Will Beacons Help Target Improve the Shopping Experience?


Target recently announced the rollout of beacons at 50 stores in Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, New York City, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle. Beacons are devices placed in locations that make it possible to share content (such as offers) with a person’s mobile device. Through beacons, Target will offer deals and product recommendations as customers shop at their local Targets. With nearly 1,800 stores in the United States and a strong brand, Target joins a growing list of major retailers putting a greater emphasis on location marketing via beacons. The news is significant because it demonstrates how technology and data together can create more relevant and useful customer experiences at scale.

In its announcement, Target emphasized how beacons can deliver content such as deals on products that might interest shoppers while they are in a store. People who opt in via a Target app will receive offers for products on a “Target Run” app home page as they navigate their local Target stores. As Target explained on its website:

Let’s say you’re browsing women’s apparel. You might get an alert about nearby items that are trending on Pinterest. As you move over to get your groceries, and you may see the “Target Run” page updated with a department-wide offer or a Cartwheel deal for items like Archer Farms Organic milk or Market Pantry cheese.

I believe the success of the rollout depends on how well Target enhances the in-store shopping experience. Cross-selling products can help or hurt the experience depending on how well Target tracks customer activity and pinpoints offers at the right time and place.  What really catches my attention is the potential for Target to make shopping easier without selling anything. For instance, customers will be able to dynamically re-sort their shopping lists as they move through a Target. (Target compares the experience to smartphone apps rerouting drivers depending on their routes.) Target also plans it possible for shoppers to use the Target app to ask for customer assistance — which could be a boon especially during the holiday shopping season, if Target staffs its stores adequately.

On the SIM Partners blog, I discuss more fully the implications of Target’s launch of beacons. I invite you to read my post and let me know your reaction.