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[17 comments]

Target Execs: Technology Changing Everything

November 30, 2012

Target has had some well-documented challenges with consumer-facing technologies in the past. Most of those seem to be in the company's rearview mirror at present and, in fact, a video of several of the chain's executives on the Bullseye View website provides examples of how Target is planning to use technology to drive customer engagement through the holiday season and beyond.

Casey Carl, president of Target multichannel, holds a smartphone in the video and calls it "the connective tissue for all our strategies going forward. It's really going to unlock our potential to bring the best of online and offline together in a seamless and integrated fashion."

Jeff Jones, chief marketing office at the chain, pointed to the use of QR codes in stores, circulars and ads, as well as "text-to-buy functionality," as means for Target guests "to see an item and to be able to literally interact with that item and have that item shipped directly to their home."

Mr. Carl said WiFi is allowing the company to deliver on the 150 capabilities within the Target app and is amplifying the "already great guest experience" customers expect from the chain's stores.

[Image: Target Mobile

FINANCIALS:     [NYSE:TGT] [ ]

Discussion Questions:

What technologies currently available do you think offer the greatest opportunity for stores to improve the customer shopping experience? What technologies will most shape the customer experience in the future?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

Do you agree or disagree with the view that smartphones are central to customer engagement?

Comments:

The answer today is clearly mobile devices. In the future, who knows? I'd say we haven't seen "the" platform of the future emerge yet.

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Ryan Mathews, Founder, ceo, Black Monk Consulting

Smartphones and tablets with instant deals, and especially savings at the checkout will continue to grow for these larger companies. Using your phones as a charge chard is huge, and all businesses will need to adapt to this technology. My concern in general is the new added costs of all this stuff. We can not pass on the costs to the consumers, as they already expect the really low prices, so how this will all work out is anybody's guess.

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Tony Orlando, Owner, Tony O's Supermarket & Catering

Certainly mobility gives stores the greatest opportunity to improve the customer shopping experience. Delivering product information to store associates, alerts to managers and relevant promotions to the customer is central to this improvement.

Good for Target for deploying wireless in its stores. Only 40% of retailers have got it on the selling floor.

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Paula Rosenblum, Managing Partner, RSR Research

As far as technologies are concerned, I believe near-field communications (NFC), e-payment in collaboration with new POS scanning technologies, if properly implemented, will provide shoppers with a greatly improved shopping experience by expediting the checkout process.

There are other currently available technologies such as integrated brand asset management and cross-channel publishing/delivery platforms that could facilitate a consistent and relevant brand experience across all consumer available channels which are slowly being valued and understood by brands and their agencies. Unfortunately, politically and fiscally motivated agendas keep many agency and departmental responsibilities 'siloed' and as a result, the digitally connected shopper, the brand and the retailer lose.

Many currently available enabling technologies could provide tremendous benefits if their potential were embraced by brands and their agencies. Far too often, brands and their agencies are too immersed in the status quo. Or conversely, the implementation of the technology is too one-dimensional and not integrated into a broader workflow and process that will benefit the customer.

Wearable computing and gesture languages will further propel future shopper experiences.

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Adrian Weidmann, Principal, StoreStream Metrics, LLC

Ten years ago no one would have predicted that mobile devices would offer amazing potential for the future. We do not know what new devices will offer the best potential for the future. It is also not possible to determine which devices offer the best potential for all retailers or consumers.

The sales data over Thanksgiving reveal that sales were strong across many devices. Just as the Internet did not replace stores and mobile devices have not replace the use of the Internet by consumers, new devices are not likely to replace today's tools. Each of the tools may be used differently or play a different role so strategies for all of them need to be considered. So the real question is, which consumers want to use which tools for which purposes and how can retailers respond to the desire of their consumers in a way that creates an engaging shopping experience?

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Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D., President, Global Collaborations, Inc.

As someone from a technology company, I can provide a long list of technologies that can help, but they all start with wireless. Add guest Wi-Fi in the stores and then your app and know you can speak to every customer, electronically. Next is to equip your staff with the right device for their role in the store, mobile computers are more cost effective then consumer devices and more secure too. Let everyone engage the customer either directly, or electronically. Set you Omni Channel plan in motion.

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Frank Riso, Principal, Frank Riso Associates, LLC

It's great that Target is promoting what they're doing, but they're 2-3 years behind the tech world on the technology.

QR codes are a blip in time and won't last. They will be replaced with markerless recognition and AR. I'm also partial to a technology I've helped develop—interactive fragrance integrated with mobile.

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Ken Lonyai, Digital Innovation Strategist, co-founder, ScreenPlay InterActive

Behind the scenes: technology to ensure that products are in stock and on the shelves. Consumer facing: Wifi that works, easy availability to more information about products, and electronic coupons and loyalty systems.

That said, all of the technology in the world won't entice shoppers if they can't find what they want and complete a purchase quickly. Retailers need to staff their stores with knowledgable, helpful and friendly salespeople. They can't be replaced by technology.

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Max Goldberg, President, Max Goldberg & Associates

With a customer's mobile device's "location services" turned on, the store can target specific and appropriate promotions to their customer as they are waking by the display.

