SuperTarget’s Customers Get the Message

Discussion
Dec 02, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson


SuperTarget is serious about staying connected to its customers. The retailer is now giving shoppers the option of receiving text messages on mobile devices alerting them to sales and providing information, such as recipes.


“Mobile messaging is a quick, convenient way to communicate with our guests and help them manage their time,” Target spokesperson Paula Thornton-Greear told the Pioneer Press. “We want to be where our guests want and need us to be.”


The chain began offering the service last week. Customers opt-in to the service by signing up online or typing the text message “Join 7” with their zip code.


“Target is very much ahead of the curve in the U.S.,” said Sandeep Krishnamurthy, associate professor of e-commerce and marketing at the University of Washington. 


Moderator’s Comment: What is your reaction to Target’s use of text messaging to connect with its customers? What do you see as the challenges/opportunities
associated with this tactic? What forms of unconventional media do you believe hold the greatest promise for retailers and other marketers looking to attract new and repeat customers?


George Anderson – Moderator

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19 Comments on "SuperTarget’s Customers Get the Message"


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Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

Great idea for Target for a simple reason – customer chooses to receive or not receive. Years of research on selective exposure to persuasive messages suggests greater than normal impact for Target.

Peter Fader
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

What an icky, foolish thing to do — Target should know better! This will open up a torrent of spam and kill M-Commerce before it ever gets a chance to get off the ground.

It might work for a short while due to the sheer novelty (but so did pop-up Internet ads). Soon afterwards there will be calls for legislation against this practice.

Terrible move on their part.

Rick Moss
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

Respectfully to those commentators above, saying that this won’t last because people will be annoyed is like saying spammers will all go away because we’re fed up with them. If it works for marketers, it’ll take hold, and we’ll just have to deal with it. I see how my teenage daughter and her friends use text messaging and, believe me, this will seem like a natural to them. Target may be prying open the floodgates, but someone’s going to do it. Maybe they can get some effective marketing in before the wave hits.

Joel Warady
Guest
Joel Warady
15 years 2 months ago
I find it interesting that those on the panel who are against the messages coming through on their mobile phone, are negative on the idea due to a lack of understanding of the huge value of this service. If Target sets the program up properly, they will allow consumers to choose the products, and product categories, in which they have interest. They will allow the consumer to choose when they want to be notified during the day, and how often during the week. If a consumer is notified about products that are meaningful, and they are notified when and how often they choose, the messages will be relevant and anticipated, no different than an Amazon.com book recommendations, or the Tuesday iPod notices of new music releases. Target should be commended, because they are thinking the way their consumers are living. We are not the ones they are targeting; it is the 16-30 age group that live on their mobile phone, texting their friends, doing Google searches on their phone, and sending photos via phone networks.… Read more »
Karen Kingsley
Guest
Karen Kingsley
15 years 2 months ago

Those of us who write in this space are not likely to be the early adopters of this. This will definitely skew younger and to those most comfortable with the technology.

If Target is both careful and respectful in how they use this, it could be enormously successful. They may be slightly ahead of the curve here, but a large chain which holds the trust of its shoppers is the best test case.

The key here is that it’s opt-in. No one has to do it. How successful it turns out to be will depend on the response of those who sign on early. I, for one, am looking forward to the ubiquitous, but carefully considered, use of this technology.

Stephan Kouzomis
Guest
Stephan Kouzomis
15 years 2 months ago

Target has to be one of the best, if not the best, marketer of
all retailers. It shows Target’s savviness, if you will, about its shoppers and how to connect with a certain segment of the shopping community.

Target, again, stays in touch with its shopper base and truly gains the first three points on the RW survey list.

By the way, Target isn’t hip; text messages are used by adults too. Target is just smart, and others should note.

Why do you think Wal-Mart brought in a high powered Pepsico
senior marketing executive? To set up price ads? Hmmmmmmmmmmmm

David Livingston
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

Perhaps I am alone but I would never opt into allowing a retailer to spam me with text messages. I think this will get old fast. It will go from being informative to annoying real quick.

Mark Hunter
Guest
Mark Hunter
15 years 2 months ago

Key will be for them to use it very cautiously. If they use it too much they will be viewed as intrusive yet if they don’t use it enough people will not find any connection. In the end success will only come if they can tailor the messages and the frequency to the individual consumer and this will be much harder than they think. I can’t help but think of how Amazon.com has tried this same thing using email and the problems they’ve had and the subsequent negative press that came from it. In the end Target is moving into a very risky area, but to Target’s credit they have not been shy about numerous other risky marketing / PR projects.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
15 years 2 months ago

Great idea! As the subscriber base grows, Target will actually be able to reach shoppers while they are shopping, whether in their stores, or those of competitors. This takes the Amazon model of offering items based on purchase history to a higher level, assuming that the proper databases can be mined to a new level of accuracy and understanding as well.

