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Target's got (mobile) game

February 26, 2014

Target wants to play games — mobile games, to be more specific. The retailer's Digital Vendor Marketing (DVM) team has been working with brand partners to create mobile games that promote products sold in the chain's stores and on Target.com.

The retailer recently launched "Pop It!," a mobile game tied to the rollout of Purina's Beggin' Party Poppers dog treats in Target stores. The product's packaging itself is a game of sorts, resembling the head of a pig. Consumers can place a treat on the pig's nose, push down and watch the treat launch into the air. The mobile game mirrors this action — players push on an animated pig's nose to pop treats into the air.

"We're really focused on creating great games for guests that are simple, yet challenging enough to make you want to play again and again," Dawn Block, vice president of Target.com and mobile, told A Bullseye View. "What we love about developing mobile games is it's a terrific opportunity for Target and the brands we carry to engage with guests in a fun and relevant way."


Discussion Questions:

What role do you see for mobile games in retailers' marketing mix going forward? Is Target's approach — partnering with a brand — a good way to go?

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:

How important will mobile games developed by merchants and their partners be to retail marketing in the years to come?


Games are the way to the future generation's attention. The easier the game, the better for us older folks and the more complex, the better for the next two generations at least. But let's not forget the store team and games. What if every application and task were game like offering points or rewards for learning new tasks or performing a task extremely well? Games will be good for promotion much like coupons and slotting fees, retailers will gain some of the costs from the brands. Training and retention of the store team will also be an important part of "Gamification."

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Frank Riso, Principal, Frank Riso Associates, LLC

As long as the games are fun and not blatant advertising, they could work for Target and its partnering brands. The games should be refreshed often to keep consumers entertained. Branded entertainment has been around for years. The key is finesse.

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Max Goldberg, President, Max Goldberg & Associates

Mobile + gaming = engagement. This is a popular equation that brands and retailers are experimenting with to reach their relevant audience. Whether this translates into any meaningful or incremental sales is unclear.

A tried and true reality in retailing (especially relevant to Target!) is that if you can keep your shopper in the store longer, they'll buy more stuff. Since she often has her children with her, perhaps an engaging game on her mobile device(s) would keep her children engrossed and occupied while she can shop without being rushed.

Working with their 'vendor partners' is a nice way of saying the brand vendors will pay for it (now, later or somehow). Brands can, and should take the lead on this as it is their brand that will benefit from its success. The challenge is creating something that is truly relevant and valued by shoppers and just another cheesy gimmick that the agency pitched to spend someone else's money to get an award.

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Adrian Weidmann, Principal, StoreStream Metrics, LLC

Thinking with a gaming and gamification mindset is a good option as compared to the already worn location-based offer mentality. Engagement is sorely needed at retail locations and when the products themselves are part of the engagement, the value proposition is stronger. Clearly it's one thing that can't be replicated online.

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

Assume a business virtue, if you have it not. Now mobile games are being chosen by some retailers to fill that void in their marketing mix.

When professional, efficient retailing goes out of vogue - or it can't be attained - then fun, games and pioneering with brands becomes a non-boring replacement. But, me doubts, not too much more.

Gene Hoffman, President/CEO, Corporate Strategies International

Gamification is often cited as a great way to engage consumers digitally, especially in the mobile channel. Whether it's a branded mobile app or a text message promotion, these tactics help spur consumers and shoppers to action in ways that a more utilitarian mobile effort - like a shopping list helper - cannot. The fact Target upgraded store POS systems to scan smartphone screens a few years ago, and that this app serves a participant a digital coupon, makes it a great way to encourage new product trial.

Having said that, gaming app usage tends to decline over time, becoming another icon on the shopper's phone they ignore. Mobile apps that tend to maintain usage over time are focused on utility, yet those types of apps are not as quickly adopted by new users. So the ideal approach - to maintain mobile engagement beyond the initial excitement phase and perhaps drive repeat sales beyond trial - is to plan ahead for the post-promotion period with a utility-oriented app that builds upon the shopper relationship (like a loyalty app).

Regarding brand participation, brands "should" know their consumers in ways retails simply cannot, and so a brand can bring immense relevance to mobile engagement, either in a gaming format or one more utilitarian.

Consider that shoppers repeatedly buy the same items and their purchases represent only a small fraction of the SKUs available, and relevance and personalization is critical to mobile strategies succeeding. Brands are also reported to be held responsible for the quality of a mobile experience, even when the app is the retailer's, so for the sake of brand sentiment it's important for suppliers participate. Brands also have a chance to augment their own shopper insights by obtaining communication permissions for channels like email and text messaging in order to engage the shopper/consumer directly post-promotion.

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Gib Bassett, Retail and Consumer Goods Industry Principal, Oracle

HSN has done very well with gamification on their website. It was only a matter of time before gamification came to mobile. Kudos to Target for being a major brand to step up and take advantage of mobile technology.

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Shep Hyken, Chief Amazement Officer, Shepard Presentations, LLC

Gamification has gained a lot of ground recently, and it will continue to help to draw in new, younger shoppers. Target should do well with this strategy.

While partnering with a brand is a good tactic for co-branding, I also think Target would be wise to create its own gamification strategy, including external (to engage shoppers) and internal (to engage employees).

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Debbie Hauss, Editor-in-Chief, Retail TouchPoints

Pretty brilliant, but not sure it'll work. I like the "try" simply because of the popularity of gaming, but like a lot of things "social media," it still seems like more of a C to C function than B to C to me. I.e: I (customer) am not dumb enough to think they're NOT actually selling me something. They are. Buzz kill.

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Lee Peterson, EVP Brand, Strategy & Design, WD Partners

Introducing games for spot promotion of new products is a great use of mobile gamification. As most people only use games for a short time, it gives the retailer the opportunity to continuously offer a new game to promote the next new product. Challenge with the strategy is to find other mechanisms to continue the engagement in ways of perceived value to the consumer. And, obviously, the retailer should create and offer games to individuals with a propensity to react positively to the mechanism. Partnering with a brand to get funding to support the addition of gamification to their customer engagement efforts is a no-brainer.

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Larry Negrich, Director, Business Development, TXT Retail

Target continuously shows signs of being solidly in touch with 21st century marketing strategies and consumer trends with their new endeavors and announcements. Today's financial report card and the recent foreign store investment stagnation all of which is topped off with an enormous Information Technology security disasters are a bit of a damper for this bit of potentially good news. This willingness to "Spin To Win" may not see the success it has demonstrated in the marketing of politicians simply because the customers can say no to the offers of a business where as government gets paid with or without customer satisfaction.


You gotta hand it to Target. Their mobile marketing team is definitely thinking out of the box.

I mean they've already hit the bull's eye (sorry for the pun) with apps like Cartwheel, and now they have a mobile game? Nice.

And the game's pretty great too. It's fun and not "in your face" promotional, and it even gives users a free coupon in the end.

As for results, I'm thinking it's great for branding purposes (both for Target and Purina) and who knows, the coupon might prod pet owners to try the product.

Well played, Target.

Francesca Nicasio, Retail Expert and Author, Vend

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