A more recent example of clever marketing at Target

Posted by steve | General Commentary | Friday 12 April 2013 7:58 pm

We have a local Super Target store very close to where we live and because of the convenience I visit the store probably two or three times in a week. It’s commonplace for me to receive a message on my iPhone from my wife, by the time I’ve left the office and begun my trip home, to pickup milk, butter, soda pop, that sort of thing, on the way home. Since I have to drive past the store to get home, and since they always have good prices and selection, I shop there.

To be perfectly clear, I really like Target stores. They are attractive, have good products, competitive prices and often carry exactly what I’m seeking.

Thursday evening this week I had an interesting experience at my local Super Target store. In case you do not know, a Super Target is a regular Target department store with a groceries section added on. The groceries section is about a third the size of the overall store and always appears to be busy with customers. As described above, I got a request to stop in and pick up butter and some soda pop for the family on the way home Thursday. I remembered I needed cereal and mentally added that to the list of what I was going to purchase. When I purchase soda pop for the family I usually get 3 or more cartons at a time, especially if they are on sale, so I grabbed a shopping cart when entering the store. Since I go to this particular store quite frequently I knew exactly which aisles and locations to head towards to pick up the needed items.

Quite impulsively, after picking up the groceries, I decided it might be nice to purchase a new dress shirt. So I pushed the cart over to the other end of the store, towards the back, where the Men’s Clothing section can be found. And I picked up a few shirts, looked them over, put them back on the racks or hangers. After browsing shirts for around 10 minutes I decided there really was not anything that particularly interested me, and decided to abandon the idea of purchasing a new men’s shirt. In the past I’d only ever purchased socks, underwear, and that sort of thing; I had yet to purchase an actual shirt at Target.

When I arrived back at the front of the store with my shopping cart I could see that since I was shopping at a time when most people were likely home preparing or having dinner, the store was not very busy. There were a few open cashier checkout lines available to choose from and I grabbed the nearest one.

In the past I’ve written about the checkout process at Target and how they do a very good job at selective marketing with on-demand coupons during the checkout. So after I loaded the few groceries on the conveyor belt and swiped my debit card across the electronic reader (and at that point identifying myself to the computers belonging to the store), sure enough some coupons immediately printed out.

And one of them was a 15% off coupon on Men’s Shirts.

The coincidence really surprised me.

Okay, what the heck was that all about? I figure there are several possible explanations and it made for entertaining discussion amongst my friends as we thought about what may have happened. Here are the possibilities, no matter how creepy they may seem.

  1. Just a coincidence? This would be the simplest.
  2. My purchasing habits are really predictable by some clever shopping algorithm that Target has developed?
  3. It’s the season when people in my demographics evidently think about buying a shirt?
  4. Subliminal messages inside the store triggered an interest in buying a new shirt?
  5. Some well-meaning employee watching security cameras watched me browsing and decided to send me a coupon when they saw which checkout line I picked?
  6. Facial recognition software monitoring the security cameras (not too far-fetched since that’s how shoplifters get “black-listed” in some department stores) had advanced software that noticed I was shopping in the Men’s Clothing department and triggered the automatic on-demand coupon when it detected my face in a checkout line?

Stop me before I get too carried away with this…