Target (finally) parts ways with Amazon, but retailer’s new site sputters at launch

Target's new Web site features beautiful photos

It may go down in history as a big business blunder. But, back in 2001, when Target picked Amazon.com to power its e-commerce offerings it may have seemed like a good idea. Today, Target is finally parting ways with Amazon, launching an online retail experience that it fully controls.

But have the tides shifted too much in retail? After all, Amazon’s market value of $87 billion is more than double that of Target.

Target has slowly been moving away from Amazon over the past few years, with CEO Steve Eastman saying in 2009 that “it is in Target’s best interest going forward to assume full control over the design and management of Target’s e-commerce technology platform, fulfillment and guest services operations.”

Now, that day has finally arrived. And the Minneapolis-based retailer has rolled out a site that is beautiful to look at — complete with a white dog (showcasing the company’s trademarked bullseye logo over his left eye) helping to guide the way.

I should say that is beautiful when you can see it. The site was crawling when I tried to access it this morning, and my first attempt was met with the error message you see to the side.

Not a great first impression.

Meanwhile, what does the loss of Target mean to Amazon? Well, as we noted above, this departure has been anticipated. But Baird financial analyst Peter Benedict notes that it could have an impact on Amazon revenues. He writes in a research note:

“We believe that e-commerce became strategically too important for Target to outsource this business to Amazon, in particular given the increasing competition between the two companies. Nonetheless, Target was a source of high margin commission revenues for Amazon (we estimate in the $100M+ range) on roughly $1.2 billion in Target.com merchandise volume.”

Benedict notes that a number of large retailers have left the Amazon nest in recent years, including Toys-R-Us and Marks & Spencer. But the departures are not a surprise given Amazon’s new weight in the retail industry.

Things have come a bit full circle in the partnership between Amazon and Target. After all, Target became the first brick-and-mortar retailer in June to start selling Amazon’s electronic reading device, the Kindle.

  • http://twitter.com/billnordwall Bill Nordwall

    I had the privilege of working with Target on this project, helping with the gargantuan task of making their new site accessible to visual & mobility-impaired users.

    This project was one of the largest e-commerce build-out/migrations in the history of the web – and the only one of its size to be Gold-level certified by the National Federation for the Blind. I find these two tidbits far more noteworthy than a few stability issues on launch day, which are common occurences for any project of this scale.

    Congratulations to the teams at Target and SapientNitro – excellent work all-around.

    /Bill

    • Raoul Duke

      A few stability issues?  You’ve been down for almost 6 hours.

      • TIREDOFTARGET

        its still ridulously slow. And what about having the common courtesy to inform your “amazon-target” customers. Some of whom could only access the site through their amazon account. Not that any of us has the patience to search for what we want based on the new super-slow page load time.

        Thanks Target!

      • Debralynnjohnson

        The new Target.com site sucks!!!  It hasn’t worked for me since its inception and apparently no longer ships to APO addresses….

  • Web

    SYSPATH/classes/kohana/remote.php [ 88 ]
    83 // Close the connection
    84 curl_close($remote);
    85
    86 if (isset($error))
    87 {
    88 throw new Kohana_Exception(‘Error fetching remote :url [ status :code ] :error’,
    89 array(‘:url’ => $url, ‘:code’ => $code, ‘:error’ => $error));
    90 }
    91
    92 return $response;
    93 }

  • Web

    SYSPATH/classes/kohana/remote.php [ 88 ]
    83 // Close the connection
    84 curl_close($remote);
    85
    86 if (isset($error))
    87 {
    88 throw new Kohana_Exception(‘Error fetching remote :url [ status :code ] :error’,
    89 array(‘:url’ => $url, ‘:code’ => $code, ‘:error’ => $error));
    90 }
    91
    92 return $response;
    93 }

  • Web

    Kohana_Exception [ 0 ]: Error fetching remote http://www.target.com/PortableHeaderIncludeView [ status 0 ] Operation timed out after 5000 milliseconds with 0 bytes received

  • Guest

    Congratulations to Target on building its own web site!

  • A Different Guest

    >Wow. With >20 different technology vendors to build the site, including at least two major ones with very large offshore engineering efforts, how could anything possibly go wrong? Surely bringing together dozens of systems and thinking about your retail presence as a systems integration problem (rather than a software engineering problem) is going to be hugely successful.

