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Target fires back at Amazon with its own image recognition app

Target is answering Amazon’s image recognition application with its own offering, hoping to take back control of showrooming activity while providing shoppers with the kind of mobile-enabled omnichannel shopping experiences they want.

Target is testing an image recognition mobile application to provide instant access – including purchasing capabilities – to products appearing in print ads, catalogs and on in-store signage. The In a Snap app launched this month and is playing a key role in the retailer’s back-to-school marketing campaign, with the app featured in ads for Target’s Room Essentials brand that are appearing in print magazines such as RealSimple, Architectural Digest, Domino and others.

“We know students and parents are using their mobile devices more and more for shopping – while browsing in stores and making online purchases,” said Eddie Baeb, corporate communications and public relations at Target, Minneapolis, MN.

“Leveraging image recognition technology in a mobile platform like In a Snap allows Target to meet guests where they are and provide a great experience that makes it easy to find and purchase Target merchandise,” he said.

“This is another example of Target’s test-and-learn approach to continue building omnichannel capabilities and services to meet the needs of today’s digital-savvy guests.”

Express shopping
In a reflection of how young consumers use their phones to interact with the world around them throughout the day, the In a Snap app also works with Target’s back-to-college catalog and store signage in the new Target Express store opening this week in Minneapolis.

The In a Snap app, which is compatible with the iPhone, iPad and iPod, enables users to shop Target items directly off of print marketing by leveraging the camera on a mobile device.

The app recognizes certain ads and makes a “snap” sound to let users know when it is ready.

Target shoppers can use the In a Snap app wherever they see an icon for the app to see additional information about each product that appears.

Items can be added to a shopper’s cart and saved to a user’s Snap History. Users can check out directly from the app.

Omnichannel experiences
Showrooming refers to in-store shoppers who use their mobile phones to search online to find a more competitive price for an item they are interested in. The fear for many bricks-and-mortar retailers is that they are losing sales as a result.

Last year, Target openly discussed the phenomenon and said showrooming is not a problem as long as shoppers are engaging with and purchasing from Target’s digital offerings.

A shoppable image from Target’s back-to-college campaign

The In a Snap app is just the latest example of how Target is leveraging mobile to enable the kind of omnichannel shopping experiences it believes will keep shoppers within the Target universe.

The chain also began offering Wi-Fi in its stores a couple of years ago and rolled out in-store pickup for online orders.

Target also introduced Cartwheel, an app for personalized savings and sharing.

In another example of how Target is focused on omnichannel shopping experiences, the retailer introduced Target Awesome Shop last year, a site enabling users to view the most pinned items on Pinterest from Target.

Image recognition is quickly building steam in the past 12 month as a favored mobile tool among retailers looking to leverage mobile for enhanced shopping experiences.

Late last year, Macy’s introduced an app enabling users to wave their phone in front of a billboard or other in-store sign to get an image of the product as well as similar items (see story).

Earlier this year, Amazon upgraded its image recognition application so it can recognizes actual products instead of scanning UPC codes on products, thereby making it easier for users to engage in showrooming activities.  to make the process easier for users to engage in showrooming (see story).

In a Snap was conceived by Target’s marketing team and built in concert with Target’s Rapid Accelerated Development technology team. Depending on user feedback and results from initial tests, Target will consider using In a Snap with more ad campaigns in the future.

“Mobile plays an important role in Target’s back-to-school and back-to-college efforts, both as a way to market to guests and generate sales,” Mr. Baeb said. “Target’s share of digital visits from a mobile phone or tablet continues to grow and now accounts for almost two-thirds of our total digital traffic.

“For back-to-school, we know that moms are using mobile primarily for research,” he said. “While four out of five back-to-school purchases happen in stores, we see guests using mobile for research and pre-shopping and while they’re in the store making purchases.

“For back-to-college, we are targeting a demographic that is particularly mobile-savvy, so our campaign focuses on mobile and digital promotions. Target’s back-to-college campaign includes a lot of video content, which we anticipate will be heavily viewed through mobile.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York