Target opens Silicon Valley tech hub

Target (NYSE:TGT) has opened an outpost in Silicon Valley as the retailer continues to seek out technology talent and build digital commerce capabilities.

It's the second tech-focused facility that Target has opened in the area. The first, a Technology Innovation Center in downtown San Francisco, opened in 2012 and is where the retailer tests new technologies with nearby startups. This new facility will tackle data analytics and engineering for its online and mobile team, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. 

The new 7,000 sq. ft. Sunnyvale, California office will initially have 15 employees, but there are plans to ultimately house 70 staffers including data scientists, software engineers and product managers.

Target is under pressure to build out its digital business, and an expanded presence near Silicon Valley is meant to attract tech talent.

In this, Target is hardly alone. Walmart has its tech arm, WalmartLabs, in Silicon Valley, and both Target and Walmart are scouting for tech talent in India. In May, Target announced the formation of a new digital advisory council comprised of technologists from outside the company.

On Monday, Target hosted a small open house at the new offices and invited Ashish Goel, a professor of management science and engineering at Stanford University, and part-time research fellow at Twitter, to speak to the growing importance of social media and social commerce.

Ashish defines social commerce as a financial, business or purchase decision that's been mediated by a social interaction.

"If you input a search on a website and get a bunch of results and click on something, and then other results pop up because people like you clicked on those other things, that's social commerce," he said. "You're combining algorithms and big data to amplify what the community thought or what society thinks."

"What I'm hoping will emerge is not just a set of products, but a new set of technologies on which you can build many, many, many products," said Ashish. "For companies like Target, that will allow marketing, decision-makers and engineers to quickly launch new, personalized products."

Target is still reeling from the events of the past year: A data breach that compromised the credit and personal information of 70 million Target shoppers, a dismal holiday season, sluggish sales at U.S. stores and a disastrous entry into the Canadian market.

But there is new leadership—Target last week announced the appointment of Brian Cornell as chairman and CEO—and several new executives to oversee IT and security.

"With last week's announcement that the board has chosen Brian Cornell as Target's next chairman and CEO, we are excited to welcome Brian to the team and committed to working together to accelerate Target's transformation and become a leading omnichannel retailer," he said.

For more:
-See this Minneapolis Star Tribune article
-See this Target blog post

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