This story really isn’t about Target, I’m only picking on them because it’s my family’s favorite store. This article really applies to all retailers. My advice to you is this: If you haven’t already, please open up a pre-emptive digital shopping channel that targets your known customers. Don’t make us go to someone else to find better service (and the convenience we all crave.)
Many of today’s retailers blame Amazon for the state of their business, claiming that they’re on the brink of going extinct. I disagree. Survival isn’t simply about effectively competing with Amazon, it’s about not losing your customers to anyone else. Period. Today, customers like me who buy your products are in the driver’s seat. We influence the decisions that you make; the services you provide and the products you sell. We impact your decisions based on our changing needs and desires. As new technology becomes available, you have the power to enable new options for us. You might even be in a better position to predict the change in behavior than I am; you already have the data on my preferences and behaviors. And you have access to the tools you need to analyze it.
I don’t know that I buy 1 tube of toothpaste every 5.28 weeks or that I buy one of those 24 packs of toilet paper every 18 days. I just know that I only buy these things at Target, and when I do, I always use my Red Card. Why isn’t someone anticipating that I’m going to run out next week and warn me? Send me an email or text message. Add it to my Target App shopping list suggestions. Even better, get proactive: the next time I start running low, ship the toothpaste to my house with a note. “Hey, we thought you might be running low on toothpaste. We wouldn’t want you to go to work without brushing your teeth! Your Red Card will be charged automatically on this date. If you don’t need toothpaste right now, that’s ok. Just bring it with you on your next trip to the store we’ll gladly take it back free of charge.”
This works in the store, too; the next time I’m at the checkout buying personal staple items, ask if I want to put those items on auto-replenishment. So, #AlexFromTarget, the next time I have Rogaine or Just for Men hair color in my cart, ask if Target could just ship it to me in a plain brown box next time. Then I won’t have to have to bury it under the family size Ruffles bag when I place it on the belt.
That’s the kind of innovation we all expect from business in general these days, not just retailers. Our lives are busy enough, just a little bit of convenience can go a long way. A while back I rode in a taxi, the driver couldn’t find the address I was headed to, spent the entire trip talking on the phone, and insisted that I pay cash. That was the last cab I was in. It truly has been “Uber Everywhere,” since then.
To my friends in retail: Your survival depends on your ability to hold on to the customers that you already have. In your own, unique way, you need to understand them better. Give them something that makes life easier — don’t make them go look for it. By opening a direct channel with your customers pre-emptively, you can actually drive more store traffic. It’s a lot easier than figuring out a way to get them after they’ve discovered Amazon Dash. (Speaking of Dash, do we really need all these buttons all over the house? There must be a better way to easily put items on reorder.)
Target, I’ll be waiting for my surprise package next week in the mail. P.S., this is a trick question; the Red Card is actually in my wife’s name. It’s actually pretty easy to solve though, Google has the answers, you just have to be willing to look.