Just in time for the frenzied holiday shopping season, Target is introducing product inventory search into its mobile app. The functionality is powered by Point Inside but doesn’t rely on beacons or other indoor location technologies.

Following a 40-store trial earlier this year, Point Inside announced this morning that Target will be rolling out its “StoreMode” product inventory search and mapping capability in all the company’s nearly 2,000 North American retail locations.

Smartphone owners will be able to use the updated app to search for local product inventory when not in the store. However, once users enter Target stores — store presence will be passively detected through geofencing — they will have access to a range of search and find capabilities. The app also provides a type-ahead/auto-complete feature.

Items can be quickly be added to shopping lists (also accessible outside the store). But in-store product locations will automatically be appended to items on the list. Accordingly, every product is mapped to its in-store aisle location, which can be accessed on a map. Point Inside also told me that all of Target’s Black Friday “doorbuster” items will be plotted on the interactive map, as well.

Below are some screens provided by Point Inside reflecting the basic elements of the upgraded user experience.

PointInside StoreMode Target

Point Inside has already deployed similar capabilities with Lowe’s and grocery chain Meijer.

The company said that more than 70 percent of retailer mobile app usage is focused on the in-store experience. Historically retail apps have been small-screen versions of their e-commerce sites. They’re just starting to realize there’s much more value in evolving these apps to in-store shopping assistants.

Point Inside’s Pete Coleman also indicated, based on data he’s seen, that between 10 percent and 30 percent of consumers leave stores without buying a desired product, because they can’t find it, even though that product is actually on the shelf.

Offering an in-store search or mapping capability dramatically increases user app engagement and retention, says Point Inside’s Coleman. Despite the fact that nearly 90 percent of user time is spent with apps, most consumers don’t have many retailer apps on their smartphones. These types of in-store features can help boost the numbers.

Indeed, nearly all of the top 100 retailers are deploying or experimenting with some sort of mobile-enhanced in-store user experience. Many retailers are deploying Bluetooth beacons and specifically Apple’s iBeacon spec (though Point Inside’s solution doesn’t rely on beacons). These top 100 retailers collectively represent more than $2.5 trillion in annual sales in the US.

An enhanced in-store experience is one of brick-and-mortar’s top weapons against pure-play e-commerce. In addition, expedited payment systems (e.g., Apple Pay) will also be part of this improved in-store experience among those that “get it right.” Despite the recent MCX payments controversy Target remains one of Apple’s Pay’s marquee partners.

Walmart also recently updated its app with a new in-store product search capability. Both Walmart’s and Target’s in-app product search features can be monetized through advertising. That’s not currently happening but it’s likely to happen over time as a new potential retail revenue stream — and digital version of in-store merchandising.

It also goes without saying that the search data that Target obtains from its customers, in the aggregate, will provide extremely valuable insights about product demand and user behavior on a local, regional and national basis.

About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog, Screenwerk, about connecting the dots between digital media and real-world consumer behavior. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.



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