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Target is 2013 Mobile Retailer of the Year

December 31, 2013

Target has been named 2013 Mobile Retailer of the Year, the highest accolade in mobile commerce and retail. The honor tops the Mobile Commerce Awards handed out each year for outstanding work that moved the mobile commerce needle for retailers, financial services firms and marketers. Here is the list of all the 2013 honorees.

While Target ended the year on a sour note thanks to a data breach impacting 40 million customers, judging its mobile performance on the basis of merit and mobile excellence over others clearly shows that the retailer is hitting all the right notes in mobile.

“While Target is under intense scrutiny for the recent data breach with its store-customer card data, that does not take away from the fact that it put its best foot forward this year in mobile,” said Mickey Alam Khan, editor in chief of Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer, New York.

“Unique among its retail peers, Target worked hard to understand how its customers shopped and met them there,” he said. “A successful retailer blurs the lines between channels but underlines the brand. That’s what Target did in 2013, making its mobile presence ubiquitous to the point of mainstream.”

Target is the first retailer to put in a repeat showing as Mobile Retailer of the Year, demonstrating its long-term commitment to mobile. The retailer previously won the award in 2010.

The Mobile Retailer of the Year is the most prestigious honor for smart, strategic and creative use of the mobile medium by a retailer. EBay won in 2009, Sears took top prize in 2011 and Walmart received the honor in 2012.

Mobile social push
Mobile commerce success requires more than a me-too application or mobile site, a fact that Target clearly understands. By consistently focusing on moving the mobile shopping experience forward and quickly jumping on board to test the latest consumer-driven technology trends, Target is able to hold a prominent place in the shopping habits of the fashion-forward, price-conscious moms who make up its core audience.

During the course of 2013, Target elevated mobile commerce through a multi-prong strategy that included a big push in leveraging social to better meet mobile shoppers’ needs, making it easier for in-store shoppers to engage with the retailer and challenging developers to innovate the shopping experience. Additionally, the retailer continued to fine-tune its mobile apps and Web sites while pushing forward its mobile video, location-based, content, advertising and couponing efforts.


Target’s mobile strategy is clearly resonating with consumers, which is reflected in recent research from Mobiquity showing Target was the most-browsed retailer in the second half of 2013, knocking Walmart from the top spot.

A commitment to harnessing the convergence of mobile and social is one of the factors that makes Target a winner in 2013. With unique strategies for Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, Target is creating more tailored, customized shopping experiences for its mobile customers.  

Target bet big on mobile social in its “My Kind of Holiday” campaign, which was its most digitally-driven campaign ever. The effort included hash tag marketing to engage shoppers, as well as special time-sensitive deals on its apps, including Cartwheel.

The Cartwheel app, launched by Target earlier this year, links up with users’ Facebook profiles to make it easy to share deals with friends. Users can add discounts to their personalized Cartwheel bar code and scan it at checkout in store to receive discounts.

To insure word got about the app, the retailer leveraged mobile app install ads on Facebook to drive awareness for Cartwheel.

Target started out the year on the right foot with a creative limited-time mobile game designed to entertain and inspire Super Bowl fans. Players of the Snack Bowl game were able to earn points by passing snacks to party guests for a chance to join the Snack Bowl Hall of Fame and challenge friends to beat their score on Facebook.

Embracing Pinterest
Target is also leveraging Pinterest with a new microsite that merchandises products with the combination of top-pinned items and best reviews on The mass merchandiser was one of the first brands to incorporate Pinterest’s new API to create a custom microsite.

Target’s social push has been paying off with mobile users, with 50 percent of tweets coming from a mobile device during the 2013 Back to School shopping season, according to research from Engagor.

The retailer’s social strength continued as the year progressed, with data from Adly showing that in days leading up to Black Friday, Target had about 986,000 followers on Twitter compared to Walmart’s more than 429,000 followers.

Consistently looking to innovate in the area of mobile shopping, Target sought inspiration from the developer community via a hackathon co-sponsored by Fast Company. The winning app – Divvy – was designed to streamline the group shopping experience by enabling multiple users to access a shopping list, update the list in real-time and split the bill. 

In-store shoppers
With in-store shoppers increasingly using their mobile devices for assistance, Target updated its iPhone app to improve navigation and make it easier for users to engage with the app from inside one of the retailer’s stores. The move followed the launch of free Wi-Fi in all Target stores in late 2012.

To support the Wi-Fi initiative, Target rolled out in-store signage encouraging shoppers to download the Target iPhone or Android app to help them find what they are looking for.

Further evidence of Target’s commitment to a mobile-driven multichannel retail strategy includes its introduction of ship-to-store services in the fall of 2013, enabling shoppers to place an order on Target’s mobile app, mobile site or Web site and pick it up in a nearby store.

Target made creative use of mobile advertising during the holiday season with an ad unit appearing in Pandora’s iPhone app enabling users to swipe through a gallery featuring popular toys and linking directly to a particular toy’s product page when clicked on.

