Target's digital strategy remains guest-focused

CHICAGO—The vision for Target (NYSE:TGT) in 2015 is to remain guest-obsessed. Forget channels, focus on the what the consumer wants. This was the takeaway of this morning's IRCE keynote speech by Jason Goldberger, president of and mobile.

Goldberger discussed the challenges that come with technology moving so quickly, and the consumer moving even faster. He could not avoid the elephant in the room: the one-and-a-half-hour digital failure that occurred during Target's Lilly Pulitzer launch in April. "We knew Lilly would sell out," Goldberger said. "We didn't expect it to be as fast as Black Friday. The question was 'How fast would it sell out?'"

Goldberger said the company tested a million scenarios, but in the end, Target had no idea so many shoppers would use the app to make purchases. So while he called the launch "a big failure," he also said it would never happen again. "We missed the mark on Lilly because we relied on data less than six months old and data is constantly changing," he said.

The solution: Be guest-obsessed. Stay on top of what consumers want. Target's CEO Brian Cornell stated previously this year that the company was shifting focus onto the consumer, not on each individual channel.

Today, 98 percent of Target guests shop digitally and three out of four shopping occasions start with a phone or tablet. And investing in mobile is a big part of how the big-box retailer will move forward with its guest-focused strategy.

"A guest who shops in-store and digitally shops three times more often and spends three times as much money as the average shopper," Goldberger said. "Every touchpoint is a way to simplify how a guest buys."

When Goldberger was asked how Target online can compete with Amazon, he said that it's actually the brick-and-mortar store that will beat Amazon, with the help of the digital properties. That is why stores are being changed to also serve as fulfillment centers and serve as spaces for buy online, pick up in-store purchases or ship-to-store sites. Goldberger predicted that by summer, 500 Target stores will be onboard to handle one- to two-day shipments to most of the country.

What's Goldberger's ultimate advice? "Say yes" to anything a customer asks for.

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