Target has announced its latest retail innovation: TargetStyle, a shoppable, 360-degree CGI experience on Target.com.
Using CGI, the program shows users curated living room looks, including modern, farmhouse, midcentury or traditional. Shoppers can then browse about 140 products from rugs and sofas to wall hangings in a virtual living room designed to help guests visualize the size and scale of items.
“We wanted to create a 360-degree shoppable room experience because it's a great way for guests to shop products like furniture,” a Target spokesperson told FierceRetail. “Seeing the products styled in a vignette is very inspirational—and helps the guests better understand the item’s size and dimensions and also envision items—say a sofa or lamp—in their own living room.”
TargetStyle is a very intuitive and seamless experience. Clicking on items gives users the option to add to their shopping cart or view more product details.
“We’re constantly searching for new ways to inspire our guests and make shopping at Target an easy and inspiring experience,” said Mike McNamara, chief digital officer, Target. “And we’re just beginning to tap the power of CGI with this virtual reality living room—there’s a ton of potential to create even richer, engaging digital experiences for our guests.”
The experience was created entirely in-house by Target, and it’s the first of more innovations to come. Target plans to double its CGI team this year by hiring more than 40 CGI professionals.
“The CGI technology developed in-house by Target’s team allows us to create digital product images faster and more efficiently than we could before. It also provides our teams greater flexibility—making it easier to reconfigure online images or substitute products into digital vignettes when items are sold out. These great efficiencies and cost-savings apply to something like a 360-shopping experience and more basic things like product-detail pages—where CGI will provide us better and consistent product images that we believe will enhance the overall online shopping experience,” the spokesperson added.
Target joins other home goods retailers jumping into the virtual game, including Lowe's and The Home Depot.
The timing could not be better for Target, according to Mike Kim, director at AArete, a global consultancy specializing in data-informed performance improvement, and head of its Center of Data Excellence. As competition among retailers is fierce, brands need to be innovative and implement customer engagement and experiences such as virtual reality.
"Also, some companies have a very loyal shopping base, like Target. Given the intersection of loyalty, innovation and market realities, and with discounting no longer working, it seems that this is indeed a good time to introduce new customer experiences," Kim told FierceRetail.
The timing is being dictated by the customers, according to Sam Cinquegrani, CEO and founder of ObjectWave Corp., a full-service provider of digital commerce. "Whatever it is, if your customers want it, then retailers need to build the business case to provide it," But Cinquegrani warns that there are challenges that retailers can face when introducing VR to their customers, so it's important that the retailer stick with it.
"New technology sometimes takes time to mature and evolve. It is rarely perfect the first time, but the experience of stumbling and then learning reaps big rewards if you stay with it, we've learned over and again," he said.
Kim holds a different opinion. While the novelty will be exciting for consumers, he's not sure whether an increase in sales come from this use of technology. Target will need to engage in research and analytics to measure engagement to know if the retailer truly got a return on their investment.
Kim warns of other challenges as well. Retailers need to set goals for virtual reality and then collect customer data to see if they are getting a return on investment. That could be challenging, as experiential aspects are harder to measure. For example, some shoppers enjoying walking down the aisles and connecting with people in a store.
"Retailers need to get to grips with all these measures to understand what’s working and what’s not working," Kim said.
Ultimately, time will tell if TargetStyle will be successful, but Cinquergrani applauds the big-box retailer's willingness to be innovative and try new ways to engage with their customers.
"Even if some of the technologies do not prove to be fruitful, many more will. And that's the lesson Amazon has taught all retailers. I think it's all very positive for Target and will drive more people to both their traditional channels and digital ones," he said.