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How Can Retailers Bridge Gap Between Physical Stores And Social Technology?

Abstract image of an arrow crossing over a great divide

As retailers look for a new way to increase business, Target is doing a “Cartwheel.” That’s the name of its new application, which integrates social media and personalized customer savings.

An article on Forbes.com explains how Cartwheel works. After signing up for the app via Facebook, customers select discounts that range from 5 to 30 percent for specific products. The coupons are saved on the Cartwheel app. At checkout, customers display the app’s bar code to redeem the savings.

The new technology highlights Target’s new goal of bridging “the in-store experience with social technology,” Casey Carl, president of multichannel at Target, tells Forbes.com.

Retailers want to provide customers with more reasons to shop in their stores rather than online. This is an example of how Target is using new technology to drum up interest to shop at its bricks-and-mortar locations. It makes sense. Retailers would much rather have shoppers walking through the aisles and making impulse buys than purchasing just one product on their e-commerce site.

If numbers tell a story, they may say this collaboration between Target and Facebook is poised for social savings success. After all, Facebook has more than a billion users, and Target has more than 21 million fans on the social network. The retailer’s website ranks as the fourth most-visited shopping site, getting clicks from more than 26 unique visitors each month.

However, this collaboration doesn’t come without challenges. Among some of the potential issues, the Forbes.com article notes that Target’s Cartwheel has a separate microsite not connected to Target’s Facebook. This shows that retailers haven’t put it all together yet. There’s not a seamless integration among marketing efforts, loyalty programs and e-commerce. But retailers must remember that this is an evolving process. You can’t flip on a switch and jump completely into the omni-channel. Instead, you need to constantly be examining your marketing operations and looking at data from previous initiatives to keep striving toward omni-channel retailing.

Finally, it’s important to remember that social shopping is a new territory for many retailers, and Facebook may not be the surefire driver of e-commerce that many retailers think it is. Most retailers would be better off investing in their own program and using social media to drive people to their technology, rather than trying to seamlessly integrate multiple systems. This allows retailers to get into the e-commerce marketplace quicker. They also have more control over their own sites than they would on social media channels.

Source: Forbes.com, May 2013