Will Target's Cartwheel Start Social, Mobile Revolution?


In a move designed to make the retail world sit up and take notice, Target is inviting shoppers to come to Cartwheel, a partnership with Facebook that it hopes will finally find a way to effectively combine retail, mobile and social media.

The site is now in beta, and the Minneapolis-based chain says it will roll out shortly, “starting with a select group of REDcard holders.” The concept allows users to browse bargains and deals exclusive to the site. After choosing their offers, users then share them with friends; the more they share, the more they save. Because can be accessed from computer, tablet or mobile device, it fits into Target’s broader mobile initiatives. (The chain continues to be among the industry leaders in accepting and creating mobile coupons, for instance.)



Still, some experts are puzzled about just how well this new Target/Facebook partnership will play with customers. “This is an interesting effort to link mobile and digital couponing with the reach and social aspects of Facebook,” Neil Stern, senior partner at McMillanDoolittle, a Chicago-based retail consultancy, tells Marketing Daily. “It could also be less relevant here in many categories -- am I really going to share with friends that I added a dozen eggs to my cart?”

Carly Wujcik, director of sales and marketing for Oneupweb, a digital agency based in Traverse City, Mich., agrees.

“One of the bargains I found was a 5% discount on Axe deodorant. People would think I was crazy for sharing that,” she says. “And it’s kind of complicated. I give Target credit for trying to figure out a marriage between retail and social, but I find it confusing.”

Another issue, she says, is that while Target is a discounter, with customers who love deals, there’s a bit of a disconnect between the higher-end initiatives it has invested so much in.

“This is the company that’s been touting its recent partnerships with Neiman Marcus and Missoni,” she says -- an image that doesn’t exactly resonate with saving 10% on paper towels.

Users earn 10 spots just for logging onto Cartwheel, and then earn “achievement badges.” As they choose, redeem and share offers, they open up more “offer spots.” The offer barcodes are then redeemed inside stores, either via a mobile phone or computer printout.

Potentially, she says, “this can become the digital version of a membership card, where members get special prices and exclusive offers. If there is a retailer out there who has a chance to figure it out, it probably is Target. But it needs to be more about understanding how customers would find this to be useful.”

“As with all of these efforts,” adds Stern, “we're in early days still.”



3 comments about "Will Target's Cartwheel Start Social, Mobile Revolution? ".
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  1. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein, May 10, 2013 at 9:14 a.m.

    That 5% savings on deodorant notwithstanding, this whole idea deserves the Axe.

  2. Chris Zaharias from Campanja, May 13, 2013 at 5:43 p.m.

    I personally like the idea, which MediaPost's done a poor job of explaining. Cartwheel is about much more than just social sharing. Target wants to get its website visitors to
    a) engage with savings opportunities;
    b) transfer them to mobile where they can easily be redeemed in-store;
    c) share *if they choose*
    d) see value from increased uptake of coupons and from increased use of Target's web/mobile/social offerings

  3. brian smith from Retail's Edge, July 9, 2013 at 1:59 p.m.

    Sarah - Great first look at Cartwheel. You should do a follow up and use the product. While Cartwheel is an interesting idea, and I applaud Target for doing something mobile/social/in-store, the actual execution has been horrible. Cartwheel is not working for a lot of people (checkout support forums: and it's just not driving significant sales (

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