Race Cowgill
Guest
Race Cowgill
15 years 2 months ago
Great idea, but how well it works and its value will depend, again, on execution. This reminds me of the excitement surrounding the “stay close to the customer” talk we heard when businesses began to email their customers about events, specials, etc. The “cool” factor of business-to-customer email is now gone, and we are left, in my experience, with loads of low-value emails from places where we shop, most of which I end up unsubscribing from. Will this be all that much more valuable to customers than seeing specials and information on a store’s web site, for example? Will we come to a place, in a couple of years, where text-messaging is something we all complain about, like spam? Target seems to be talking about the idea of creating a presence in customers’ minds so that customers shop more often and with more share of wallet (because they feel Target is their friend and has what they want at good prices). One-size-fits-all announcements of specials seems to match with customers who actually want the items… Read more »
Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

I’m already getting spam text messages on my cell phone. It annoys me greatly. Target’s move won’t last long.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

“Less is more,” said Mies van der Rohe. Most retailers believe that the essence of advertising is repetition, which is the opposite of Mies’ famous pronouncement. If Target is very selective about the messages, their frequency, and their quality, they’ll have a winner. If it gets excessive or is poorly targeted, people will turn it off. Best thing about the tactic: its effectiveness can be easily measured. Second best thing: it’s cheap as dirt. How many other ad media can make those 2 claims?

Mike Romano
Guest
Mike Romano
15 years 2 months ago

SmartReply is already offering this type of opt-in text message notification service to retailers and grocers nationwide. It is 100% customer opt-in. If a consumer CHOOSES to receive a text or voice message, then it’s not spam – it’s consent to receive a relevant customer message.

Jennifer Whetzel
Guest
Jennifer Whetzel
15 years 2 months ago

It doesn’t seem that there are any Target junkies on the panel. As an opt-in practice, it won’t be intrusive to those who are just waiting for an excuse to make a Target run. I think this is a huge opportunity for them to connect with their brand ambassadors because those are the ones who will opt-in. If you think their “spam” will be intrusive, then don’t sign up!

Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

I liked Karen’s point, that it’s opt-in. And Joel Warady reminded me once again that I need to be more open to new things. RetailWire is terrific.

Mark Burr
Guest
15 years 2 months ago
Okay, so I read the comments and, like Warren, maybe I could be a little more open to it also. After all, it is an opt-in program, right? For those that are younger and more in tune with constant hands-on technology, it may simply be great. For me, well, even though I was swayed a bit from the comments, I don’t see myself rushing in to sign up. In fact, I simply hate my cell phone in the first place. This week, something totally unconventional did happen to me. I actually received a call from a real sales person at Jos. A. Bank informing me that some of my favorite items would be on sale beginning on the 6th with even more of a discount with a corporate card. Now, you might say, wait a minute ‘Scanner,’ that’s totally conventional. Is it? I think not. I haven’t had such a sincere call in years. That was real target marketing to me. And, it came on a real phone! At my office no less! This type… Read more »
Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 2 months ago
Some ten years ago, when I was running a small mail order speciality food company, we would call people to offer them special rates on products that they ordered regularly. Of course there were only two of us processing all the orders and most of the customers knew us so there was some definite relationship and loyalty building going on. And it worked. No one got annoyed, either side, whether the customer decided to go with the offer or not. Then the business grew – or would/should have had I allowed it – and such personal attention was no longer practical. Which was one of the reasons I pulled the plug. It was a case of either growing the business to such an extent that it would have lost its character and personality or calling it quits. I chose the latter. If I couldn’t maintain personal contact and provide a service that my customers perceived as being tailored to their interests, then I didn’t want to see the concept perverted and transformed into an efficient,… Read more »
Peter Fader
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

Picture this: You’re in a meeting and you feel your phone vibrate. It says, “Big sale on Heinz ketchup!” Does that make your day?

I think it might be OK for an apparel retailer to ping you 2-3 times a year about special sales on items you’ve purchased before. But how often is a grocery store or mass-merchandiser going to tell you something you really need to know?

I’m a huge fan of Target and admire their proactive approach, but I still say this will do more harm than good. After Target annoys you for the 20th time with some unimportant message about a CPG product, you’ll be jaded about any ads coming through your phone.

Just because it’s opt-in, that doesn’t mean they can’t do some damage to the relationship with their guests.

Frank Beurskens
Guest
15 years 2 months ago
I applaud Target’s experimentation with alternative digital communication channels. While pushing text messages has drawbacks, I wouldn’t view this as an end all strategy. Ubiquitous networks, like the cell and the web where everyone is digitally addressable, lowers broadcast costs dramatically. It will, however, become noise (spam) when everyone does it. From Target’s perspective, not everyone is doing it now, so hats off. But, there is a moving “target.” The more digitally accessible and enabled the customer becomes, the more control they will take; control to determine what messages they want to view and when (TiVo); control to access media when they want, where they want; and control to permanently dis- if they are offended. Those of us developing solutions for digital media in retail food have to remain ever diligent about both the “target” and the technology. Consumers will demand “ROI-T” – a return for their invested digital time. That return must include significant value beyond just another cents off deal pushed in their digital display face. If Target offers a good return for… Read more »
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