- Target has developed a secret, by-invitation-only app to connect Target designers with the customers who are the potential end-users of the merchandise, according to Fast Company. The app, for example, has helped Target advance its new private label line of housewares, Made by Design.
- Membership in the service is limited to roughly 600 people, each personally invited to join, chosen from respondents to online research and satisfaction surveys generated at the checkouts.
- Participants are incentivized with points that can eventually be redeemed for discounts or gift cards, but those involved tend to be just as interested in being part of the company’s design feedback loop, Fast Company reports.
New products are being developed so fast that traditional customer research methods can’t keep up with the designers’ need for input. Results from consumer polling or in-person focus groups can, optimistically, take weeks. By then the designer with a critical question has gotten the answer elsewhere, or arrived at it without consumer input.
As Target works to revive its "cheap chic" reputation – emphasizing "cheap" and "chic" – it is relying on outside collaborations and internal design teams to compete. Tying in with another theme driving Target’s comeback, the app for in-house designers is part of the company’s digital future.
"Studio Connect enables our designers to interact with guests at any point while developing products, encouraging conversations and adding a level of flexibility to the formal feedback process," Julie Guggemos, Target’s senior VP, product design and development, told Fast Company. The magazine noted that the app is very similar in appearance and function to Instagram.
Designers using the app can ask participating consumers about anything they are working on. The 600 consumers are segmented into subgroups, such as those with children and those without, Fast Company reported. For instance, a question recently posed to the participants asked a Mother’s Day question: “If you could design a shirt with a message that celebrated how awesome moms are, what would it say?” Such questions generate an average response of 40-50 comments within a day, and the retailer can identify common themes after about 10 of them. In the end, Target used the Mother’s Day messages from the question to develop shirts that will be in stores next year.
Studio Connect also allows Target to move inclusive design beyond the diversity of the design staff and app users. For example, Target received feedback from families with children on the autism spectrum, and heard that typical clothing can include distractions. They have also heard about life with other disabilities and developed products accordingly.