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Target: Mobile is not merely a marketing medium, it is also a service channel

December 22, 2009

Tis the season

Tis' the season

Retailer Target really gets mobile and takes a 360-degree approach to its use of the channel for building brand awareness, promoting specific deals and enhancing the convenience of the shopping experience.

Mobile Commerce Daily’s Senior Editor Giselle Tsirulnik interviewed Sarah Boehle, a spokeswoman at Target, regarding the retailer’s mobile strategy. Ms. Boehle showed that Target is ahead of the game when it comes to its use of mobile.

Here is what she had to say:

Can you go over the ways in which Target has used mobile (mobile site, SMS, banner ads, apps)?
Target utilizes mobile capabilities in a number of ways.

Since 2005, Target has used text messaging in select advertising and marketing campaigns. Our goal is to be fresh and innovative, connecting with our guests in a way that’s reflective of their wants and needs.

Text messaging is layered into a campaign if we believe it aligns with our overall strategy or adds an element of interest or surprise for our guests.

One of the more recent campaigns in which we used text messaging was our Target Ten campaign, which ran from July to August 2009.

Target Ten utilized print marketing to showcase fun, playful top-ten lists highlighting products found in Target stores. Examples included ‘Ten Unofficial Products of U.S. Presidents,’ ‘Ten Good Things that Make Bad Mascots,’ ‘Ten Things that are a Total Oxymoron,’ and ‘Ten Super Trendy Celebrity Baby Names.’

Guests could then text the number listed in the print ads to have the specific top-ten list sent to their phone. 

Currently, guests can sign up to receive a text alert or an e-mail when the latest Weekly Ad is available for viewing on They can also register to be notified when the newest products for Daily Deals are made available on the site. 

In May 2008, Target launched our mobile site, where guests can view products, read reviews, check ratings, find the nearest store, browse our Weekly Ad and view our latest marketing campaigns. We launched the Target iPhone app later that year, in November 2008.  

This year, we extended the mobile offerings on our iPhone app, and for mobile in general, just in time for the holiday season. During the 2009 holiday season, the Target iPhone app ranked as high as No. 1 in the free lifestyle app download category.

What role does mobile play in Target’s overall marketing strategy?
For Target, mobile isn’t merely a marketing channel; it’s also a service channel.

In addition to promoting products, building brand awareness and engaging guests with our brand, we view mobile as an important channel to help our guests make the most of their Target and shopping experience.

With email and text alerts, for example, we’re able to make finding great deals even more convenient for our guests.

And with our in-store shopping tools (including Gift Finder, Target Lists, Find a Store, Find it at a Target Store, etcetera), we are leveraging mobile to help our guests find the items they want and need even more quickly and easily.

Target believes there are exciting opportunities for a brand like ours to continue to connect with our guests via the mobile channel.

We know that more and more, mobile devices are integral parts of our guests’ lives, so providing convenient, on-the-go mobile solutions will continue to be an important component of our marketing efforts.

What is the strategy behind using mobile? Are you trying to target a new demographic or simply adding more convenience to existing customers?
In addition to building brand awareness, promoting specific deals, and enhancing the convenience of the shopping experience, our mobile channel helps us to connect with current and prospective guests who prefer to research and purchase gifts online and who like to receive communication about the latest Target deals on their mobile phone.

Additionally, we strive to connect with current and prospective mobile guests in a way that’s reflective of their wants and needs. Instead of focusing on one specific demographic, Target is committed to creating an experience that is useful and relevant to mobile users at all ends of the mobile spectrum – from guests who are looking for basic, straightforward features to those who are well-versed in the capabilities of mobile devices and are looking for more advanced applications.

In terms of using mobile to ultimately drive consumers in store do you have any best practices or recommendations for our readers?
We are constantly working to identify new, exciting ways to reach our guests. For Target, this involves the following:

• We examine a variety of aspects when deciding to bring in new features – from guest feedback to industry trends. Our most important consideration is always this: What will be most beneficial to Target guests?

• First and foremost, Target wants to be relevant to our guests’ needs and wants. With that in mind, we always strive to understand our guests’ needs by creating mechanisms that allow them to provide us with feedback. Then, we use this feedback to inform our decision-making and to help us optimize and improve our mobile tools.

• We always strive to provide our guests with features that will make their shopping experience more convenient, and we continually explore new and innovative ways to reach our guests and invite them participate with our brand.

• We are committed to supporting the needs of a wide array of guests, including new mobile users who prefer simpler applications and more savvy, advanced mobile users who are hungry for more advanced features.

Do you have a mobile SMS club? What types of deals and promos do you send consumers on this list?
Yes. Guests can sign up to receive a text alert or an email when the latest Weekly Ad is available for viewing on and when our Daily Deals are made available on the Web site.

Guests can also sign up to receive Daily Deals updates via Twitter by following us at

We launched the Daily Deal Twitter account in September 2009.

What role is mobile playing in your holiday marketing this year?
This year, we enhanced and expanded our mobile features to make our guests’ holiday shopping experience easier and more convenient.

In addition to extending our mobile features, Target launched mobile access to “Christmas at Target” tools, including Checklists, Merry Planner Calendar, Perfect Gift Pairings, Target Christmas Videos and Gift Finder. Guests can also opt-in for holiday-planning text alerts. 

Other mobile offerings include the following:

• Guests can now use their phone to view, manage, and update their TargetLists and registries. TargetLists enables gift recipients to share their wish lists and offers gift givers a turnkey way to locate and purchase gifts that are “just right.” Accessible through the mobile Web site, this feature was made available on the Target app for iPhone in November 2009.

• Those guests who need a little more help finding the right gift fast can use Gift Finder on the Target app for iPhone. This feature categorizes gift ideas by interest, recipient or price to help guests find the perfect gift and stay within their budget during the holidays.

• Find a Store lets guests look up store hours and directions to the nearest Target store by entering their location or using the GPS on their iPhone.

• Find it at a Target Store allows guests to check specific item availability and aisle location from their mobile phone.

In your opinion, what is the current state of mobile marketing and where do you see it going in the next year or so?
We’ve created a page on (see that speaks to some of the capabilities we offer to our mobile users.

While we’re not able to share specific details at this time, we have plans to launch additional mobile capabilities in the future that are aimed at making the guest experience on the Target mobile site even more convenient and engaging.

Another goal moving forward is to drive more awareness around and ensure that our guests are aware of all the tools available and how those tools can benefit them.

From a brand perspective, what are the challenges or impediments of getting onto the mobile space?
One challenge is to ensure that the mobile site and our mobile tools align with what our guests are looking for.

Supporting the needs of a broad array of guests – including new mobile users who prefer simpler applications and savvy, experienced mobile users who are always hungry for more advanced features – can also be challenging.

To overcome these challenges, we are focused on understanding our guests’ needs by creating mechanisms that allow them to provide us with feedback.

Then, we use this feedback to inform our decision-making and to optimize and improve our mobile tools.

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Giselle Tsirulnik is senior editor at Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach her at

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