Target's Joint Program With Facebook Goes Out Of Its Way To Exclude Target.com

Target (NYSE:TGT) has started a trial program with Facebook, where its customers get discounts on products on services that are pushed through the social network, if they buy them inside a Target store. Bafflingly, the effort prohibits users from using the program to work with Target.com, even though that would be the much easier and intuitive way for shoppers to use the service.

This is far from the first time that Target has talked up its commitment to a merged channel/omnichannel strategy, while delivering something that seems to force shoppers to stay in whatever channel Target is pushing at that moment. Consider the chain's giftcard digital strategy deployed during last year's holiday season.

The Target-Facebook joint effort is called Cartwheel and, far from a merged channel approach where the shopper uses whichever channel they prefer, it seems aimed at forcing shoppers deep into the store. The idea is that a shopper goes on Facebook and chooses some special deals. The weekly, monthly and quarterly deals include discounts from 5 percent off to as much as 40 percent off of certain goods, and differ from other Target offers in circulars or coupon booklets.

A QR code is then generated. The customer either prints it out and brings in the dead-tree copy to the store—or accesses Facebook from a mobile device and simply brings the device into the store. Either way, a store associate then scans the QR code.

Once shoppers pick a deal, it appears on the Facebook newsfeed so other friends can see it. (Consumers can also adjust their privacy settings to block other users from seeing their information.) Users can earn more discounts the more they shop or if they can successfully share their offers with other friends. The more people use the site, they can earn badges like Super Scanner or Uber Saver to grab more discounts and perks. An app coming in June will let shoppers scan a photo of an item's barcode to quickly see if an offer is available on that item.

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