What Can Marketers Learn From Target's New Mobile App?

Target has made headlines of late with a very clever positioning against Walmart, clothing retailers and frankly, malls across America -- and is somehow winning the perception war that these massive stores are actually hip alternatives to the real big-box retailers. In an age when Walmart has a budget to fight the petitions that inevitably pop up for the launch of a new store, Target is somehow making gains in its desired perception as a different sort of big store.

And in that tapestry of carefully crafted product, marketing and channel decisions, it is weaving a masterpiece that in many ways sets the pace for big brands. So it should come as no surprise that Target's new mobile app lays a foundation that marketers at brands -- and especially retailers -- will find interesting.

First -- and this is true of most good apps -- Target does a good job of creating an ecosystem that is consistent with the store. The ethos comes through. You are in that world (save for the parking and strangers in your way and muzak, of course). Customers who prefer the mobile channel are privy to all of the in-store experiences -- and come with a certain brand experience expectation.



But here is the kicker: Target also understands that this is a mobile channel and treats the customers in a fashion that is optimized to that channel experience. Customers can shop, make lists, get daily deals, manage their prescriptions, and track down that elusive birthday gift -- all without setting foot in the store. And the app has useful functions while you're in the store, too, like a barcode scanner and coupons. (The in-store is clearly a work in progress -- it doesn't exactly tell you where in store the product is.)

Also interesting to a multichannel marketing nerd like myself is how Target caters to its personas. Instead of trying to be everything to everybody in a vague way, the brand has chosen to provide very direct sales funnels to a few key personas and created new experiences and incentives to engage each. Perfect example: the baby registry. Expectant parents (read: the mobile generation) can manage their registry from anywhere -- a convenience that will also come in handy once the craziness of parenthood catapults them into a world of lists and coupons, which the app also offers.

Also interesting along those lines is how Target is using this ecosystem to enhance the consumer experience in segments of its business that will drive new overall growth. We have all seen Target start to include pharmacies on-site. The app brings that portion of its business to the forefront, and just as important, adds new value.

Giving its users the opportunity to refill prescriptions on the go not only increases the utility of the app as a newfound convenience, but it speaks directly to a pain point in the process (who likes having to go to the counter to get a refill and then wait?). For the mobile segment at least, Target just showed up with a competitive answer to the pharmacies who remade their stores for drive-through to speak to this very issue.

Creating an active community is always the desired outcome, but delivering on that promise requires real reasons to do so. 

Through perks like deal redemption, store locaters and wish lists, Target's customers have the opportunity to interact with the brand with a broader intent than just "running to pick something up." Through their app interactions, marketers can glean data that will help drive push notifications and those coveted relevant, timely offers

So while the jury is out on how active and successful this app will be to drive Target customers to feel like part of a community, the ingredients are there to get them back, customize their experience going forward and make them a member of said community. Whether they realize it or not is a question and post for another time.

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