Coupons were a big focus of Target’s mobile push in 2013, with the retailer using a combination of mobile advertising, SMS, apps and its mobile site to encourage shoppers to save money using Target coupons.

Target also redesigned its online magazine A Bullseye View with responsive design so that the retailer can provide optimized experiences on smartphones and tablets. A Bullseye View reports on the behind-the-scenes at Target, from fashion collaborations to its community service. The updated site also includes more social features, bigger visuals and an updated look.

Here are the winners of the nine other Mobile Commerce Awards:

Mobile Bank of the Year: US Bank
U.S. Bank is Mobile Bank of the year because of its commitment to continually pushing forward the mobile banking experience with new services and technology.

Now that mobile banking has been widely adopted by consumers, U.S. Bank recognizes that winning over these desirable bankers will depend on being able to offer the most robust, easy-to-use assortment of mobile services.

With this in mind, U.S. Bank has made a big commitment to photo banking as way to attract younger consumers.

An early adopter of remote check deposit using a mobile phone’s camera, U.S. Bank recently expanded its services in this area with credit card balance transfers that are expedited by taking a photo of a credit card statement with a phone.

U.S. Bank has invested in imaging technology so it can continue to maintain a leadership position here.

In early 2013, U.S. Bank introduced a way for customers who own an iPhone to easily make mobile payments leveraging near-field communications technology. While iPhones do not support NFC, U.S. Bank introduced the Go Mobile iPhone case that have an NFC chip embedded in them. Customers download the Go Mobile app and link it to their U.S. Bank Visa card in order to make payments.

This fall, U.S. Bank also became the first bank in the United States to integrate its mobile app with Western Union’s money transfer services.

Another way that U.S. Bank is looking to make mobile payments easily accessible for its customers is via an integration with the Square wallet.

Mobile Merchandiser of the Year:
While all flash sales sites are tailored for busy mobile users looking to fit in a few minutes of shopping on the go, stands apart from the competition because of a streamlined experience that is inspirational at the same time that it makes it easy for shoppers to find what they want and buy it. This has helped the online retailer drive 73 percent of traffic from mobile and 45 percent of sales.

Tailoring inventory for more personalized experiences was a key focus for in 2013 in recognition of the fact that personalization is even more important on mobile because of the more limited screen real estate. With this in mind, introduced a new personalization algorithm as part of the new “Your Personal Sale” feature. Users see one personalized sale per day that has been curated to showcase products they have previously shown an interest in. 

Another way that is supporting sales is by leveraging push notifications to inform members when an out-of-stock item becomes available again. The retailer is embracing push notifications over SMS for reaching customers in a more natural, less disruptive way.

Pointing to’s success in mobile commerce, the retailer reports that the most expensive item that a consumer has bought on mobile via Gilt is a $29,603 sale that included a 2014 Acura MDX car and a travel package in Los Angeles.

The fastest checkout time was less than one second for a $5,995 Volkswagen Jetta that was bought via an iPhone.

Now that the holiday season is over, continues to focus on showcasing its products in mobile, including via a week-long promotion after Christmas featuring mobile-exclusive sales with top brands.

Mobile Commerce Researcher of the Year: Javelin
The quick growth and evolution of mobile commerce, payments, banking and point-of-sale can be challenging to keep up with since mobile is so disruptive and no clear winners are evident yet.

Javelin Strategy & Research’s reports help interested parties keep up on the various stakeholders, their relative strengths and weaknesses, uncovering significant insights along the way. This is critical information for retailers and others to have as they decide where to place their bets in the fast-moving mobile space.

The company’s reports this year focused on mobile wallets, point-of-sale, banks, technology companies and other key trends in mobile payments.

Mobile CRM Program of the Year: Best Buy
Best Buy replaced its old loyalty program this year with a new one – My Best Buy – that places a greater emphasis on Best Buy’s iPhone and Android app to improve the in-store experience and offer exclusive in-store deals. For example, customers get points for checking in via the Best Buy mobile app.

The new loyalty program and the in-store focus is a key way that Best Buy is addressing the growing practice of showrooming, with in-store shoppers going online with their smartphones to try to find better prices on products.

While Best Buy’s sales have been suffering, in part because of showrooming, there were signs of renewed life in the later part of the year, following the introduction of the  new loyalty program, with the retailer posting better results than a year ago.

From within the Best Buy mobile app, loyalty members can access either the in-store mode or exclusive deals.

My Best Buy is divided up into two levels of membership: Elite and Elite Plus. As consumers spend more money, they unlock additional rewards, such as free shipping or extended dates for in-store returns.

Mobile Commerce Program of the Year: Sephora My Beauty Bag
Sephora growth in mobile is trending ahead of other retailers in part because of its focus on bringing out innovative mobile programs such as My Beauty Bag, which enables customers to collect their favorite products, organize them in one place and keep track of online and in-store purchases.

