How Target is Mastering Mobile

Mobile and retail are–to use a 1970s Stewart Brand neologism–in a state of co-evolution,  evolving rapidly and often with exquisite parallel moves. Earlier columns here: How the Retail Experience Will Change and The Secret to Creating a Mobile Strategy speculated on the potential from the retailers’ perspective, then, separately on the typical shopper entering the store with a mobile device in hand.  Target’s a real–and really ubiquitous–company implementing these very ideas. There’s lots of fresh-thinking at this mass retailer, marketing with mobile technology to draw in their customers and draw them back the next time.

Value goes well beyond just price in the eyes of Target. Target is looking to use mobile channels to accumulate information about their customers.  The goal: have a customer leave the store satisfied–even delighted– and inclined to return the next time they shop. An example: adding value to their customers based on their current behavior is their barcode-scanning tool. Physical retail locations have  worried that potential customers would  simply visit a store to scan barcodes to price compare, would ultimately put them out of business. Target knew their customers were doing this. But instead of trying to thwart visitors intent on this clearly intelligent inclination, Target has embraced it. They integrated a barcode scanner into its branded app. Their goal is to drive loyalty by facilitating this trend, rather than attempting to thwart customers and encourage stopping of this habit. Target was actually the first big retailer to implement mobile barcode scanning in all of its nationwide locations.

Target’s mobile strategy is impressive for its agility. Rather than predetermining their strategy fiscal quarters ahead of time, Target has the ability to listens to their customer feedback. Again, strategy is always focused on adding value. By assessing customer feedback every twelve weeks, the Target team can adapt the strategy to new technologies and trends, as well as new customer behavior. This feedback loop induced Target to create a location-based app sync with in-store product availability and aisle location.

Here are the different channels that Target is adding in mobile strategy.  Given the energy with which Target is moving forward, expect this list to grow in size and reach.

- Target App users earn points and rewards (instant mobile coupons) just for walking in Target.
- They’re the only ShopKick partner offering scannable mobile coupons at check-out.
- Gift cards can be redeemed directly by ShopKick application by scanning at the point-of-sale.
- Customers who opt-in get sales and shopping lists sent to them via SMS.
- MyWeekly ad features a recommendation that’s personalized, based on known preferences.
- iPad app targeted for customers to browse, create shopping list, and generate in-store traffic.
- iPad app offers deals for locations specific to user.

With Target’s mobile success grabbing attention from both users and those in digital advertising, expect to see more major retailers get mobile heavy.  When/if  this happens, a lot of shopping experience is going to change.  I would really like to know what you, alert and thoughtful reader, think of this trend–either as a customer or as a retailer.  In any event, comment with any impressions you’ve had from using Target’s (or any retailer’s) app.

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