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Target tightens focus on mobile as in-store shopping tool

Target is giving its mobile applications a significant boost with location-based features, pointing to the critical role that in-store experiences are playing for retailers in taking their mobile efforts to the next level.

Target has updated its iPhone app to include new in-store features, and a similar app update will roll out across Android devices by early November. In-store modes and apps are increasingly playing a bigger role for retailers to sync up their online and bricks-and-mortar experiences.

“We’re rolling out a series of updates to the Target app this fall, available for iOS and Android phones, designed to enhance the in-store experience,” said Eddie Baeb, spokesman for Target, Minneapolis.

“Enhancements range from making it easier to access Target’s free in-store Wi-Fi to delivering relevant content such as the weekly ad for specific stores,” he said.

In-store engagement
Target’s app revamp includes a new Weekly Ad section that uses location to serve consumers a weekly ad for a particular nearby store.

When consumers open the app, a full-page takeover acknowledges that a shopper is nearby to Target, and the weekly deals section on the left-hand menu shows the weekly ad at the local Target store.

The ad is broken into product categories where consumers can view groups of deals.

Links to the product pages from the weekly advertisement let users either shop the product online or find the in-store aisle where it is located. Consumers can also add products from the weekly ads to their shopping lists.

The new section lets consumers view special services or features for each store and connect to Target’s Guest Wi-Fi network. In-store Wi-Fi likely gives Target a way to monitor where consumers are within a store and what types of content they are looking for.

Streamlines shopping lists
Target is also beta testing a new shopping list feature within its mobile app that lets consumers add and delete items that are linked to a store. To use the feature, consumers can set the app to their store to create a personalized shopping list.

The shopping list feature is gesture-based and lets consumers swipe vertically and horizontally to add and delete items in the list.

For example, swiping to the right checks an item off of a list, and pulling down on an item adds a product to the shopping list.

Target’s Beta Shopping List feature is being tested in Chicago, Minneapolis, Seattle and City Target stores with the goal of expanding to other cities in the future.

In-store is becoming a bigger focus for retailers looking to create compelling experiences for shoppers in stores, but is still a relatively untapped opportunity for many.

In fact, a study from EKN Research recently found that only one in ten retailers are leveraging in-store mode within their mobile apps (see story).

The retailers that are most active in this space are typically some of the bigger retailers, most notably Walmart.

Walmart is particularly aggressive in using mobile to elevate the in-store experience within its apps. The app shifts into an in-store mode when consumers are nearby to a store, which lets consumers view maps of stores and find products within aisles.

Target is likely trying to emulate some of the same success by equipping its app with features that help streamline the shopping experience for in-store consumers.

“Target is seeing significant growth in both traffic and sales on our mobile platforms,” Mr. Baeb said.

“We know that mobile drives guest engagement with Target and leads guests to shop across all of our channels,” he said. “We’re focused on creating in-store experiences and testing new technologies that make smartphones an even more useful shopping companion for guests in our stores.”

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York