Target outfits stores to test multiple innovations

Discussion
Sep 21, 2015

Target is using 25 stores in the Los Angeles area to test about 50 of its top enhancements and innovations, many supporting its digital services.

Some of the tests will be programs and services already piloting in other markets while others are new ideas. Target said in a press release, "But the chance to test them all in a single market environment will help us see which elements work best together. We’ll use what we learn to build the best-performing enhancement combos into our future store prototypes and design plans."

The project, called LA25 and highlighted at last week’s annual meeting in Minneapolis, will focus on two areas: presentation and service.

The stores will present a more modern sales floor with updated fixtures and helpful signs. The front of the store will showcase the latest products and trends. Around service, some already-tested innovations in key departments, such as personal assistants in beauty, will be included, along with other new features to help support digital offerings. Target wrote, "Guests will be able to interact with some of the tests as they shop, while others will happen behind the scenes in our backrooms and supply chain."

Target digital advisor

Photo: Target

Among the features tested will be:

In-store experts: Beauty Concierge and Baby Advisors will be featured in respective departments to answer questions and provide personalized service and unbiased information about products. Target will also test Digital Service Ambassadors to help guests use digital channels such as its mobile app and Cartwheel and assist with in-store pickups.

Home presentations: In its home department, products will be styled together in displays, e.g., dinner tables, fully decorated bedroom spaces, etc. In-store displays featuring online-only products to showcase Target’s expanded options online will also be tested.

RFID: With store associates frequently challenged finding items placed on the wrong aisle or shelf, RFID will be tested to speed in-store item tracking.

Pickup/delivery: New ways to order and receive products, including curbside pickup and others, will also be tested.

Construction begins on the first wave of tests and updates in a few weeks, with a second wave launching in spring 2016.

"Over the last decade, as our guests’ lifestyles evolved to be more digitally-enabled — from the internet to smart devices — the way they shop has fundamentally changed," wrote Target in its statement. "They tell us they want the best of both worlds: A great in-store experience featuring the latest in on-demand shopping."

What do you think of the LA25 initiative? What are the pros and cons of testing new technologies in store clusters such as LA25 versus other methods?

Braintrust
"I vote for the choice Target made, because they have a better chance of observing the ease of execution and customers’ reactions for themselves. In hindsight, this would have been a smart move for J.C. Penney back in 2012, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel nationwide."
"I’ll say it again: retailers have gone mad for "multi-testing" and, although Target is a bit tardy to the game, better late than never. Target has a lot of ground to make up, particularly with e-commerce."
"To be honest, I was hoping for more creativity here. Simply staging products in real-life scenarios seems a little simple and two dimensional for today’s digital consumer, especially across the LA marketplace."

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13 Comments on "Target outfits stores to test multiple innovations"

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Chris Petersen, PhD.
BrainTrust

The major problem with U.S. retailers today is they don’t fail fast enough. The only way to find out what works with today’s omnichannel shoppers is to test it in the real world in ways that give consumers choice.

So bravo for Target’s LA25 initiative. Target has finally gone bold and digital.

Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

You can argue one way or the other whether the choice of a single market for this test — instead of spreading out the test to other markets — is a smart move. I vote for the choice Target made, because they have a better chance of observing the ease of execution and customers’ reactions (not just the data) for themselves. In hindsight, this would have been a smart move for J.C. Penney back in 2012, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel nationwide.

The longer-term question becomes one of speed: How quickly is Target prepared to roll out the best of its LA25 ideas nationwide? And are they prepared to deal with the higher costs associated with many of these ideas, even at some sacrifice to their value image?

J. Peter Deeb
BrainTrust

Target is getting out ahead of its competition by trying new things to enhance the customer shopping experience. Some of these services are already happening in department stores, DIY stores etc., but no one is doing it in a retail environment like Target that encompasses grocery and non foods areas. I think the learning will be immense! As far as clusters the ability to control and monitor the test far outweigh any demographic issues. Target can always make phase two more diverse.

Kim Garretson
Guest
Kim Garretson
2 years 1 day ago

I would hope that pickup/delivery innovation includes allowing shoppers on their path-to-purchase to set their criteria for future purchases versus just bugging them at every touchpoint to BUY. Why not ask them on the website and on mobile to indicate if they’d like alerts for: price drops, back-in-stock, new items from the brand, new reviews and other.

