Merchant Innovation

Target Bets Big On Beacons

The beacons are coming, the beacons are coming.

Especially if one happens to shop at Target.

Yesterday, the nation’s second-largest general retailer announced that it is rolling out beacons on a trial basis at 50 of its stores in the next several weeks. Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, New York City, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle will house the 50 elect stores — they were chosen, according to Target, because of the diverse cross section of Target stores and user groups they represent.

If all goes well, beacons will have gone chain-wide for Target by the holiday shopping season, according to rumors they’ve heard over at TechCrunch.

For users that explicitly opt in through the Target app, the company plans to import information and deals directly to their iPhones (the program is launching first for iOS only — though Target did confirm that an Android version of the beacon program is on the way). However, as “beacon spamming” is a frequent complaint about the technological advancement, Target is committed to controlling just how much outreach any customer will have to endure by limiting in-store push notifications to only two per shopping trip.

Users will have access to the wider world of deals; however, the Target app’s “Target Run” page also houses deals, product picks, top-pinned items from Pinterest and more — all designed to look like a social media feed and all intended to keep consumers engaged.

Target is new to the beacon bandwagon, which in the last several months has seen several high profile sign-ons, including mall developer Simon, Macy’s, GameStop and Lord & Taylor, just to name a few. According to a November 2014 study by marketing platform provider Swirl, 73 percent of consumers surveyed indicated that beacons (done right) up the odds of their buying when they are in-store.

And though in its initial run beacons will be about powering shopping on the saving end, Target has a bigger vision for its new program. One possible change coming could be a future ability for customers to sort their shopping lists while they move through the store — in a way similar to how mapping apps can reroute a traveler when you ignore its initial directions.

Another potential feature will let consumers use their phones to summon an employee in the event of direct help being needed.

Target says they are using their beacons to collect data, but that data is only used for in-store purposes and only for consumers’ individual shopping needs.


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