Cartwheel, Target’s new in-store coupon app, was advertised on their holiday mailer this week and after talking about mobile apps dedicated to in-store shopping earlier this week I thought I’d check it out. And yes, it’s available for both iPhone and Android!
While Cartwheel is indeed an in-store only shopping app, it is focused on coupons and savings, and by focused I mean that’s all it does. The game (and I see it as more of a game than a truly functional in-store app) is to collect discounts as you walk around the store and present the app to the cashier to get all those discounts at once. The number of discounts is limited to 10 so you might have to remove that $1.00 off shampoo discount to get the 5% off boots discount. But there are many offers to chose from in many different categories.
The good thing about this app is that it is well organized and Target has made the discounts easy to find. It’s easy to browse the discounts ahead of time and head towards those items as you reach the store. The offers can be listed by age (new vs expiring), discount amount and popularity. Search also works well and lets users see relevant offers. I also like that they clearly mark offers that are expiring today, which seems like a good driver of in-store traffic.
Yet, the entire process is unwieldy and feels like it benefits Target more than the consumer: first, the permission asked to access the phone’s identity and the requirement to sign in with a social or Target account as the app is launched, before users can even browse the items. Both serve to identify and track the user. Second, why limit offers to 10? From Target’s perspective the goal is to get the shopper to pile up items in the cart and hopefully when the offer limit is reached, remove the coupon but don’t remove the item. But from the shopper’s perspective it just makes the entire shopping trip more tedious. Remove items from the cart? Come back a second time? Buy them elsewhere? Try to find different offers? This hesitancy will eventually lead to less products bought. Finally, I’ll still need to keep the main Target app open in-store to use their great in-store finding tool. While I do like the focus of this app, that switching back and forth is a drawback.
The bottom line is that while this kind of app can be a fun, deal-hunting, money-saving game, it doesn’t answer the needs of in-store shoppers. Those unmet needs may make them abandon goods, not find products, and leave the store without buying everything they came in for, which is not to the store’s benefit. Hopefully, this is just one of Target’s first attempts at a dedicated instore app and that we can expect one to further help shoppers in the future.