Target is introducing several new in-store technology enhancements, including a new mobile app for store associates called myCheckout that can be used to search Target.com on behalf of customers while they are in store, as well as order out-of-stock items and process payments while still engaging with the customers, according to a Target blog post.
The retailer also has upgraded its self-checkout process for customers using new, back-end software for the system developed by Target in-house, as well as a new look for the front end that was described as simpler and more intuitive for customers to use.
Target has also more than doubled Wi-Fi bandwidth available in stores under a series of just-completed network infrastructure upgrades, including the installation of more than 300 miles of fiber-optic cables to its stores and distribution centers.
Target might just be starting to publicize its use of the myCheckout app, but the retailer has been testing this app since last spring in select stores and it already has been used to complete more than 10,000 transactions. Also, Target hinted that something new was in the works when it confirmed reports in September that it had adopted the Zebra Technologies TC51 for its in-store MyDevice program for employees.
Helping customers find and quickly order and pay for things online that might be out of stock during a store visit is a nice way to add value to any engagement between a store associate and customer. The hope is that fewer customers will walk into a store and then walk out 20 minutes later with nothing to show for it.
It's also exactly the kind of thing that many customers already do themselves on their own mobile devices while in stores. With the myCheckout app, the store associate can perform these tasks, possibly faster than the customer can. By engaging with an associate, the customer still walks out of the store without the item they came in for. There is a wait for it to be delivered, although shipping will be free, and if the item happens to be part of the Target Restock program, that delivery might be expedited too.
Overall, the app is the kind of in-store capability that is table stakes for brick-and-mortar stores to hold on to their value in the era of mobile shopping. If for no other reason, in-store retail employees need mobile devices and apps just to keep up with the customers they are trying to help.
Meanwhile, the other in-store improvements also are already delivering value. The new self-checkout system, which went live in August, is getting the checkout process to run smoother and faster than ever, and is generating improved customer satisfaction scores, according to Target.
Target’s tech team also has created custom software-based bots to help tackle store IT issues. As soon as the bots detect a glitch, they immediately begin troubleshooting and putting fixes in place, often before anyone at the store even realizes there’s an issue. Target estimates that such automation has saved store team member hours since it rolled out over September and October. As with the new mobile app, this allows store associates to spend more time on potentially high-value engagements with customers.