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How Target translates customer’s love into mobile experiences

October 18, 2016

Target's Cartwheel is adding an enticing new feature

Target’s Cartwheel is adding an enticing new feature

PALM SPRINGS, CA – A Target executive at the Mobile Shopping Summit 2016 walked through how it is able to create magical moments on mobile that keep the focus on helping its customer by emphasizing on the little things, keeping it simple and testing every detail.

During the session, “Customer Obsession: How To Apply Target’s Customer Centric Mindset In Your Company,” the executive explained that its original strategy in which it shared as much info as it could with consumers was not working. This past Black Friday holiday saw more sales on mobile than on desktop, which was likely due to the retailer’s new strategy in which it focuses on keeping it simple and valuable for consumers.

“So there is an easy to identify element out there, the Target guest, the customer loves the brand,” said Rob Anderson, senior director of guest experience of and mobile product at Target. “But how to bring that to life in the digital space?

“There is love for the brand but is that really translating to data, he said. “We know that the mobile customer who spends time with us on mobile and in the store spends up to three times as much.”

Targeting the right strategy
Target’s strategy is to partner with the consumer to help solve their problems and adhere to their needs. The retailer focuses now on creating simple experiences that benefit customers, which are consistent across platforms.

The executive credits this success by bringing all of Target’s digital offerings in house in which small teams of experts in different areas convene and brainstorm to come up with new ways to solve problems. For instance, one small team worked together to drive basket sizes up, and within 30 days it was up and available to the public.

target cartwheel
Target’s cartwheel app

Team members brainstorm to solve a specific problem and then vote on a the best course of action. After the solution is agreed upon, Target does a series of AB testing to fine tune the product.

Once Target believes the digital solution is ready it will roll out at a scalable process. For instance, the basket size solution was tested on mobile first, then tablet and then on desktop before rolling out nationwide.

Target’s method allows the retailer to weed through the staggering amount of innovation happening in the marketplace and within its own company. With so many big players such as Google and Amazon coming out with hard-hitting mobile solutions, it can be difficult to prioritize.

target insta 420
Target partners with others for innovations in shopping

Retailers need to test, test and retest to determine if a new product or trend will be helpful for them. Just because Google and Amazon are doing it, does not mean it is right for every retailer.

Target’s team goes over a significant number of KPIs and AB testing on its specific audience before determining if something new is right for it.

Target examples
One example of Target’s innovative testing strategy saw significant success. For stores where Target ran Google local inventory ads for patio furniture so mobile users can see what is available nearby, patio revenues were significantly outpacing locations that did not have the ads.

According to a recent post on Google’s digital marketing blog, Think with Google, by focusing on customer intent and context, Target reaped the benefits. After recognizing that shoppers might search on smartphones for patio furniture then see completely different merchandise when they came into the store, the retailer merged its online and offline marketing and merchandising teams for patio to create a unified mobile-first team (see more).

Target also recently piloted a new division of its Cartwheel mobile loyalty program that enabled shoppers to earn 10 points for each dollar spent in-store and choose from a variety of rewards once they hit a specific threshold.

The mass-market retailer revamped its Cartwheel loyalty app to include a bigger focus on points-based rewards. Shoppers in select pilot cities – San Diego, St. Louis, Houston and Denver – are now able to leverage Cartwheel Perks and earn 10 points per dollar spent in-stores, giving them more incentive to buy additional and higher-priced items (see more).

“Last year during the Thanksgiving time, we saw higher revenues coming through mobile as apposed to desktop,” Mr. Anderson said. “As far as the app space, cartwheel is one of the most downloaded app.”

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Brielle Jaekel is staff writer on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer, New York. Reach her at

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