Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Scoble asks about Target and blogs

Posted by shannonclark on May 5, 2005

After meeting with Target, Robert Scoble asked for some ideas for Target on why they should blog.

As I am want to do, I guess reflecting the end of MeshForum 2005, I left Robert a very long comment, repeated below for my records.

A few thoughts. I like Target, have enjoyed every time I have shopped there, but haven’t shopped there in years.
– why not? Well the simple answer is we (my girlfriend and I – and before you assume anything, I’m male – name is confusing online) both sold our cars a few years back – as a result we rarely shop anyplace we can’t easily walk or take public transportation to.

– But a more complex answer is “I don’t know what I would shop for at Target” – why should I go there? Even more specifically, why should I go there this upcomming weekend?

Almost every week my girlfriend logs into the Walgreens website, downloads the circular for walgreens (specifically, I think, for the walgreens down the block from us) and looks for specials and coupons on products we need.

Were Target to have a blog – and more specifically – were Target and especially target.com to have a blog – which featured the stories about their products, perhaps specials, but even just the backgrounds, why I might want to buy it, and reminding me that it is an option – they would get business from me more often. And we’re certainly well within their target demographic (and “the Target..”) – urban, young, professionals who care about strong design, quality, as well as fair prices. We’re not the Walmart demographic – I’ve been in a Walmart I think once in my entire life.

Recently I purchased, on the somewhat spur of the moment, a jacket from Wilson Leather, in no small part because it was featured in a post to Boing Boing. In a similar manner were Target to have a blog, in which they told the stories of products they sold – especially the everyday, basic, but very well designed products which are one of their specific niches – it is not unlikely that besides the specific readers of their blog, other blogs, perhaps even major sites like BoingBoing would pick up on these items and mention them as well…

(it strikes me as I write this that even more so than Target, CostCo really should blog – they have dozens, perhaps hundreds of items each year which are unique, special, and often extremely good prices – and they have a very specific challenge to consumers that you never quite know which products will be in stock any given time you go to the store (and if, like me, you don’t have a car a trip to Costco is a big commitment but worthwhile when I had my membership).

Some models to consider specifically.

– Woot (http://www.woot.com) – they blog, they have an RSS feed, they sell a single item per day – and nearly every day sell out of that product. Why can’t a Target or a Costco adopt a similar model – possibly on a per-store basis, taking a cue from Woot of injecting a personal touch when describing the products – yet retaining a highly accurate and reliable touch as well – and offering fair prices for interesting products.

– Design Within Reach. They have a newsletter which is content rich, but also does a lot to convey the mission and passion of their company for design – even beyond just products they sell. The newsletter creates a personal connection and passion for the store even before purchasing products – I feel engaged and interested. And they use this medium for more than just marketing and specific sales messages, they also use it to recruit new employees as they open up new stores – a clear winner as they start by recruiting people who already have formed bonds and ties to the firm, even before working there.

I want to like a company such as Target – but as I said, I am also while favorably inclined, not a recent customer.

To those who wonder whether or not blog readers are sufficient to make an impact on a non-tech company. A few considerations – done well, the “blog” would and could be reached by many different ways – say by including it directly on the pages already present for people who search for details about their specific local Target store.

Blogs for the specific stores, as well as general blogs for Target could also serve as a permanent counterpart to ongoing advertising and marketing campaigns – rather than one-time-use domains as many advertisers seem to try out these days, and rather than rather cryptic but apparently effective ads as Target does today – why not incorporate an online component and counterpart to offline ads – this could be done as a very low cost.

One idea: ad a URL to the end of existing Target ads.

At that URL, a blog which details ALL of the items seen in that spot, highlights the current prices and/or sales on those items, and takes a potential customer through to related products and other specials as well as the stories behind some (all?) of the items – at least those which are unique to Target.

Sure, for the branded items you might (but only might) have to incur a small extra fee to use them online as well as in the spot, but clearly Target in their current advertising is very willing (or at least hsa been in the recent past) to show other brands alongside with the Target circle.

I think a consumer company such as Target should focus on their connection with those consumers – a blog for suppliers & partners is something very different, perhaps useful, but I would think not the best and most impactful place for Target to focus.

Another thought – with a good, accurate and passionate story brands and items acquire a different level of price flexibility. That is, when you know and have been told the story behind a product, believe (and better understand the reality) of why it has advantages over the generic, run-of-the-mill example of that type of product – people have a willingness to pay more because with that purchase they also get the value created by that story.

Now I’m not arguing for spinning yarns or half-truths, but for a firm such as Target when they do invest carefully in design (and I hope as well into quality) they should find ways to tell that story – it likely could result in solid sales without resorting to as many discounts and/or allowing for higher prices. And clearly anything which might allow for higher margins should get Target’s attention.

Hope this helps and is interesting.

Shannon

Shannon Clark 5/5/05; 1:49:31 AM

My main points – Target should blog, possibly on a per-store basis, and should focus on exciting and engaging customers and friends (possible guests). They should look to other, successful merchants who are using the web and online media effectively, and they should consider how to use Target.com as well as individual stores in a way that can create passion – and with that focus on related tasks such as recruiting.

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