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Target testing beacons in 50 stores; more stores, features to come

BY Marianne Wilson

Minneapolis — Target Corp. has made its first major foray into beacon technology as the retailer continues to look for ways to enhance the in-store shopping experience with digital tools.

The retailer announced it is testing beacons at 50 stores nationwide, including locations in Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, New York City, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle. The company said it plans to expand the service to more stores later this year.

Target joins Macy's, GameStop, Lord & Taylor, real estate giant Simon and others that are experimenting with beacons. The Bluetooth technology allows Target to deliver deals and shopping recommendations on an opt-in basis through the retailer’s latest iOS app (it is working on one for Android devices). Target says it will use the technology to trigger deal alerts, including new offers from its Cartwheel mobile couponing service) and also to provide information and recommendations to shoppers, including an alert, for example, about a nearby item that is trending on Pinterest. According to TechCrunch, Target is working with beacon-maker Estimote on its beacon installations.

Retail analysts say clever adoption of beacon technology could improve per-visit spending to fuel comparable-store sales growth.

“We’re excited to start using beacon technology to offer real-time, relevant content and services that can help make shopping at Target easier and more fun,” said Jason Goldberger, president of Target.com and mobile, in a blog on the company’s website. “This is another way Target is bridging mobile and stores, and using digital to enhance the in-store shopping experience. We look forward to seeing how our guests respond to what we’ve built."

On its posting, Target explains to customers what they can expect should they decide to opt in and use the new technology while in one of the test stores. It also assured the customers they would not be “overwhelmed” with push notifications, saying it is limiting the amount of pop-ups a customer receives to two per shopping trip.

“Let’s say you’re browsing women’s apparel,” Target explains. “You might get an alert about nearby items that are trending on Pinterest. As you move over to get your groceries, and you may see the “Target Run” page updated with a department-wide offer or a Cartwheel deal for items like Archer Farms Organic milk or Market Pantry cheese.”

Target also said it is working to develop additional features, including giving customers the ability to dynamically re-sort their shopping list as they move through the store, similar to how smartphone maps re-route when the user veers off course.

In addition, the chain is planning to launch a service in the Target app where customers can request the help of a store team member directly from their phone.

To read Target’s full post on its use of beacon technology, click here.

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