Target Tag-Teams with Facebook on Shared Deals

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Target Corp’s Cartwheel, released in public beta today, combines social networking and discounts in the retailer’s latest move to lure traffic to its physical stores and away from online rivals. 

As brick and mortar retailers struggle for relevance, fighting the growing trend of “showrooming,” they’re turning to social media to attact consumers with unique deals. Target worked with Facebook for about a year on Cartwheel, whose tagline reads, “A whole new spin on saving,” where shoppers can choose from hundreds of deal items such as Target’s own Threshold home goods as well as brand goodies like M&Ms candy and Coca-Cola soft drinks. 

The Cartwheel launch includes 700 new offers, and claiming any one generates automatic News Feed posts on Facebook unless the user turns them off.[more]

Liked to a Facebook account, the shoppers select the online-only offers, then present a barcode (via paper or mobile phone) at Target stores for redemption. The weekly, monthly and quarterly deals include discounts from 5 percent off to as much as 40 percent off, and are distinct from other Target offers in circulars or coupon booklets.

Other retailers testing similar strategies include Walmart, which is letting shoppers in some US stores scan their goods via their iPhone to speed self-checkout; Sears’ “Member Assist” program, which gives loyal shoppers personalized shopping advice from in-store personnel without setting foot in a Sears or Kmart; and Best Buy’s “Page a Blue Shirt” service, which was trialed in Minnesota where customers could summon a store associate with a tap on a store iPad.

“We’re focused on combining digital technology with the in-store experience to bridge those worlds,” explained Eddie Baeb, a spokesman for Target in Ad Age. “We’ve been partners with Facebook for a while, and it’s been a mutual discussion on how to integrate and have a savings program with a social element.”

Target’s early vendor partners, like Ziploc, can also sponsor aggregated lists of offers in the collections section of the site, such as their “Grab & Go Snacks.” Cartwheel—which has been branded by some critics as “complicated”—has a dedicated team of nearly 40 Target employees monitoring user’s ability to add 10 deals from a variety of Collections such as Mother’s Day or spring.

The service is being promoted via paid Facebook ads, Target’s own channels, and word-of-mouth via 1,500 people at Target and Facebook with pre-launch access who are encouraged to share it with friends. 

Facebook is aggressively pursuing ad platform improvements such as its Android SDK feature that creates a new targeting field based on Facebook’s Custom Audiences tool, allowing engagement with “a set of users with whom they have already established a relationship on/off Facebook,” AdWeek points out. “This “relationship” means anyone the marketer can identify using an email address, Facebook user ID, phone number or app user ID.”

Cartwheel’s auto-share option takes advantage of Facebook’s improvements to its News Feed. “News Feed is indisputably the most valuable real estate on Facebook. It’s the place that people get updates from their friends. And it’s the place that Facebook is betting advertisers have the best shot at connecting with its 1 billion-plus users.” Another initiative that Target and other brands could take advantage of is Facebook’s new targeted brand posts, which enables a brand to post on a user’s News Feed without having to post that content on its own brand pages. 

“Linking offers through Facebook will let the retailer know exactly what Facebook can or cannot accomplish for it,” notes Newsday. “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,” said Carol Spieckerman, president of newmarketbuilders. “It is very fascinating to see the very different approaches that retailers are taking to achieve the same goals.” 

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