Dan Naden

Target: Reinvention Needed on Aisle 5

Is it just me, or has Target gone on autopilot? Where’s the reinvention, renewal, appetite for change, risk-taking?

Sadly, the Target store I enter today seems strikingly similar to the Target of 2006.

Yes, Target sells groceries now, but I prefer the selection and local focus of HEB, a grocery behemoth in Texas. Yes, Target has partnered with fashion designers, aiming to get Moms to look their hippest for a decent price. My wife, however, and many of her friends, still favor Nordstrom’s, J. Crew, Ann Taylor, Talbot’s.

checking out at Target
Yeah, I know, no one uses cash anymore.

At its core, Target is hopelessly transactional. You get in Target, you get out of Target, and nothing memorable or remarkable happens. Where’s the experience? Where’s that drive to create something that plays with you after you leave? Present something different that entices me to share something exceptional on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

Stereotypically, men like me don’t linger in stores. We enter and exit with the precision and directness of a coordinated military invasion. If I have a list, I plow through the store like a renegade Nebraska tornado. If I don’t have a list, I make one. Here’s the deal though: I will linger, and possibly spend more money (ka-ching) if, and only if, there’s something new, something that shatters the routine to smithereens.

Think of some retailers who have nailed the ‘experience’. All of these destinations have created something magnetizing, hypnotizing, helping consumers lose all track of time.

  1. IKEA: You have have a few items in mind when you visit IKEA, but you end up having lunch there and filling up your cart with merchandise that was cleverly marketed to you as ‘items’ that will complete any room with pizazz, cool, or sass. I don’t have the metrics, yet I have to imagine ‘average time in store’ is off the charts for the typical IKEA visitor. I’ve known friends to meet up at IKEA to just ‘hang out’.

  2. Whole Foods: I have the luxury of living in Austin, Texas, the headquarters of Whole Foods. Downtown, nestled amidst the growing armada of steely skyscraper that are stretching Austin’s landscape, is the flagship store for Whole Foods. If you’ve ever been to this store: a) you remember b) you’ll tell your friends.

    As you browse the beer cooler, the fresh, colorful veggies, or the decadent array of chocolates, you notice one thing: people are in no hurry to leave. Two friends sip wine as they recap their weekends. A boisterous throng of frat boys thump chests as they debate the merits of two obscure and delicious craft beers.

    While Target regretfully encourages a quick, non-eventful drab exit, Whole Foods carefully, wisely sets up their store for slow, casual, emotive dances with smell, taste, sight and sound.

  3. The Apple Store: This one is a slam dunk. Apple brings the experience to the visitor by conveniently offering its products (TVs, laptops, phones, tablets) for everyone to try. If you are lucky enough to find an open tablet at one of their stores (some weekends, the lines are three people deep), you’ll quickly have someone behind you, chomping and fidgeting to give the device a spin.

    Apple wisely downplays the bits, RAM, feeds, speeds and specs, instead the intuitive, user-friendly ‘experience’ and simplicity get the spotlight. When you get immersed in the Apple ‘vibe’, you know you just have to have the product – the cost isn’t even part of the equation.

Dear Target: You can do this. What you experience, you remember. Make your stores exciting, fresh and new.

  • Spark up a cooking demonstration from a local chef.
  • Showcase a local author, who has just written a best-seller.
  • Let a local band (hey, I am in Austin) create some atmosphere with some music.

Now there are a few reasons to linger (and spend more money). Time for reinvention, Target. The store of tomorrow MUST look and act much different than the store of today.

Honorable Mention:


Until next time,

Dan Naden

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