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Target beacon screens

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Target already has multiple ways to save, with printable coupons, store coupons, mobile coupons and Cartwheel. Now it’s time to add another one to the list. Target is testing out coupons that are beamed to your phone while you walk through its aisles.

Target has announced that it’s turning on beacons today in 50 test stores, in eight cities. The beacons are tiny, low-powered devices installed around the store, that transmit signals to smartphone apps via Bluetooth. If you opt in, and open up your Target app while shopping in a test store, a new “Target Run” page in the app will alert you to sales, deals and coupons based on your location in the store. The offers will be a mix of new and existing ones, Target spokesman Eddie Baeb told Coupons in the News. “Exclusive offers, existing mobile coupons, in store ‘text to get’ offers and Cartwheel deals,” he said.

“We’re excited to start using beacon technology to offer real-time, relevant content and services that can help make shopping at Target easier and more fun,” Jason Goldberger, president of Target.com and Mobile, added in a statement.

So far, the Target beacons are operational in Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, New York City, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle, with more cities to come. And they only work with iPhones, for now. If you have the right combination of smartphone device and city, you’ll be prompted to update your Target app, enable Bluetooth and you’ll need to opt in to share your location.

Various retailers have tested and used beacon technology in recent years, but Target is now one of the largest retailers to do so. So it’s likely to be a new experience for most shoppers. If you’re opted in and have your Target app open, product recommendations, offers and coupons may pop up on your phone while you shop. If you’re in the grocery aisle, for example, “Target Run” might alert you to nearby items that are on sale, or grocery-related Cartwheel or mobile coupon offers that you might be interested in.

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“Don’t worry about being overwhelmed with pop-ups,” Target promises. “We’re going to limit the amount you receive to two per shopping trip, and we’ll make sure the alerts and in-app updates provide compelling content and offers.”

Future features include a shopping list that will automatically re-sort based on your location in the store, and the ability to page a Target employee for help right from your phone.

The potentially creepy part of it all, is that by opting in, you’ll essentially be tracked as you walk through the store. Target will be able to use composite data about shoppers’ movements, to see where traffic is particularly high or low at certain times of day, in which departments shoppers are most likely to linger, and to what offers shoppers respond. The idea is to benefit customers, by giving Target information that will allow it to better deploy store staff, ensure that popular departments are well-stocked, and to make more compelling offers.

Of course it also benefits Target, which will know more about its customers’ habits and preferences – all the better to prompt them to buy more.

But the concept of privacy while shopping seems to be less of a concern, the more comfortable consumers get with technology. Recent surveys have shown that shoppers are more receptive to having their purchases and even movements tracked, if it means they’ll get better offers and coupons.

In another recent survey, marketing consulting firm Annalect found that 82% of millennials used a mobile device while in a physical store. So for Target, “Target Run” may be something of a natural evolution, to adapt to an increasingly digital future in which we all walk around stores with our smartphone in hand. “This is another way Target is bridging mobile and stores, and using digital to enhance the in-store shopping experience,” Goldberger said. “We look forward to seeing how our guests respond to what we’ve built.”

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