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Target is rolling out beacon technology in its stores to push recommendations and coupons to a customer’s iPhone based on their specific location in the store.

When shopping in women’s apparel, this means you may get an alert about nearby items that are trending on Pinterest, and when looking for groceries, you may get pinged about discounts on milk or cheese.

The roll-out will first occur in 50 test stores in Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, New York City, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle, but the Minneapolis-based retailer plans to expand the service to more stores later this year.

UPDATE: Target says in Seattle, customers will be able to use the technology in its downtown location on Second and Pike Streets.

“We’re excited to start using beacon technology to offer real-time, relevant content and services that can help make shopping at Target easier and more fun,” said Jason Goldberger, Target’s president of online and mobile, in a blog post. “This is another way Target is bridging mobile and stores, and using digital to enhance the in-store shopping experience. We look forward to seeing how our guests respond to what we’ve built.”

To use the technology, customers will have to download the latest version of the app, turn on Bluetooth, and “opt in” to share their location and receive push notifications. Target says it plans to limit the number of notifications to two per shopping trip, so it’s not annoying.

Point Inside is powering the map within the Target shopping app.
Point Inside is powering the map within the Target shopping app.

In the future, it wants to use the technology to “dynamically re-sort your shopping list” as you move through the store, much like navigation software will re-route when you veer off course. Also helpful would be to request the assistance of a store employee right from your phone.

Prior to the roll out, Target updated its iPhone app to include interactive maps and shopping lists that will help shoppers remember what they were looking for and where to find it, but with this implementation, Target will now be able to pinpoint a customer’s exact location.

Beacons are small devices (about the size of an egg) placed throughout the store that transmit signals via Bluetooth. The technology only works on iPhones.

Not a lot of retailers are using it yet, but late last year, Macy’s said it was planning to roll out 4,000 devices in what was believed to be the largest implementation at the time. As with all location-based technology, some customers will find the technology convenient while others may think it is creepy.


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