Target Bombs with the Boutique Concept: New Brand Marketing | Joy of Marketing

Target Bombs with the Boutique Concept: New Brand Marketing

Brand Marketing Change

What you have, as a small business that delivers unique, hard-to-find, specialty products and services is so good that the big guys are now copying you.

That’s right. Like we share in our New York Times best selling book Worth Every Penny, being small has some serious advantages. And now the major national chains are trying to incorporate a few of those advantages into their brand marketing.

If you’ve shopped at your local Target lately, you’ve probably noticed the Shops at Target that launched earlier this month. While Target has long been known for bringing affordable design and fashion to the masses, like their designer Missoni collection that sold out quickly last fall, they have typically focused on bringing you a less expensive collection by a well-known, high-end label. Their latest attempt was to highlight the little known, local favorites and bring that boutique shopping experience to you inside your local big box store.

Target has heavily promoted the Shops at Target as a little slice of fabulous local businesses and changed the brand marketing. I love Target just as much as the next girl, so I was excited to check out what they had done, especially after watching the well-produced short videos featuring the business owners of The Polka Dog Bakery, The Candy Store and The Webster.  Each brand has invested in a great identity and looks the part of a fantastic local boutique. The videos show hard working people with a passion for fashion, candy, k9’s or design. These business owners truly embody what all of us as small business owners feel and are to our core.

But while Target can replicate their products, they can’t bring the passion of these business owners into their stores. Target over-hyped some products that probably are pretty cool when sold the way they are supposed to be, with a hands on customer experience. Instead, when thrown in with masses of other products in a 100,000 square foot store, they just don’t seem that cool or exciting. Target’s attempted highlights just how important it is to not only get the product right, but that you have to have the experience right, too. Otherwise you’ll fall short and fail to create raving fans for your business.

If I were Target, here’s what I would have done differently:

1) Carve out a space for each brand to truly have a ‘shop’. Let that shop represent a little piece of their actual stores so you can fully experience the brand. As it is, they are not shops at all, instead just merchandise mesh mashed in with other merchandise or in some cases stuck on a single end cap. While the signage hanging from the ceiling points out the brand is there, they could have done more to give you an experience with the brand they are pushing.

2) Staff each ‘shop’ with an employee who can give a higher level of service for these products – answering questions, offering opinions, serving as an expert. You get none of the boutique customer experience in the way Target has chosen to present the brands.

3) When a customer enters each ‘shop’ offer them a smaller basket or bag for their merchandise so they aren’t fumbling with a big red shopping cart. The last time I shopped boutique, a huge shopping cart wasn’t involved.

4) Package the purchased product specially. When you purchase one of these products, you stand in the same crowded check out line as when you are buying toothpaste or chicken. And your product is packaged in the same white, plastic target shopping bag. Bring a piece of the real experience of shopping at these boutiques to the Target shopper by upping the ante with the packaging.

I get that as a big box store, these suggestions wouldn’t likely fit into their profitability models or seamlessly integrate into their existing operations, but if they truly want to create a boutique experience for their customers, they have a long way to come.

And on another note, while the Target campaign has undoubtedly given great exposure to these fabulous local brands, I’m sure their margins are much lower on products they sell at Target. They may find that their client base in changing in their local retail stores, attracting a more price-sensitive buyer due to the exposure at Target. And I can’t help but wonder if they have the time they once did to dote on their loyal customers due to their new found fame.

Have you checked out the Shops at Target? How are you creating a better experience for your customers than the big box stores as a boutique small business?

Working photographer, coach, mama, and wife. Whether you’re looking to take your photography business full-time or simply make good money on a very part-time basis so you can contribute to your family financially and be your best self, we’ve got something for you.

I’m Sarah Petty

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