Target Testing Its First In-Store Smart-Products Shop

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Target has installed a smart-home and “Connected Living” section within the CE department of a Minneapolis-area store in what could presage a wider rollout chain-wide.

The retailer’s first in-store Connected Living pilot features an array of connected devices spanning the fitness, health, cooking, security, kids and tracker categories.

Based on insights gleaned from Target’s Open House connected concept store, which opened last summer in San Francisco, the new IoT area presents live demo products on interactive display tables backed by explanatory descriptors on LED screens.

The shop, located in Target’s Ridgedale, Minn., store in the Minneapolis bedroom community of Minnetonka, is organized into six product sections and is manned by a dedicated expert.

The pilot coincides with a test of connected health facings that rolled out to 550 Target pharmacy departments last month.

“There is tremendous untapped potential here, and we’ve been steadily adding more connected products to our assortment,” acknowledged Scott Nygaard, the discounter’s merchandising senior VP for hardlines. “But the market is still early and consumers are focused on single-use, single-benefit products. Our goal is to educate and inspire guests about the potential of connected devices, and take learnings from the test to refine the experience with the hope of eventually expanding it to more stores.”

To that end, the shop depicts everyday situations to demonstrate how connected devices can help Target customers. Explained chief strategy and innovation officer Casey Carl: “We have learned three big lessons [from the San Francisco concept store]: storytelling is key to helping guests understand how they might use connected devices; having a knowledgeable team member on hand is extremely important; and guests want to see products in a real-life setting.”

The Minnetonka pilot features many of the same smart-product lifestyle categories and devices found in the Connected Living store, including:

Family Fitness: Devices for “wearable and sharable wellness,” like the UNICEF Kid Power band, Fitbit and 94Fifty basketball;

Connected Kitchen: Tools for “conquering the kitchen” such as a Drop scale and the WeMo switch;

Virtual Guardians: “Watchdog technology” for the home, like the Ring wireless video doorbell and Disney Circle;

Connected Nursery: “Gadgets for better playtime, night-time and you time,” such as Edwin the Duck and the Mimo monitor;

Rest & Relaxation: Devices “to set the mood for sweeter dreams” like the Hello Sense Sleep Monitor; and

Item Trackers & Smart Buttons: Tools that “help you get what you want and never lose what you have,” including Tile and the Flic wireless smart button.

Target’s smart-products initiatives may be the answer to a listless CE strategy. Tech sales slipped 1 percent last year at the No. 5 CE chain, while its Top 5 peers all enjoyed top-line increases, the 2016 TWICE Top 100 CE Retailers report shows.

Indeed, electronics has been relegated to merchandising step-child status under chairman/CEO Brian Cornell, who has targeted fashion, baby, kids and wellness as the company’s core “signature” categories.

His recent appointment of former Nordstrom, Timberland and Nike executive Mark Tritton as chief merchandising officer doesn’t bode especially well for CE either.

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