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Truth #1: Good marketing is hard.

Truth #2: Target does a lot of good marketing.

People not only pay attention to Target’s marketing and advertising, they LOVE it. Target has amassed an army of passionate social media followers: over 1 million Twitter followers, nearly 23 million Likes on Facebook, and numerous fan blogs. But even brands that inspire as much customer advocacy and engagement as Target need programs for upsell, cross-sell, loyalty, and retention…and Target has no shortage.

  • REDcard: credit/debit card loyalty program offering 5% everyday discount and free shipping for online purchases when you use our REDcard.
  • Pharmacy Rewards: Fill 5 ‘scripts and earn a 5% off shopping day voucher. Pharmacy Rewards shopping days are stackable with other discounts and rewards.
  • Target Mobile App: shopping lists, weekly ads, store locator… pretty straight up retail mobile app.

And last fall Target added Target Cartwheel to the list. Part couponing, part engagement, part loyalty, this beta program is just getting rolling, and may signal some interesting opportunities…let’s take a tour of Cartwheel and see what we can learn.

What is it?

In official Target-ese, Cartwheel is positioned as “A New Spin on Coupons” and the core user experience will resonate with savvy couponers and bargain hunters. Cartwheel allows members to choose their own combination of discounts from a wide range of limited-time offers.

Target Cartwheel Savings Hero Image

When it comes to the “spin” – there are a couple ways in which Cartwheel distinguishes itself from the pack:

  • Roll with Friends: If you register using Facebook, Cartwheel will automatically identify your Facebook friends that are also members and share their badges, savings to date, and current Cartwheel selections.
  • Stack your Discounts: Cartwheel allows members to apply discounts in combination with any other discounts – including the blanket 5% off that comes with using your REDcard, and any other sales or promotions.

Takeaway: If you’re already crushing on Target, Cartwheel is a fun way to boost your savings.

Getting On Board

Geared towards existing Target customers, the sign up options make sense: log in with your Target.com account, or sign up using Facebook. Both options keep the barrier to entry low, with the social sign-on option a win-win: customers get to tap into the shopping recommendations of their friends and family, and Target gains a channel for viral growth and a stronger social footprint to sustain engagement.

Takeaway: It’s easy to get your whole crew rolling with Target’s Cartwheel program.

Loading Up

New members start out with 15 slots for discount “cards”, which are filled by selecting discount offers on a wide range of products from both national and Target house brands. Members can browse the array of offers by category, by curated “collection”, or via their friends’ Cartwheel.

Viewing the details of an offer exposes a hint at more social features to come (but inexplicably lacks a link to Target’s ecommerce site to make a purchase?!?).

Target Cartwheel Discount Offers

There is a good variety in the mix of offers, but more is not necessarily better here. The presentation feels like a missed opportunity for personalization. Plus, the discounts are generally small (5-15%) on items with relatively low ticket to begin with, so after a while it starts to feel like a lot of work to save a few bucks.

Takeaway: Discounts will get shoppers on board, but personalization and convenience are key to getting them to come back.

Game On

Certain behaviors within the Cartwheel experience will earn members badges and additional discount card slots (increasing the amount of potential savings). This is one area where the program can really be improved, as it was only with a lot of dedicated poking around that we discovered how to reveal the badges and decipher what we needed to do to unlock them.

Target Cartwheel Badges

Takeaway: Basic badges are a good start, and hopefully point to some “surprise and delight” plans for the future of the program.

Cashing In

In terms of redeeming your savings, Cartwheel really does make it easy – members can either print their own personalized ‘barcode’ at home and take it into the store (not a stretch by any means for the experienced couponista), or flash their mobile app at checkout.

Target Cartwheel Bar Code

And more savings equal more badges, which in turn unlock more savings potential…. and the wheel goes round and round!

Our Take

Target’s Cartwheel program is rolling along – but there are some spots that feel a little wobbly. Here’s some of the ways we’d consider tweaking it to get more engagement:

More Compelling Rewards:

With such a fun brand, we’d love to see Target add some experiential and social rewards… give top Cartwheelers a special high value discount card they can share with friends, host a meet and greet with one of Target’s fashionable partners, maybe even invite them behind the red curtain to participate in the creation of a commercial or web video? Target has an opportunity to elevate the whole notion of “couponing” by adding in a few more aspirational rewards.

More Ways to Earn:

“Earn and burn” systems are only engaging on their own for so long, which is why we’d recommend pumping up the social and gamification elements within Cartwheel. The value of social recommendations between friends, and the aggregate knowledge of what products customers recommend most are valuable to both brand and customer. Plus, introducing incentives for the actions that drive deeper and more sustained engagement (letting Cartwheelers curate their own “collections” to share with friends, for example) are also effective methods to drive greater viral reach and higher participation in the program.

Better Personalization:

Considering the amount of customer data Target likely has about Cartwheel members, customers are within their rights to expect a much more personalized experience. At minimum, we’d recommend giving members the ability to opt in or out of certain product categories or brands to streamline the process of selecting discounts. At best, Cartwheel could provide customized recommendations for products based on what I already buy, what my friends buy, what people in my zip code buy, anything other than a seemingly random list of products.

Your Turn

Have you taken Target’s Cartwheel for a spin? Check it out and let us know what you think.

This post originally appeared on GetMoreEngagement.com