May 8 Target Corp is rolling out
Cartwheel, a service that combines social networking and
discounts, the latest attempt by a U.S. retailer to lure
shoppers into its physical stores rather that seeing them buy
from online rivals.
Target said its new program relies on shoppers using their
Facebook accounts. However, shoppers can only redeem the
offers they choose in Target's U.S. stores, not online.
With Cartwheel, shoppers select the deals they want online
and then bring a barcode - either on paper or on a mobile phone
- to a Target store to get the discounts. Shoppers can see what
offers their Facebook friends have chosen, and earn more offers
by having their Facebook friends sign up.
This service comes as traditional retailers try to keep
shoppers buying from them rather than from Amazon.com Inc
and other online-only retailers, especially as shoppers
use their smartphones to compare prices.
Twenty percent of cellphone owners research products using
their phones before they buy, and 18 percent of them compare
prices on their phones before making a purchase, according to
Bill Tancer, general manager of global research for Experian
Cartwheel follows efforts such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc
letting shoppers in some of its U.S. stores scan their
goods with their iPhones while they shop and then more quickly
proceed through a self-checkout lane. Sears Holdings Corp's
"Member Assist" program gives its loyal shoppers the
ability to get personalized shopping advice from in-store
personnel without even stepping foot in a Sears or Kmart store.
"It is very fascinating to see the very different approaches
that retailers are taking to achieve the same goals," said Carol
Spieckerman, president of newmarketbuilders, a retail strategy
Retailers are using digital tools to better cater to
shoppers who love to comparison shop while in their stores.
Target and other retailers offer free WiFi, and at one of its
Minnesota stores Best Buy Co Inc has tested its "Page a
Blue Shirt" service that lets customers summon a store associate
with a click on a store iPad.
For chains such as Kmart, Target and Walmart, such issues
are increasingly important as their businesses have evolved
since each opened its doors in 1962. Their stores used to be
one-stop shops for everything from books and movies to photo
developing. As such services have waned in popularity with the
rise of digital books, movies and photo sharing sites, the
chains are doing what they can to figure out new ways to make
their stores more attractive to shoppers and, ultimately, more
CARTWHEEL'S BETA ROLLOUT
Starting on May 8, Target is opening Cartwheel to the public
in a beta test, and asking for feedback as it makes changes. The
service will initially be advertised on Target's website,
through Facebook and in emails to Target's best shoppers and
Target did not rule out the possibility of allowing
Cartwheel offers to be redeemed on its website someday.
Target said it worked in a close partnership with Facebook
Inc for about a year. While Facebook has worked on the project,
Cartwheel is owned by Target. For now, Target has no plans to
extend it to other social sites such as Pinterest.
Linking offers through Facebook will let the retailer know
exactly what Facebook can or cannot accomplish for it. While
Twitter can be useful to promote timely, limited offers,
Facebook is "the dominant platform" for connecting with shoppers
and, in turn, with their connections, Spieckerman said.
Target sees the program as a way to extend the trips
shoppers take into parts of the store they might normally skip,
in order to pick up a promoted item. An app coming in June will
let shoppers scan a photo of an item's barcode to quickly see if
an offer is available on that item.
Shoppers using Cartwheel can choose from hundreds of deals
on items such as Target's own Threshold home goods and name
brand goods such as M&Ms candy and Coca-Cola soft drinks. The
weekly, monthly and quarterly deals include discounts from 5
percent off to as much as 40 percent off of certain goods, and
differ from other Target offers in circulars or coupon booklets.
Shoppers can share the deals they are picking with their
Facebook friends, but offers on more discreet items - from bras
to Tums - will not be visible to others.