target-cartwheelIt seems that Target may have finally found its way into the next frontier of digital retail. Within the last week, Target has launched Cartwheel, a responsive website which will eventually become an application that allows users to earn and redeem in-store savings via Facebook and their smartphones. According to the Target website; “Target Cartwheel is a whole new spin on saving at Target stores. Together with Facebook, Cartwheel lets you connect with friends to share your favorite deals plus save money on the products you love.”

What is Cartwheel?

The site is a unique approach to multichannel advertising and shopping that incorporates the very social aspect of shopping – especially for women. Cartwheel, still in Beta, works like this: users log into using their Facebook accounts. From there, they can start picking from a variety of deals that are 5% off or more depending on the specific product. The deals users pick then appear (if their settings allow) in their Facebook News Feed. In a way, this gives Target free advertising every time Cartwheel users share products talk about deals with their friends via Facebook.

The social aspect doesn’t stop there. Users can also earn additional coupons the more they shop and the more they talk about deals on Facebook; they also receive additional badges, discounts and other perks for doing so. All in all, Cartwheel acts kind of like a hybrid between Facebook, Klout, and Foursquare.

A Millennial’s Experience with Cartwheel

cartwheel-notificationsBeing of the Millennial generation and a self-proclaimed savvy shopper, I decided to test out this new couponing experience for myself. Prior to going shopping, I pulled up the website on my phone (non-compatible with Google Chrome on iOS by the way…) and connected it with my Facebook account. Once the accounts were linked, I immediately received a Cartwheel badge simply because another one of my Facebook friends was also using Cartwheel.

The next step was to begin adding coupons to my coupon cart. Everyone who signs up gets 10 spots to add coupons. I added about 4 different deals to my available spots. To find these deals, I was able to sort coupons based on store department, the Target Collection they were part of, or by searching for specific products. One of the deals I added came from a “collection” and I received another badge upon adding that item. After adding these four coupons, a single barcode was generated for the sales associate to scan at checkout.

The coupon I was most excited about was one for 10% off a pair of sandals.

sandalsThe sandals in question were $15 originally, and as a budget- conscious fashionista about to (finally) experience summer in Minnesota, they had been on my radar for a while. The chance to receive an extra 10% off simply could not be missed. After selecting my shoe and somehow miraculously making it through the rest of Target without purchasing anything else, I entered the checkout line.

My past experience with coupons has always been a bit cumbersome. Not only do I have to deal with handling my credit card at checkout, but also with small bits of hastily torn out, jagged paper coupons. With Cartwheel, all I had to do was hand over my phone – something practically glued to my hand anyway – and instantly I received my discount – a brand new pair of sandals for just $13.50.  I also got a notification that I had received another badge from Cartwheel for making my first purchase (for those counting, that is a grand total of 3 badges). Finally, on top of all that, after the transaction had finished, the friendly sales associate handed me another coupon for 20% off my next shoe purchase at Target. As if I wasn’t already planning to make another purchase from Target. If only they could send that coupon to my Cartwheel account…that would make things truly integrated (word up, Target).

What does it All Mean? 

Cartwheel represents a major shift in thinking about how consumers are shopping in brick and mortar stores. An application like Cartwheel helps to solve a major problem facing retailors today: how to convince shoppers they still need to visit actual stores when so many find it easier and cheaper to shop via their mobile devices. By combining both a mobile and socialaspects into the shopping experience, Target is encouraging their younger customers to be loyal to the brand as well as to the physical store.

When it comes to creating loyalty and encouraging Millennials to shop bricks-and-mortar stores, I see no choice but for brands to take a multichannel approach as Target is attempting to do. We are a generation that thrives on social/mobile experiences, and we want to form relationships with the brands we frequent. We want to be able to interact with brands just like we do with our friends through various online channels. Efforts like Cartwheel are the first step towards a fully integrated digital marketing experience every brand will soon need to implement.