Target looks toward online, mobile platforms to boost bottom line

Target, one of America's biggest big box retailers, is finally putting more of the focus on its online experience.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

After a bumpy time last fall, Target is looking to strengthen its online and mobile platforms with the intention of improving the online consumer experience.

Target Corporation chairman and CEO Gregg Steinhafel told investors on the quarterly conference call on Wednesday that the mega-retailer has a vision to "create a unique seamless integration of our stores, online mobile platforms and social media, providing our guests the same great experience regardless of the channel they choose."

The idea here is to simplify shopping on Target.com across multiple platforms. If consumers see it that way, they'd be more likely to continue shopping at Target.com more often. This would step up the game with the likes of Amazon, which arguably already does have a near seamless experience between the desktop browser portal and a mobile app that can identify the barcode of just about anything for easy price comparison.

However, Target needs to win over consumers first. Target.com actually switched over its online backend from Amazon's servers last summer. The transition was painfully apparent to retail shoppers in September when the site suffered a major outage upon the debut of a discount designer line from Missoni.

Many consumers were likely left very upset -- not just because the website kept going down -- but because on occasion, some of them received emails in the following days that the orders they thought they completed turned out to be invalid.

Shortly after that in October, then-Target.com president Steve Eastman resigned from the company without explanation.

The real test to see if Target had at least patched things up came in February with another anticipated product line debut from fashion designer Jason Wu. That time, there were little to no problems reported.

Still, Target.com seems to be moving along at a somewhat healthy pace. Target's executive vice president of merchandising Kathee Tesija added on the call that first quarter sales on the website and mobile platforms increased -- but at a slower rate than in brick-and-mortar stores.

Tesija added during the Q&A portion of the call:

And the second one on web metrics, we're very focused on our overall site performance, watching speed on all parts of the site, all pages, as well as our ability to improve search and order fulfillment. And so, I'll tell you, we're investing meaningful resources in our multi-channel efforts. We're very committed to making improvements. We have seen those metrics improve meaningfully so far this spring.We still have a lot of releases yet to come this spring and summer. And we think that that will continue to help these metrics improve. So, a big focus for us and you'll see us continue to talk about it as we go throughout the year.


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