One of the major frustrations for shoppers comes when they know what they want in a store, but can't seem to find it. That's an area where digital retailers have an edge because as long as the consumer knows the name of an item, it's only a few keystrokes away.
Target (NYSE:TGT) plans to solve that problem by adding technology to its app that will show customers where to find what they are looking for.
What is Target doing?
The department store has been working to integrate its digital and in-store experience while also making its stores easier to navigate. This has included non-technology-based solutions like adding one entrance for quick-serve items and another for the chain's customer's looking to have a more drawn out shopping adventure.
Target has also been working to lay out its stores to put items and services in the most logical places possible. That could be as simple as putting grab-and-go snacks and drinks near the entrance to having designated parking for picking up orders placed online.
In the latest effort to improve its in-store shopping experience, the company has integrated what it called a "beacon and Bluetooth technology that shows your location on the app's map as you move throughout the store," according to a press release.
The company described it as "GPS for your shopping cart." It will help shoppers find the items they are looking for, while also offering up deals they happen to be close to. Target expects the technology to be live in about half its stores in time for the holiday season.
"This promises to make it easier than ever to find what you're looking for, so you can fill up your cart and get on your way," said Target Chief Digital Officer Mike McNamara.
Convenience with a risk
It's easy to see what Target is trying to do here. Making it easier for customers to find what they want improves the shopping experience for those who use the app. This new addition actually furthers an earlier version where Target's app told customers whether an item was in stock.
The new technology lets a customer build a list, then follow directions to the items. And, of course, one bonus for the company is they could drive sales by putting deals in front of customers they may otherwise have missed.
All of this, however, comes with a risk. It removes human interaction from the equation. That's fine if it's a choice, like using automated checkout, but it's negative if it means it becomes harder to find human help on the Target sales floor.
Is this a good idea?
This technology solves an actual problem. A consumer may not know where the retailer stocks picture frames or whether a certain item is available in the grocery section. This answers those questions, removing a stress point.
If the technology works well, it may not be needed for entire orders, but it makes locating that hard-to-find item easy and pain-free. In theory, if the item is not stocked, it could also eventually push the consumer to order it from the chain's website if it's available there.
Target should not take the people out of its stores even if it's tempted to do so in order to cut expenses. Having readily available human help is one of the edges brick-and-mortar chains still have over digital ones.
It is, however, smart for the physical retailer to enhance its staff with the best technology possible. This makes shopping easier which should lead to happier customers who are perhaps more open to buying more. It's not revolutionary, but it's a strong incremental step for the company to deliver convenience no matter how its customers want to shop.