LAS VEGAS — Mobile is the front door to Target — but chief strategy and innovation officer Casey Carl doesn’t want to classify the mobile shopping experience within a digital perspective. He, like many retailers and executives at this week’s Shoptalk conference, just wanted the customer to have a great experience, period.
“For stores to stay relevant,” Carl said during the second day of the conference, “they have to up their game, and that is about experience.”
He also made a point to embrace Target’s ongoing commitment to physical retail destinations. “Stores are some of the most strategic assets we have,” he said. “They have always been great selling channels. But they are now a fulfillment channel and a community gathering place, and that continues to evolve in multiple roles as the consumer changes.”
He said when considering new initiatives, Target focuses on moments of discovery, convenience and serendipity, and that in addition to technology, the retailer continues to focus on infrastructure; those, he said, make up the company’s two biggest investments, as the infrastructure helps scale the successful innovative experiences.
Carl discussed recent examples of innovation including Target’s open house in San Francisco last summer downstairs from its store, and a recent project to equip visitors with lanyards with RFID tags to create an experience with its Wonderland project. Now, he shared, Target is set to begin scaling RFIDs to apparel across its stores to help with item location and accuracy. Carl also shared details on Target’s program that lets customers pick up items in a store, and its partnership with Pinterest that helps make recommendations with items that do well on the image-sharing and discovery platform.
New projects and experiences, he said, are like “learning labs, where we create a learning agenda that we can scale across 1,800 stores.”
As has become a theme among the experts here, he preferred not to separate the “online” from the “offline.”
“Our guest isn’t just shopping us online,” he said. “They are leveraging multiple platforms simultaneously, and we have to make sure that everything works together seamlessly.”
This, he said, is the strategy for driving loyalty. “We want them to say, ‘You not only made it easy, but you know me — and I love that.’”
He declined to predict the future. Instead, he said he intends to look to the customer to lead the way.
“It’s presumptuous to say ‘just build this and let them come,’” Carl said. “We won’t invest without education.”
He did offer that going forward, he is excited about the “Internet of things” (as displayed in Target’s open house), the future of food and social commerce, meaning using social media platforms for more than brand-building.
“Every consumer is different,” Carl said, “so we just have to make it work for them and make it feel like it’s a truly one-to-one experience.”