Tim Cote
Guest
2 years 1 day ago

Many of these changes appear to come at a high cost. Ultimately this will be a cost paid for by the consumer. I am not sure that the Target shopper is looking for a presence of salesfloor “experts” in exchange for higher prices.

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

It’s good that Target is out there testing and seeing what their consumers respond to, but from the “innovations” described in the article, exactly what is a new innovation?

Jeff Hall
BrainTrust

I applaud Target for its efforts to innovate the in-store experience using a blend of both digital technology and their associates. The approach signals a commitment to exploring how apps and behind-the-scenes technology can help deliver a better brand experience, while also being mindful of the impact their store associates can have on customer satisfaction through a differentiated and more personalized in-store experience. This appears to be a significant scale initiative, and in the test phase I bet there will be many important learning outcomes.

Ben Ball
BrainTrust

What do you think of the LA25 initiative?

Store testing. What a novel idea.

Snide old executive comments aside, this is an idea that has NOT out-lived its time. It was just abandoned by too many too fast. One of the hallmarks of Coinstar/Redbox’s early success was “try it somewhere and see how it works” real world, fast fail experiments. Maybe I loved working with them so much because it mirrored the “put some on a truck and see how it sells” approach I learned at Frito Lay. Hey, maybe Brian Cornell still remembers his PepsiCo days as well.

Good move, Target.

Brian Kelly
Guest
2 years 1 day ago

As the shopper is constantly changing, and so must retailers. LA25 is smart.

Separately, how old are these stores? Are there repurposed Mervyns in the mix? This might have very real pragmatic needs behind it.

Among the challenges is the speed of change driven by technology and adoption. Where does one draw the line? How are changes open ended for constant reiteration?

Further is the issue of market vagaries. How are these accounted for in a national rollout? How will LA play in Peoria?

Carol Spieckerman
BrainTrust

I’ll say it again: retailers have gone mad for “multi-testing” and, although Target is a bit tardy to the game, better late than never. Target has a lot of ground to make up, particularly with e-commerce, yet it still enjoys a loyal customer base despite a string of snafus. Target must ensure that the shoppers that frequent its stores also see Target as a compelling online and site-to-store option. Hopefully the LA lab locations will accelerate the process and close the gaps.

Gajendra Ratnavel
BrainTrust

From a technical project point of view, this is obviously the best path to success because having the stores in one place means one team can deploy, operate and manage. However, to get a good idea of how this technology will work, they need to try this in different areas. Stores in the Midwest will be different from L.A.

Karen S. Herman
BrainTrust

To be honest, I was hoping for more creativity here.

I’d love to see Target introduce augmented reality into the Vignettes they are testing for the Home department. Simply staging products in real-life scenarios seems a little simple and two dimensional for today’s digital consumer, especially across the LA marketplace.

Take the IKEA 2014 catalogue that easily lets customers play with products via augmented reality for example. It engages customers with products and lets them play and be creative. Engaging AR in this way builds on the fun of discovering a brand and its offerings while you search for what you’d like to purchase.

If Target is looking to provide “a great in-store experience featuring the latest in on-demand shopping” then introducing products through augmented reality in a simple, straight-forward manner would be an excellent way to go.

And guess who can assist people with questions about all the cool AR? Yep. The Digital Services Ambassador.

C’mon Target! Let’s have some fun.

vic gallese
Guest
1 year 11 months ago

Smart move in a low cost way. Are you listening Amazon? Focused service areas probably have the most potential.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"I vote for the choice Target made, because they have a better chance of observing the ease of execution and customers’ reactions for themselves. In hindsight, this would have been a smart move for J.C. Penney back in 2012, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel nationwide."
"I’ll say it again: retailers have gone mad for "multi-testing" and, although Target is a bit tardy to the game, better late than never. Target has a lot of ground to make up, particularly with e-commerce."
"To be honest, I was hoping for more creativity here. Simply staging products in real-life scenarios seems a little simple and two dimensional for today’s digital consumer, especially across the LA marketplace."

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