as mentors to me, as well as been offered support from my male colleagues who want to be allies and help me succeed. One of the things I loved about Gap Inc. very early on was having conversations with other female leaders and feeling a high level of support and encouragement.”

How do you foster great teams and be a great leader at the same time? 

“It all comes down to three things: trust, integrity, and value. It doesn’t matter how many great ideas I have, if my team doesn’t trust me, I can’t effectively lead them. It’s important for me to have a vision that my team knows that I can lead them to while allowing them to be their authentic selves at work.  

I’ve built teams from the ground up and I’ve inherited teams. I’ve led teams that were a bit of both, so I’ve seen quite a number of permutations with regards to team building. Based on my experience I’ve been able to be successful because of high levels of trust and integrity.” 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? 

“The most valuable thing I’ve been told is to ‘bloom where you’re planted’. Seek environments where you will be encouraged, challenged and provide a space for you to uniquely contribute. If the role sounds super cool and fun, but it’s not a space where you can be your authentic self and where your talents will be valued, then the experience will quickly fall flat. To that end, whether it’s career or more personal I try to find areas where I can grow.” 

Discover the full interview here