Target is making permanent a policy it tried over the holiday season to combat the dreaded, sometimes mythical, showrooming activity that smartphones have accelerated. The massive retailer announced this week that as standard in-store policy it now will match the price on items from select major online retailers.
It is not coincidental that the list includes some of the most forceful m-commerce players and retailers with strong app presence: Amazon, Walmart.com, BestBuy.com, ToysRUs.com, and BabysRUs.com. The price match guarantee also applies to local merchants. Target will also honor its own Target.com online pricing in-store.
The price match is good for seven days from the date of purchase. But the retailer knows well what specific activity it is targeting here. In the fine print for the deal, regarding acceptable proof of pricing at a competitive site, Target specifies “for online prices, please show us your mobile device or a printout from a qualifying competitor’s website or Target.com. A Target team member will then verify the match using a Target device.”
Notably absent from the competitive set is eBay, which has one of the most popular in-store comparison apps. In fact, the deal excludes third-party merchants working through sites like Amazon. The price match applies only to items sold directly by the rival retailer.
In addition to the price match, Target is positioning its in-store value as superior to online by tying it to the store loyalty program. In addition to price parity with online, Target allows REDCard members to get an additional 5% off.
All of this comes with some hoops through which to jump. Floorwalkers and checkout people apparently can’t award the match. Shoppers have to go to the Guest Service counter first to apply the lower price.
I also wonder why Target didn’t take the opportunity here to enhance the value-add even more. Research shows that retailers are struggling to get their customers into the digital sales loop, which can result in the shopper showrooming at retail but still buying from the retail brand later online. It seems to me the mobile app is a tremendous opportunity for the retailer to reverse the showrooming flow to other brands and get that shopper into the dot-com loop. Why not a discount incentive for ordering by mobile? Why not offer free shipping from Target.com for items ordered from the physical location?
Shouldn’t the first thing a customer service rep does in store be to direct the Target shopper to the Target app where they can get all kinds of advantages? Wouldn't this be a great time to relaunch the pretty good Target apps with additional features and incentives, so that the policy shift is linked to an enhanced 360-degree shopper experience?
Left simply as a price match, it feels like Target is racing to the bottom rather than using the new policy as a more robust effort to envelop the loyal Target shopper in countless reasons why they should shop from Target on every available screen. Otherwise, the policy almost advertises and validates the superior utility and value of apps from rival retailers.
"Target Miss photo from Shutterstock"