Can Facebook Friends Help Target Reel in Buyers?

Target Corp. (NYSE:TGT) is preparing to launch its newest service, Cartwheel, a program that will have customers rely on their Facebook accounts to score discounts and offers that they can redeem in Target’s U.S. stores, and not online. Reuters reported Wednesday that it is the store’s latest effort to lure its customers into their physical stores, rather than losing them to online rivals.

Target hopes that the use of Facebook as an e-commerce platform will help bring about more success for traditional retailers, rather than Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and other online retailers, and has worked in a close partnership with Facebook for about a year.

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Cartwheel enables customers to “select the deals they want online and then bring a barcode — either on paper or on a mobile phone — to a Target store to get the discounts,” according to Reuters. By capitalizing on the use of social networking and the smartphone, Cartwheel allows Facebook friends to see what their friends are buying, and also lets them compare prices on their phone,  a tool that twenty percent of shoppers use before they buy.

Traditional retailers such as Target, Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and Kmart, that used to be the esteemed havens for anything and everything, have all taken different approaches for making their stores more attractive to customers and offering them incentives for shopping traditionally, rather than online.

Although Cartwheel’s principle seems like a great idea, there is evidence it might be too difficult to use in its initial stages. Business Insider calls the service “incredibly complicated,” and then details the convoluted steps that are required to browse the discounted collections and keep the app from advertising everything  on Facebook.

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Nevertheless, Wednesday marked the introduction of Cartwheel to the public in a beta test — a test for a commercial product before it is commercially released. As Target asks for feedback as it continues to make changes, it is possible that the service may be simplified so as to not inspire so much confusion.

Cartwheel offers cannot be redeemed on Target’s website but the company did not rule out this possibility in the future.

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