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Target innovates in-store beacon marketing with newsfeed-like content stream

Target jumps to the head of the class for in-store beacon marketing with a new program arriving this week in 50 stores that leverages the retailer’s application to alert shoppers to hyperlocal content accessible via a newsfeed-like stream.

Big retailers such as Macy’s and Lord & Taylor have embraced beacons over the past couple of years, often by integrating with a third-party shopping or coupon app.  While Target is not the first retailer to leverages the its own app for beacon alerts – Sephora has a similar strategy – what makes the program really stand out is the introduction of the newsfeed-like service called Target Run, where users can find content based on their location and which acts as the home page of the app for opted-in users when they are in-store.

“Lists and maps continue to be among the most popular features in the Target app, and we believe beacons can further enhance our industry-leading list and map functionality for guests in the Target app,” said Eddie Baeb, spokesman for Target.

“We want to save guests time and money by helping them find what they’re looking for, discover new products and receive offers and services that are relevant and timely,” he said.

In-store home page
Retailers are excited about the potential of beacons to help them interact with in-store shoppers based on which aisle or department they are in via their smartphones.

However, since beacons are such a new way of communicating with shoppers, retailers have been focused on figuring out things such as what is the right cadence for beacon alerts, whether to integrate beacons with a third-party app or the retailer’s own offering and how best to help shoppers keep track of the hyperlocal content.

Target’s program attempts to address each of these concerns.

One of the more interesting aspects of the program is the Target Run page. Once a shopper has downloaded the Target app and enabled Bluetooth in the settings of an iPhone, product recommendations related to the department they are located in may pop up as a push notification or in-app update on their phone.

This same information can also be found on the new Target Run page, which operates similar to a social media site’s newsfeed, with the latest content – meaning product recommendations or coupons based on the user’s location – being added on the top of the page.

Social integration
It is also interesting that Target has chosen to focus exclusively on its own app for the program. This makes sense given the popularity of the Target app.

The Target program also leverages social media to make the beacon alerts relevant. For example, a shopper in the women’s apparel department might receive an alert about nearby items that are trending on Pinterest.

The Target iPhone app was updated on Aug. 5 to enable beacon alerts and let users opt-in for Target Run in 50 markets.

The 50 test stores are located in Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, New York City, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle. More stores are expected to be added later this year.

Target says it will limit the number of alerts shoppers receive to two per visit so as not to overwhelm users.

Besides product recommendations, app users could see department-wide offers or a Cartwheel deal on specific items.

Asking for help
Target is already working on additional features, including the ability to dynamically re-sort a shopping list as the user moves through the store, similar to how smartphone maps re-route when someone veers off course.

The retailer is also planning to launch a service in the Target app enabling users to request the help of a store team member from your phone.

The new beacon program is the latest example of how Target continues to lead the way in mobile marketing for retailers.

The chain recently launched a new mobile tool that acts as an interior designer for college-bound shoppers, linking with their social media profiles to provide a personalized and interactive selection of merchandise (see story).

In May, Target offered a live-stream event on Periscope to drive sales for its latest designer partnership with jeweler Eddie Borgo (see story).

“We’re focused on mobile as it continues to be an increasingly important part of our guests’ shopping journey, both online and in stores,” Mr. Baeb said. “Using beacons is another example of Target putting guests first as they increasingly look for – and expect – a more personalized shopping experience.”

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