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Target was ‘car crash waiting to happen’ says retailer’s head of CX

Target’s head of brand communications and customer experience has said Target was like a “car crash waiting to happen” before it transformed how it thought about itself and its customer: mums.

Speaking at Mumbrella’s Retail Marketing Summit, Nicole Gillard pointed to how the media had described the last few years in retail as ‘Aussie retail carnage’.

“We were, like many Australian retailers, ill-prepared for that,” she said.

“We were a bit like Lightning McQueen [the character from the children’s movie, Cars] … you know, cruising along, doing okay, not too much competition on the road, clear skies ahead, winning Piston Cup after Piston Cup.

“Until one day, out of the blue, our lovely country-city drive turned into a full on speedway, and all of a sudden, we were joined by these kind of international, flashy cars that were, quite frankly, stronger, fitter and faster. We were, quite simply, a car crash waiting to happen.”

Gillard explaining the experiment Target ran, in which it fitted customers with eye tracking glasses

To overcome this challenge, Target needed to be “truly customer led” and that meant deeply understanding who it was actually targeting.

“Mum is the one who spends all the cash. She’s the one that actually has the greatest influence on where the rest of the money is spent at home,” she said.

Gillard explained that when she joined the company, her role of changing Target’s fortunes was a huge challenge.

“We really had lost our way. We’d forgotten where we come from, we’d lost our identity. We’d forgotten who we were, really. And we weren’t really confident and clear in where we were going,” she said.

She likened this to the experience of new mums.

“People treat you differently [as a mum]. For us, and for many women, when you have a child, often they lose their sense of self.”

Rediscovering who Target and ‘mum’ was meant understanding the role clothing plays in a woman’s identity.

“Clothing gives her the ability to reclaim that sense of self, to reclaim her ability to express who she is. So, for us, it was important to see her as a woman first, and at the same time, really understanding her role as a mum and the challenges she faces.”

To do so, Target invested in understanding a mother’s pain points throughout the customer journey, whether in-store, online or across both.

For example, Target ran an experiment in which it asked customers to go in store and buy a pair of women’s jeans. Customers were fitted with eye tracking glasses to track their visual triggers as they navigated the store. The result? A list of pain points to solve, many of which Gillard said busted myths the company had believed internally.

“It’s really about making sure that we are clear and we are using facts and trusted data to truly understand where we should put our efforts,” Gillard said.

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