The key is to tie this to the customer's past buying habits. That is what triggers the alert on their mobile device.

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Shep Hyken, Chief Amazement Officer, Shepard Presentations, LLC

The development in the mobile/social space is mind blowing right now. Several companies with global success behind them are soon to reach the US and Canada smartphone user with offerings that combine—personal offer selection, geo-location, loyalty/reward points fully integrated with mobile/web checkout, gamification, while at same time provide a meaningful relevancy to the retailer's APP or social platform.

One such company is Beintoo. They have the potential to "crack the code" and offer precisely what retailers need in order to monetize their investment in mobile shopping experience as well as leverage customer insight to lift store metrics.

David Slavick, Director, Loyalty & Retention, FTD.com

Survey says—Mobile (phone or tablet)—which can allow the customer to get all the information they need to make a buying decision. If your in store and need some help but no associates are around why couldn't you pull up the Target app and facetime someone to help you? It is all about on demand information to assist the buying pathway!

The obvious ones are using it to transact—scan and buy it in store linked to your red card and save 5%. Never wait in line again.

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Robert DiPietro, GVP Product Strategy & Business Development, Affinion Group

Many retailers are behind on the whole adoption of mobile technology and smartphone friendliness. While there is a cost associated with this new technology, failure to meet customers where they are today is also expensive!

And also, let's not forget about using technology tools to listen to customers and their feedback. While many of the larger retailers are using these types of tools, there is still an opportunity for many others to embrace it.

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Brian Numainville, Principal, The Retail Feedback Group

The smart phones of today will be in landfills resting on top of beepers in some near future date. Investing in the companies' IT hardware and site(s) to ensure communication capability equal to the highest attainable levels for all consumer devises, old and new, is the best use of investment dollars.

Both e-commerce and traditional brick & mortar are in their information age infancy with many changes on the horizon. The only absolute in the IT industry is rapid change. Betting on a single hardware technology (device) for the future is a sure loss. Maximizing the company's ability to communicate effectively everyone where ever they are now and in the future is a must for success against the soon-to-be onslaught of competition from a one world direct market competition.

'gjarnoldjr'

We live in a "four-screen" world—television, PC, Tablet, Smartphone. In addition, there are some 30+ other media forms, including the entire in-store experience, that influences the consumers' purchasing decision. They all potentially play a role in driving different segments of the population to the "last mile" of making the purchase.

Marketers who continuously hold a reserve for experimenting with their Media Allocation budget will be the ongoing winners. All the music hasn't been written for technology, or for traditional media forms for that matter.

Many ways to engage the consumer, and some of the best, and worst, ideas will be forthcoming.

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Roger Saunders, Managing Director, Prosper Business Development

The best technologies are not necessarily mobile or entirely customer facing. The best are those that ensure that the right products, a full assortment, and are in stock at the time the customer wants to purchase them.

Being able to view, get a price, see specs, or get an item at a retailer doesn't really matter if you can't get it where you want it and when you want it. Further, if they don't have everything that goes with it, it doesn't help complete the sale.

Here's an example of a Target experience. I searched several retailers with the goal of buying a gas grill over the summer. Target 'appeared' to have just the one. Upon visiting the store, what 'appeared' had apparently disappeared. Even though I was willing to purchase the next level up, I had another objective as well. I had to be able to get 'everything' that goes with. They had a great selection of accessories with the exception of the most important one—the empty tank.

Does a smartphone help with that? Nope.

Technology is a beautiful thing. It does not, however, create an experience. Those behind all the pieces of it assist in that. Most importantly it has to be equal in effectiveness as it is efficient or 'cool'.

Starbucks does by some measure make good use of technology—even making payment easy by phone. However, when you don't have the only thing you sell, the fact that it can be paid for by phone doesn't really matter—does it?

'Scanner'

The core technology that will offer the greatest opportunity is data technology. Mobile phones are a carrier of data and Wi-Fi is the transport of data.

Customers can now use their phone to look up data on products and services. Customers can create and maintain shopping lists that is stored in a database. Customer can present their payment credentials from a payment provider data store to conduct a transaction.

Retailers can provide more efficient scan-based trading with suppliers trading through the use of real-time data. Retailers can use data to understand patterns in real time, in-store and correlate to real-time data in the real world, such as weather and popular social events.

Data is now cheap and now readily available through the cloud to start processing immediately without upfront investment of hardware/software. Data will be the biggest game changer in the retail space.

Ed Dunn, Founder, (Stealth Operation)

Although there are a number of consumer-facing technologies, such as mobile payment options and RFID, that can improve the customer's shopping experience, at the risk of plugging our own service, a back-end technology that will improve consumers' overall experience but that they may not be aware of is the use of price intelligence and price optimization software.

These software capabilities, typically best delivered by dedicated cloud-based SaaS providers, will help retailers to price their products more competitively. In this case, "competitively" does not necessarily mean at the lowest price, but rather in the manner that is most reflective of their overall offering and value proposition to the consumer. In our (retailer) customers' experience, being "right-priced" decreases consumer frustration of price-comparing a product in store only to find it cheaper online or at another store for that matter, and increases conversion and loyalty, whether in-store or online.

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Alexander Rink, CEO, 360pi

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