Price, set, match: Target's new weapon to beat 'key online retailers'

Price, set, match: Target's new weapon to beat 'key online retailers'

Summary: It looks like Target is going to try to beat Amazon at its own game.


The easy marriage of bargain basement prices with an incredibly easy-to-use mobile app has made Amazon an ideal outlet for holiday shopping.

At least for some people.

Many people are becoming familiar with the following process: A person strolls into a brick-and-mortar store, eventually finding an item that sparks desire in one's heart but there's not enough to spare in one's wallet.

An easy remedy would be to flip out one's smartphone, open the Amazon Price Check app, and scan the barcode for an instant price comparison. More often than not, Amazon has the lower price.

Of course, Amazon isn't alone in this field. For instance, eBay's RedLaser barcode and QR code scanner does the same thing except that it offers results from a whole myriad of shops, both online and in the real world.

But given that Amazon only displays search results for, well, Amazon, it's an easy target for opponents.

Nevertheless, for anyone on a tight budget (which is arguably most consumers these days), it's easy to see the appeal in this option, which has become known as "showrooming."

A recent study from mobile marketing firm Vibessuggests that the showrooming trend has gone fully mainstream in just one year. Based on a survey of 1,000 smartphone owners, researchers found that there has been a 156 percent jump with consumers who purchased a product from a competitor while in a retail store.

But there are a number of reasons that showrooming has drawn ire from consumers and other retailers alike. For one, many critics have argued that this practice harms the business vitality of small and local businesses -- a resistance movement that Amazon must be familiar with by now.

But even other big box retailers aren't terribly pleased with how showrooming is effectively becoming monopolized.

Target, one of biggest discount retailers in country, looks like it is maneuvering to beat Amazon at its own game while also drawing upon some tried-and-true sales strategies from pre-digital days.

Without specifically naming Amazon but rather referring to "key online retailers," Target's technical architect consultant Ari Olson explained in a blog post this week that the Minneapolis-headquartered chain "needed to create a tool that would let Target store teams easily verify and check online prices."

Essentially, Target employees will be showrooming themselves on behalf of customers, promising a price match guarantee on "qualifying items."

Not only could these customers be getting an instant discount, but they'll also be able to take home their purchases home instantly too -- another way to beat Amazon, which is still somewhat held back from providing instant gratification, to the punch.

According to Olson, Target developed a custom iPad app neatly named "Price Match," with Olson stressing how astounding it was that this app was produced within a matter of weeks. Ready for the onslaught of shoppers on Black Friday next week, Target has shipped out 2,500 iPads to its stores nationwide with the Price Match app pre-installed.

The last official count of Target stores left the grand total at 1,778 brick-and-mortar locations scattered across the United States alone, meaning chances are shoppers will be able to find an employee somewhere on the store floor with these resources.

Best Buy, which has had a tougher time catching up in response to e-commerce trends, is also experimenting with something similar.

CEO Hubert Joly referred to "floor space optimization initiatives" during the electronics seller's third quarter earnings call on Tuesday, which include equipping store employees with "new tablet-based tools that allow them to access online resources to aid customers wherever they may be on the retail sales floor."

However, the details here are fuzzier -- a stark contrast to Target, which is not only using its new app as a resource for employees but also as an advertising mechanism to get more shoppers in stores.

But only time, consisting of a shorter holiday shopping window, will tell how fruitful these tactics can be.

Image via Target

Topics: E-Commerce, Apps, iPad, Mobility, Software Development

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  • Target's problems are internal

    I used to love shopping at Target. But then they moved stuff around and I have no idea where I am, in the store. Same problem with Walmart. So, I go to Amazon, search, click, buy.

    Target's website is so slow and its search engine so bad, it's not worth visiting.

    So that's where the management at Target need to focus, instead of blaming online retailers. Whenever I see someone blame someone else for one's own problems, I know that prevarication prevails.
    • Target stores offer a handy search tool. Try it.

      I can usually walk less than 50 feet to talk to an employee who will find whatever I want.

      I really like that physical stores are doing easy price matching. Target is just one of several companies. If these stores hadn't waited so long (inertia of status quo), Amazon wouldn't be quite so profitable now. website is what it is. It will improve after they get their design priorities straight.
    • Selective price match?

      Frys Electronics has been matching online prices on ALL of their items for years.
      I prefer Frys if it's the same item.
      Local and all that.
      Although now, with Amazon using USPS for delivery, ALL of my Prime items arrive the next day.
      • Fry's

        The times I've price matched at Frys, they made it pretty clear that they weren't happy to have to do so. They also indicated that they don't necessarily match just anybody's price.
        • I agree. Stopped shopping at Fry's a couple of years ago.

