Target launches Techstars accelerator inside headquarters

Target (NYSE:TGT) is speeding up the rate of innovation heading into the holiday season. There's the new partnership with Techstars to create a technology accelerator, new mobile search technology complete with shoppable ads, and a soon-to-open innovation lab near MIT to focus on the future of food.

The Techstars program will be headed up by West Stringfellow, former chief product officer at Bigcommerce and Rosetta Stone, and there are plans to hire a managing director, according to TechCrunch.

Stringfellow, along with Greg Shewmaker and David Law, were part of Target's entrepreneur-in-residence program that began in March and are helping the retailer to innovate beyond designer partnerships and mobile apps.

Target already has a technology center in Silicon Valley and an tech incubator in India, but the Techstars program will be housed inside its Minneapolis headquarters.

New initiatives developed in the Techstars program won't necessarily be exclusive to Target, but available to other retailers as well, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. In January, Target will open a lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with design firm IDEO, where students from MIT, Harvard, and Rhode Island School of Design will collaborate to re-imagine the future of food technology. 

Additionally, Target is utilizing new digital marketing tools at a furious pace. Currently it is running shoppable TV ads, and in September launched a print ad campaign using mobile visual search technology. The spread, featuring about 100 Target products, ran in Vogue's massive fall issue and utilizes Shazam's visual recognition platform. Readers can scan any image tagged with the logo via smartphone camera to unlock additional digital content and buy the item with a minimal number of clicks.

"It's less about the fact that it's sexy technology, and more that it allows us to give Target guests a more meaningful and richer experience," said Joshua Thomas, a spokesperson for Target. As he notes, the release of Vogue's trend-heavy September issue is a much anticipated annual event, and Target wanted to be part of that pop culture moment.

"We're a retailer—we're always looking to ring registers," Thomas said. "But we're also joining in on a conversation. On the surface level, the images are beautiful and fantastic to look at. Very simply, Shazam has allowed [Target] to bring people into the experience by showing the image that was the inspiration for the ad, along with fun, snackable content and the ability to shop the product."

"Target is excited about technology that has the potential to create more compelling and more convenient experiences for our guests," Target spokesperson Eddie Baeb told FierceRetail, "...and we're excited to see how guests react to the use of Shazam in our Vogue ads and upcoming fall TV spots."

For more:
-See this Minneapolis Star Tribune story
-See this Clickz article
-See this TechCrunch story

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