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Target enlists mobile Web to crack second-screen commerce

Target is looking to differentiate itself from the string of half-hearted attempts from retailers to drive commerce in real-time while consumers watch television with a new initiative with TBS that launched last night.

During last night’s airing of “Cougar Town” on TBS, Target set up a second-screen mobile and Web site that let consumers buy the retailer’s products featured on-screen in real-time. Second-screen shoppable experiences have been talked about for quite some time, but few have been successful in building long-term engagement and brand awareness, which Target is hoping to tackle with digital and on-air initiatives that tie directly into the show’s content.

“This particular integration will be a first for Target in that we’re partnering with a TV show/media partner to create a shoppable experience where Target product is built into the storyline,” said Kristy Welker, spokeswoman at Target, Minneapolis.

“We know our guests embrace technology and are digitally connected, so this integration delivers a fun, unexpected Target experience for Cougar Town fans across different platforms,” she said.

Integrated product placement?
More than 25 home décor products from designer Nate Berkus’ line for Target were available online last night as the show aired.

The brand was also integrated into a portion of the show’s plot last night.

The idea behind the integration is that fans of the TV show can see how the home accessories fit into the context of an actual home. The shoppable items include frames, throw pillows and vases.

The mobile and Web microsite made its product placements shoppable. As the items appeared throughout the show, consumers could buy them in real-time.

Once a product became available on the microsite, consumers could click-through on the item to buy it from Target’s mobile or Web site.

Additionally, the full episode of the show will remain online at through April 15. Via the microsite, consumers can shop all of the products individually.

“Technology has evolved in such a way that we are able to bring shopping capabilities closer to our guests’ viewing experiences to truly surround them,” Ms. Welker said.

“This integration allows us to test new technology, gauge guest feedback and learn from it for future efforts to continue to differentiate Target and deliver a seamless multichannel shopping experience,” she said.

In addition to building out its second-screen initiatives, Target also continues to invest in its branded apps.

Target has made more than 70 updates to its Cartwheel deal app since launching in May, most recently adding push notifications.

Target also reports that 80 percent of the traffic for its Cartwheel program, which also includes a Web site, takes place on mobile.

Building in seamless shopping
The amount of companion viewing when a consumer has a mobile device nearby while watching television has grown significantly in the past couple of years.

However, retailers and broadcasters have struggled to crack into this opportunity because consumers are not always in the mood to shop while watching TV.

Additionally, significant challenges around creating seamless shopping experiences keep marketers from moving beyond initial tests with TV commerce.

“When people watch TV, they are not always in shopping mode, so it needs to be quick and seamless for users to purchase products from their mobile device,” said Esha Shah, San Francisco-based manager of strategy and innovation at Fetch.

“If there are multiple steps — for example texting a code to a number to receive a link that takes you to a site to purchase — there will be a lot of drop off along the way,” she said.

Fox and ABC are two examples of broadcasters that have also dabbled in TV commerce, but neither company has scaled its efforts using the technology.

In 2012, Fox partnered with American Express to let consumers shop items featured in the show via an app (see story).

ABC also tried its hand at shoppable TV by teaming up with the Get This iPad app last year (see story).

Both of these initiatives used a mobile app as the platform for consumers to shop off of, likely making it difficult for consumers who did not already have the app to participate.

“Those that developed apps got a lackluster response from the consumer market as they didn’t know how to respond to them,” said Danielle McCormick, senior director of marketing at Skava, San Francisco. “There was also a pushback from some consumers as this was just another way to sell to them.”

On the other hand, Target’s mobile commerce initiative with TBS purely relies on mobile Web, which reaches more consumers and does not require the same level of consumer education that an app does.

Additionally, Target has been developing a comprehensive mobile strategy in the past few years that includes both strong mobile Web and app components.

“Target, specifically, was a relatively early mover in the space, understanding that the mobile device has become the primary interface between consumer and brand,” said Scott Forshay, senior strategist at Mutual Mobile, Austin, TX.

“Extending commerce capabilities in real time as an additive shopping alternative focused on immediacy, simplicity, and contextual relevance has proven tricky to-date,” he said.

However, for Target to be successful in second-screen engagement, the retailer will need to consistently integrate the technology into TV shows to slowly change consumers’ perceptions about shopping while watching TV, according to Joline McGoldrick, research director at Millward Brown Digital, New York.

“It’s still a relatively new behavior that Target is trying to capitalize on,” she said. “If they’re targeting the same audience and it’s a consistent strategy throughout the year, the progression will be good.”

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