          They so totally suck when it comes to customer service. Half the time the employees act like they are totally stupid. I know they are not but they 'play the game'. Sorry, I am to smart to fall for that. Fry's sucks! Don't give them your money!
          • You think Everyone Suck

            Don't go to Frys, Don't use Microsoft. I only have one question: Who hurt you?
            Burger Meister
          • Poor, poor customer service

            I will only shop at frys as the last resort, I rather pay a little more than shop with them. The customer service is terrible unless it's a big ticket item. Now let's talk about returns. They're extreme difficult to work with. One day I walk out of their store as the return people gave me so many problems. No I don't think that I'll be shopping there
        • I wish I had Fry's closer

          It's a great store, not perfect, but some of their deals are untouchable. Other items . . . ehh . . . not so much.

          But the closest one for me is about 45 minutes away.
    • No problem with their layout

      If they move stuff around, just learn the new layout. I've been in tons of Target stores, and they all seem to follow 1 of 3 basic layout schemes. A quick walk through the middle aisle and you'll know where everything is.
    • I work at Target so i know how you feel..

      It's annoying when stores want to switch stuff around. It really makes it harder to find what you need and i'd rather go into a store and know where things are right off the bat. One way of getting what you need is just ask a team member where something is or ask at guest service or if you see a team member who looks like they are running the registers. Though the only problem with Target now is they keep cutting hours and that's bad when you get the same foot traffic but they complain when they don't make sales.. though Walmart is worse, you can't ever find an employee there. I hate Walmart and it's not just because i work for Target, but Target is generally a better atmosphere depending on the people working there.
    • I agree...

      frequently moving things around makes for an unpleasant to horrible shopping experience.
      Not only does it confuse shoppers, but associates look foolish when a customer asks "where can I find 'item A'" and 'item A' has been moved from where it's been for the past few years.

      However, shoppers must realize that placement is rarely up to local management. I've worked for a "big box" store, and learned that most, if not all product placement decisions are made at some level higher than local management, e.g. district, region, or corporate. So, when things get moved around, don't blame local management; such changes are often forced on them, often by folks who may never have actually had to suffer the ignominy of "serving customers" by working in a retail environment. Local management cares mostly that the product relocation has been put into effect, not whether it makes sense or adds convenience to the shopping experience; shoppers' convenience is second - or lower - on their list. Many "big box" stores are judged solely on their "numbers". If Store A consistently "misses the numbers", higher-ups change management to see if someone else can "make" the numbers.
    • Amazon's search engine is a joke!

      "Target's website is so slow and its search engine so bad, it's not worth visiting."

      I have bought tons of stuff from Amazon and always shop there first, but their search engine is a joke. Most of what it shows is irrelevant, forcing you to scroll and page through lots of things you are not interested in to try to find what you are searching for.
    • Yeah but . . .

      Amazon has it's own issues, it used to be selective about secondary vendors, now it's just like ebay. Muddling through which vendors charge for shipping, which don't, which count towards Amazon free shipping, etc.

      Plus, organizationally it can be frustrating too, most of my searches I can't get rid of the irrelevant items making it difficult to find all my choices.

      That being said, I buy a fair amount from Amazon, but it varies a lot from store to store.
  • And If That Doesn't Work...

    There's always Wave Bubble. :)
  • Target's search

    Their search engine is the worst I've seen. The results usually do not show what I've queried. If I hadn't been in the store and seen it myself I would not believe they carry it. Even so, when I can't find something on their website (which would draw me into the store), I shop elsewhere.
    • hmm...perhaps you need to learn how to type?

      I've not had a problem with Target's search. I am an Amazon Prime customer and tend to purchase from them but still compare and sometimes purchase from other vendors such as Target, Walmart, BestBuy, HomeDepot, Lowes, etc. In my not so humble opinion Lowes has THE worst search/results/info of all the big name shops. To be honest, I get a special thrill when I find a deal and purchase from a small time shop....
  • Created in weeks

    Hold it. Let me get this straight. Target created a highly complex price checking program in a matter of weeks? Where were these guys during Obamacare site creation?
    Michael LeBrun
    • They didn't have a bucnh of politicians and beaurocrats looking over

      their shoulders and telling them how to do things, thus it got done quick.
      Deadly Ernest
      • Just like

        How people who say that the product that wins gets to the market first, but people turn a blind eye to private sector bureaucracy, cut corners, faults, problems, etc...

        So, please, spare us the inference or direct statement of "all things government is eeevil and all things private are goood." People who think know it's loaded manuure.
        • Not usually evil

          but slow, sluggish, misdirected. There are exceptions, but talk to a few government contractors and ask them about how government works.

          And this is ZDNet so I will stop there. But private bureaucracy is irrelevant, we don't pay for that unless we choose to (and that doesn't last, they go out of business).