The Target Card Marketing Experience Falls Short

I’ve always been a huge fan of Target, since high school when $15 of babysitting money could buy me a coke, popcorn, an hour or so of happily strolling through the store with my sister, before we each bought five things we didn’t need, but loved. I’m still a fan of Targets - as a consumer, but also as a marketer. Target’s smart branding, partnerships, apps, and merchandising set the bar high for other retailers. It brings low-cost retail to market in a way that makes the shopper enjoying buying and engaging with the brand.  

It doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while Target doesn’t live up to its promise – which bugs me as a consumer, because I know what they can do as a marketer. I signed up for a Target credit card about a year ago, simply because I wanted to see what the 5% Red Card experience was like.  In most ways, it’s great. Target does a great job of merchandising online what I’ve saved, how I’ve donated to my kids’ school, and provides me with budgeting tools (which I don’t use, but which I like as a marketer). I happily hand them reams of data on my full family each week - with each card swipe, with each click on their web site and each click thru on their emails. 

However, Target hasn’t used the gift of easy data I’ve handed them to make my customer experience more relevant to me, all this despite articles that hail Target’s mastery of data intelligence. As is the case for many predominantly brick-and-mortar retailers, Target has figured out how to use data for macro marketing strategy, but not yet to drive relevant indiidual customer marketing (with the exception of the baby market).  My Target card, email marketing and web experience deliver a mass marketing message, not recognizing when I’ve paid a bill or what I bought last week.  Despite frequent shopping and all the data I’ve provided, I have yet to witness any customization in Target communications except billing statements.  That is until the last month, when I must have been profiled as having an infant (which I’m happy to be far beyond,) so I now perpetually receive offers for diapers and formula.

Creating that relevant experience can be complex, but it can start very easily and simply, particularly for data-rich retailers with a wealth of cardholder data like Target.

  •  Use Small Data as Much as Big Data:  Phil Rubin (rDialogue’s CEO) recently spoke with Maggie Lang (our Kimpton Hotels client) at Loyalty Expo about thepower of small data vs. big data to make a difference in the customer’s brand experience and relationship. Personalization alone isn’t enough, but the personal touch doesn’t require sophisticated data analysis to have a real impact.
  •  Make It Personal / Make It Relevant:  Use that data to create relevant messages, not just highlight your products. Thank, educate, recommend and connect (and yes sell) via content, triggered responses, measured use of data, promotion of services, channels and more.  As this recent Fast Company article on turning big data into smart data underscores, we need to understand the customer behind the data.
  • Let the Customer Cadence, Not the Brand Calendar Drive Timing: Every customer doesn’t need to receive every message. At CRMC last year, BestBuy talked about an audit that uncovered that their best customers – top of the list for every division – received an onslaught of communications, with one receiving 28 emails in one month. Prioritize the messages that matter the most to your customer, rather than your brand and product managers to thoughtfully manage the messages you send that customer.

Despite some flaws, I still love to shop Target. We have a Super Target near rDialogue’s offices, so I find myself there week in and week out, using my card each time, even managing every once in a while to stroll through my Target with my sister – who is on the phone at her Target in Texas. The brand is breaking new ground at every turn, so I’ll be on the look out for those relevant communications I know they can deliver – well beyond diapers.