    Seriously, this stands as a shining example of why you don’t try to do this yourself.From the press release:More than 20 vendor technology partners were involved in the construction of the new Target.com. Key contributors include:SapientNitro:  Lead partner and primary systems integratorIBM:  Multichannel eCommerce platform providerHuge:  Site creative – visual and interactive designInfosys:  Global inventory visibility and cross-channel order-management functionalityAT&T: Hosting provider 

  • http://blog.sentientmonkey.com Scott Windsor

    Sad to see it go! I remember working on many target-related projects…

  • ProfWatkinsPhD

    This has been a wonderful opportunity…for India.  Given that 90% of all work done on the site was performed by either Indian contractors in India, or the 300+ Indians here in Minneapolis, Target really “gave back to the community” with their $200M+ website.  U.S. unemployment is 10%, but I sure there weren’t any qualified IT workers out of those 14 million unemployed that could have worked on this project…for two years.

    Hey India, you’re welcome.

    • Guest

      Prof. Watkins, at which university do you profess your hate for India?

      • Dr. Boyce Watkins

        Dear Guest,

        You missed the point. (I’m guessing you miss a LOT of points.) The point is that big business does not REALLY care about their employees (in spite of what Target wants you to believe) – they only care about profits.  And our government doesn’t REALLY care about the unemployed American worker – they care about their next election campaign.  So where does that leave the American worker?  At the corner of screwed and forgotten is where.

        As for Indians, I have nothing but admiration for them.  They are, without exception, intelligent, friendly, courteous, and respectful.  Seriously, you could not ask for a better culture to lose all of your jobs to. 

        • Guest

          When did Target state that they care about their employees, Dr. Watkins? They care about improving their shareholder value, and every statement Target has ever made in their SEC filings attests to that fact.

          Read, Dr. Watkins. Think, Dr. Watkins. Use your brain and the job will be yours. Pessimistic bloviation will get you nowhere except ejected from your carrel at the library.

        • Guest

          When did Target state that they care about their employees, Dr. Watkins? They care about improving their shareholder value, and every statement Target has ever made in their SEC filings attests to that fact.

          Read, Dr. Watkins. Think, Dr. Watkins. Use your brain and the job will be yours. Pessimistic bloviation will get you nowhere except ejected from your carrel at the library.

      • Dr. Boyce Watkins

        Dear Guest,

        You missed the point. (I’m guessing you miss a LOT of points.) The point is that big business does not REALLY care about their employees (in spite of what Target wants you to believe) – they only care about profits.  And our government doesn’t REALLY care about the unemployed American worker – they care about their next election campaign.  So where does that leave the American worker?  At the corner of screwed and forgotten is where.

        As for Indians, I have nothing but admiration for them.  They are, without exception, intelligent, friendly, courteous, and respectful.  Seriously, you could not ask for a better culture to lose all of your jobs to. 

    • TechGuy

      This monumental project was done just as much onshore as offshore. Hundreds of both Target team members, contractors, and employees from the 20+ different companies working on the project were onshore. It was a herculean global effort.  

  • cindy

    Who is Bill and what planet is he from?  My experience trying to use this new website as a regular customer has been really awful and I’m not going back for a long time.  I worked in IT for 30 years, and this should not have been launched.  Yuck.  

  • MadCustomer

    I am a customer and they cannot get my product shipped. They cannot tell me where it is for 3 – 5 days and they cannot cancel the order. Worst “customer service” I have ever received from an online retailer. They lost a customer in me! I really could care less about their supposed technical prowess (NOT) or their technical difficulties. If they cannot handle simple orders and ship them on time they will lose losts of customers like me. Way too much competition out there for them to mess up like this for long.

  • Guest

    This should actually help the bottom line for Amazon as Target had a long ago negotiated revenue share percentage that was lower than all other sellers in the marketplace. 90% of all the products they sold on Amazon are covered by other merchants and when the new other merchants sell them instead of Target Amazon will now make more money. The new site looks great, but what Target and their 20 technology partners are going to learn quickly is that there are serious operational challenges related to running a large scale e-commerce platform. Someone will have to do a downtime cost analysis for them during the holiday season this year.