Target on Tuesday announced the launch of a new accelerator program, Target Incubator, which aims to foster progressively-minded business concepts from Gen Z entrepreneurs and creators, according to a company blog post.
Applicants can apply for the program between now and Oct. 29. The top 15 finalists will be called on to pitch their businesses at Target's Minneapolis headquarters in November, and the top eight businesses will be invited to an eight-week mentoring program next June, at the end of which they will showcase their final concepts in a Demo Day event.
The company also announced a new marketing strategy to reach Gen Z: @TargetTag — "a digital magazine-like space on Instagram for young people to connect, create and inspire each other." The campaign, started with 30 creative young people, features artists spray painting a van, among other user-generated content.
This is just the latest example of Target using the accelerator/incubator model to cultivate new business and technology developments — and in doing so giving itself an opportunity to invest in startups early on.
The retailer previously has applied this approach to technology startups, with its Target+Techstars accelerator program in the U.S. and a similar program in India. Earlier this year, the company also launched Target Takeoff, a "mini retail boot camp" for beauty startups.
In targeting Gen Z with its latest incubator program, the company is chasing the next big group of consumers. The program is a way for Target to foster businesses it might want to invest in, certainly. It's also a way to better understand how to market and sell to Gen Z.
This young group of consumers thus far has proved elusive for many retailers. Even point-of-sale payment methods present retailers with critical choices to make regarding this demographic, considering Gen Z still likes to shop in stores, but doesn't want to use cash or traditional credit cards.
The new Target Incubator appears to be taking some positive initial steps toward engaging Gen Z. Its "better-for-people or better-for-the-planet" statement in the blog post seems framed to appeal to a demographic known for being socially and environmentally-conscious. If Gen Z spending eludes Target after these efforts, it won't be for lack of trying.