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Target Signs On With On-Demand Supermarket Shopping Service Instacart

The discount retailer's omnichannel push is continuing with a pilot program in its hometown of Minneapolis area.

Target and Instacart go shopping together.
Target and Instacart go shopping together.

Target is making good on its promise to connect with its consumers online, offline, and everywhere in-between as the retail chain expands its omnichannel focus by testing a partnership with on-demand grocery courier Instacart.

At least at the start, Instacart’s online and app supermarket shoppers will serve Target customers in the Minneapolis area, the discount chain’s homebase. The two companies are already plotting other US locations, according to the press release heralding the deal.

“Our goal is to make grocery shopping easier and more convenient,” says Jason Goldberger, president of Target.com and Mobile. “Our team is constantly listening to guests’ needs and looking for new ways to help them shop Target wherever, whenever, and however they want. Instacart is a leading player in this space and we look forward to seeing how guests in the Minneapolis area respond to the service.”

The collaboration represents a considerable service expansion for both companies.

Up to now, Instacart has primarily served as a delivery service in supermarket aisles. In addition to groceries, Instacart couriers will pick up “select Target household, health and beauty, pet and baby products such as diapers and formula.”

Still, in a sign that Instacart was moving beyond the frozen food section, last month, it acqui-hired the team behind Wedding Party, a mobile app that allows wedding guests to contribute photos and videos to build a shared digital wedding album.

The goal with that arrangement was to build relationships with merchants on services that they can offer to the couples and guests that use the app.

Working with Target, which has 1,800 locations across the US, shows Instacart, which operates in 17 states and has a particularly heavy concentration in the Northeast and California, aligning itself with a mainstream shopping destination beyond the cool gourmet shops in upscale neighborhoods where it first began.

As other on-demand, app-based companies from Uber to Postmates on up to established tech giants like Amazon and Google promise faster deliveries with comprehensive shopping choices, working with such a large brand like Target is a big vote of confidence that a young company like Instacart needs.

Just as Instacart was seeking to move into the wedding services space, Target began installing beacons at 50 stores across the country as part of the department store chain’s continuing effort to realize an omnichannel strategy that will balance its online and offline presence in shoppers’ minds — and on their smartphones, something Instacart’s association should help with. 

This past March, Target’s CEO Brian Cornell outlined five key areas that the department store plans to invest in as part of a larger revamping of its interactive approach. 

First, we will be a leader in providing the guest the ability to shop anywhere and anytime they want, in stores, online, and with their mobile devices,” Cornell told analysts at an investor conference in March.

Since then, Target has adopted mobile pay, express checkout via mobile app, aisle navigation using LED-to-smartphone lighting signals, and digital-to-physical pickup, and the company has released a video designed to inform shoppers about all the options now available to them.

More recently, the Big Box chain has used one of its San Francisco stores as a showcase for its interactive ideas on how retail and the Internet of Things mix.

When asked about the importance of beacons and omnichannel shopping to Target’s overall strategy a few weeks ago, a spokesman for the retailer told GeoMarketing that it’s all meant to show how the company can “enhance the guest experience” – both online and in stores – with new digital solutions that are “designed to meet and exceed the expectations” of consumers.

“Ultimately,” the Target spokesman said, “the goal is to save guests time and money by helping them find what they’re looking for, discover new products and receive offers and services that are relevant and timely.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of GeoMarketing.com. A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.