This week, Target’s ad features an offer for a $10 gift card when you spend $40 on health and beauty items – if you activate the offer online first. You can also get 20% off women’s swimwear or sandals – if you first select the offer on Target’s website or app. Those who don’t, will have to settle for paying full price.

But not anymore. Beginning next month, Target says deals offered through its Target Circle loyalty program will be applied automatically to your purchases, without you having to pre-select them.

It’s one of a number of changes to its loyalty program that Target has announced, which will also include new personalized bonuses, a paid membership program with additional benefits, and additional encouragement to sign up for a Target credit or debit card.

First, to the automatic deals. Beginning on April 7, “based on guest feedback, deals will now be applied automatically at checkout — no more having to search for or add individual offers — so members are confident they’re getting the best value every time they shop,” Target explained in its announcement. So the gift card and percent-off deals as described above will no longer need to be activated online first. As long as you’re a Target Circle member, you’ll get any deals on any eligible purchases when you check out.

Exceptions include just-for-you bonuses and personalized deals, such as the annual 5% off birthday gift, which Target Circle members will still need to activate. Another notable exception is digital manufacturer’s coupons. Target Circle features a mix of store-specific percent-off deals, and dollars-off digital manufacturer’s coupons. And those coupons will still need to be selected in advance. “You must sign in to your Target Circle account and activate the coupons that you want to use on your Target Circle Deals page,” Target explains. “Coupons are not applied at checkout unless you choose to apply it to the specific transaction.”


The move toward more automatic deals could be seen as an answer to the growing complaints about “digital-only deals.” It was nearly two years ago when a consumer group first called attention to the practice of advertising deals that must be activated online as being unfair to seniors, low-income shoppers and others without easy access to the internet. Since then, a number of state legislators have proposed laws that would require stores to provide offline equivalents of online deals, or to apply all digital deals – including digital coupons – automatically.

Retail groups have pushed back on the idea of being forced to apply digital manufacturer’s coupons automatically, since coupons need to be selected by the shopper and associated with that shopper when checking out, in order to work as currently designed. Otherwise, they’re not incentivizing purchases but merely subsidizing them. Target’s method of automating store-specific digital deals, while still requiring you to select any digital manufacturer’s coupons you want, could be seen as the best compromise – shoppers without internet access can still sign up for Target Circle, but will no longer be required to go online and activate Target Circle deals. And shoppers who do have internet access can get additional savings in the form of digital manufacturer’s coupons. It’s not quite a win-win for both, but it’s close.

The other big change to Target Circle is the addition of a paid tier with additional benefits. For $49 a year ($99 a year for those who are not Target credit or debit card holders), Circle members can upgrade to Target Circle 360. The key benefit there is unlimited free same-day delivery for orders over $35, in as little as an hour, with no delivery fees or markups. Just check to see if your area is eligible for same-day delivery before you sign up, because not every area currently is.

Target is also encouraging shoppers to sign up for a Target RedCard – soon to be rebranded as the Target Circle credit or debit card – by retiring the 1% earnings rewards that non-cardholding Circle members currently receive. Target Circle cardholders will still get 5% off their purchases, while non-cardholders will pay regular price.

Target says the changes are the result of listening to its customers. “Our guests are really clear. They want value, affordability, and they want ease,” Target’s Chief Marketing and Digital Officer Cara Sylvester told investors yesterday. “So we’re making it even easier for our 100 million members to actually be able to get the deals and rewards that they want, with automatic savings applied at checkout.”

After the changes to Target Circle are rolled out next month, “we’ll continue adding benefits and perks based on what matters most to our guests,” Sylvester continued, “like exclusive partnerships, product offers and more, so they can get the most out of shopping at Target.”

So Target hopes its changes will make shoppers happier, more loyal and more likely to shop at Target – particularly those who currently miss out on deals because they don’t have internet access, they forget to activate deals, or they don’t know they need to activate them first, and end up paying full price. It’s all about pleasing shoppers, Target says. And if it ends up also pleasing legislators who are warning retailers about the unfairness of digital-only deals – even better.

One Comment

  1. Similar to grocery store loyalty programs. Enter phone number and get savings.

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