My Beauty Bag takes advantage of mobile’s anywhere, anytime capabilities to make it easy for beauty shoppers to keep track of favorite items no matter where they are. All purchases made in-store with a consumer’s Beauty Insider card will be saved there. Shoppers can use the list to repurchase products when they run out and find their favorite products quickly using several different sort options. Users can also save the items they want to try.

My Beauty Bag is an example of how mobile can function as a personal assistant to help shoppers in store, with Sephora expecting customers to pre-shop before they get to the store and then bring their phones in store as a way to work their way through a list and find out more information.

For holiday, Sephora expanded My Beauty Bag so users can send their wish list through mobile to another person.

Mobile Commerce Web Site of the Year: Target
While apps are a great way to engage with existing customers, as mobile adoption continues to grow, the mobile Web is the best way to reach new customers who are researching purchases while they have a few minutes of downtime during their busy day. First impressions are more important than ever on mobile, because screen sizes are small and users typically have do not have a lot of time.

Under these circumstances, a strong mobile commerce site is a critical pillar of a winning mobile strategy, as Target clearly knows. A recent report from Mobiquity shows that Target was the most browsed retailer on mobile, ahead of Walmart and The Apple Store.

Target’s mobile site is well organized, making it easy for browsers to find what they are looking for. The top portion features important information such as special offers. When users scroll down, additional sales and the dates they are valid appear.

The design is clean, using mostly the brand’s well-known red on top of a white screen with crisp, clear images throughout.

Easily recognized buttons encourage users to click for Target’s Cartwheel app, its weekly ad or coupons.

Further down, users can click through to specific categories such as women’s, baby’s, home or electronics. A simple image of a dress, stacking blocks or headphones illustrates each.

At the bottom, the site lays out some of its key benefits for shoppers, such as Target’s price match guarantee and 5 percent off with REDcard purchases.

Users can also click to download Target’s iPhone or Android app, connect with the brand via Twitter or Facebook and sign up to receive emails.

Mobile Commerce Application of the Year: Uber
Mobile is at its best when it solves everyday challenges such as finding a taxi when you really need one. Hence, the growing popularity of the Uber mobile commerce app, which is is now available in 50 cities and 20 countries. Uber makes it easy for consumers in search of a ride to connect with drivers of luxury vehicles for hire. Others have tried to copy Uber’s model but it still remains the leader.

Users can open the app, see a map of their location as well as nearby vehicles for hire and an estimated time of arrival.

The convenience factor is further driven home by being able to pay with a phone, either from a credit card or PayPal account linked to the app. Uber was the first to implement a new mobile SDK from PayPal making it that much easier to pay via the alternative payment service without having to sign in on a separate screen.

Uber’s commerce volume is reportedly growing very rapidly based on the reliability of the service and the added convenience it offers consumers.

Riders like the fact that they can rate drivers but the feedback is a two-way street, with drivers also able to rate riders.

Since it is an on-demand service, no reservations are required.  Users can also compare rates for different vehicles and receive an email receipt.

Mobile Commerce Technology of the Year: Apple’s iBeacon
One of the big promises of mobile is the ability for  marketers to reach users at a hyper-local level in the aisle of a grocery store or as they are walking nearby in a mall. Apple’s iBeacon, which uses Bluetooth Low Energy technology, is a big step toward making this a reality.

PayPal and others are coming out with similar technology but Apple’s version is garnering a lot of attention because the company has famously bypassed NFC. As a result, iBeacon is seen as possible play by Apple to get into mobile payments. Given the large number of iPhone users, this could be a significant jump forward for mobile payments if it happens.

Apple’s iBeacon became available with iOS 7 and could support marketers’ efforts by enabling them to use Bluetooth to create a beacon around a specific area such as a store to communicate with app users once they enter the area. For example, marketers could send users of their apps coupons or information about in-store events.

Some retailers are already intrigued. For example, men’s online retailer Frank & Oak opened a pop-up store during the holidays that leveraged iBeacon technology to enhance the in-store shopping experience as well as push marketing to customers.

Apple has also placed the technology in its own stores for sales and servicing needs, such as pushing consumers to buy low-cost accessory items.

Mobile Commerce Evangelist of the Year: John Costello, Dunkin’ Donuts, president, global marketing and innovation
Dunkin’ Donuts is pushing the mobile commerce experience forward through its innovative use of loyalty, social media and promotions to drive excitement and repeat visits from mobile users. The man behind much of this innovation if the chain’s president of global marketing and innovation, John Costello,who has global responsibility for Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin Robbins advertising, marketing, consumer engagement, digital, mobile and social marketing, consumer and business intelligence and field marketing.

Mr. Costello is an ardent advocate of the power of mobile, speaking regularly with the press, analysts and at industry events about his vision for how mobile is transforming the customer experience. He is scheduled to be a key note speaker at the National Retail Federation’s upcoming CMO Summit.

Mr. Costello is a pioneer of omnichannel marketing who previously served in key marketing and merchandising roles at The Home Depot and Sears. He quickly caught on to the potential in mobile as a linchpin in omnichannel marketing and is a director of the Global Mobile Marketing Association.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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