Off-Target Launches

Oct 6, 2011 | Digital, Web Services

Marketing people are now tech people. And if not, they better be best friends with tech people. The world has changed so dramatically that marketers, even the big guys like retailer Target, are finding out the hard way that these two departments must work together as a team.

If you’ve been doing some shopping on Target’s new website of recent, you’ve probably experienced a lot of hiccups. On Twitter and Facebook, shoppers have been expressing their frustration over a new e-commerce experience that went from on-target to lackluster when it launched in late August. And it all stemmed from two things: ego and rushing.

The ego portion we can understand, after all it’s Target. But the rushing, not so much. Although, we’re pretty sure the ego drove the rushing.

Here’s the breakdown. So, we all understand that Target’s online sales were growing rapidly and agree they needed a new system where they controlled the checkout, which was previously run through Amazon has been the retail muse of the industry for a long time and rightfully so. Over the years, they’ve tweaked their system to be superior to most. We bet some of you didn’t know that Amazon was the guts behind the glory of Target’s online experience. Well, you weren’t supposed to know.

Where it got sticky was when Target made a strategic decision to build their own robust e-commerce system that would take over for Amazon and increase their profits by owning the backend and not having to outsource it. Makes total sense.

What didn’t make sense was the speed at which they decided to launch the site — its very comprehensive site. Our team has worked with companies with complex websites, backend inventory and checkout systems and it takes time, testing, and then more time and more testing. And you can never test a site too much, even after it goes live. But when you’re dealing with the audience and purchase volume that Target deals with each day, you better do as much internal testing as humanly possible – we mean seriously having people go in and do sample shopping and consumer experience tests. Some sites can be up in days, but a site like this should take an extended period of time – more than a few months. It’s better right upon arrival, rather then first to arrive and wrong.

Had Target waited for a more thorough review of their site, they may not be in this spot.

And, we can assure you that other retailer are watching and taking notes, lots of notes. Especially because they want to make the same move.

So how will the modern-day savvy marketer get consumers to show the love again. First, fix the problem and be up front. Then, it’s going to take some fessing up and some sorry we messed up credits to consumers to lure them back to try the improved experience. Since Target likely had customers logged into their account during their dismal shopping cart experience, they know who needs to be reconnected with first. Being that we are at the starting line of holiday shopping, we expect this is at the tippy-top of Target’s list of to do’s.

Some immediate solutions that we think may help let customers know they’re working on it include adding an instant pop-up with a chat or click-to-call-me feature when the site generates an error. This way the consumer is able to get answers or complete the purchase with minimal disruption. Adding these as a standard on the site during the fine-tuning effort would go a long way, even just as a temporary fix. Most consumers understand that mistakes happen. How you deal with them while ensuring your changes are not making it hard on them is important.

In addition to all this, Target’s CMO just jumped ship to go to JC Penny this week, how timely.

What can the little guy learn in all this? Don’t let your ego rush your product launch if it means sacrificing performance or consumer engagement. Yep, we see Target’s site as one of its products since it built its brand reputation on experience.