Target's holiday plans: Amazon price matching, QR codes, free Wi-Fi

By on October 17, 2012, 4:00 PM

Following Best Buy's lead, Target has announced that it will match the prices of competitors through the holidays. In addition to matching the prices of rival brick-and-mortar chains such as Walmart, Best Buy and Toys R Us, Target's promotion caters to online shoppers who might otherwise use the retailer for "showrooming," a phenomenon whereby consumers visit local outlets to handle products before buying them for less money online.

Like Best Buy, Target seems primarily concerned about Amazon, which has aggressive prices, makes it easy to compare a vast selection of goods and allows folks to shop in their underwear. As such, between November 1 and December 24, Target will match Amazon's prices along with physical retailers, though that policy doesn't apply for third-party Amazon merchants. Additionally, Target has expanded its policy to include its own website.

Competitive pricing is bound to lure a few online shoppers into stores, and Target wants to make sure those individuals are happy once they've arrived. The company plans to enhance its "digital shopping experience" by rolling out QR codes next to hot items so customers can buy them online and have them shipped anywhere in the US for free if they're out of stock. Target will also offer free Wi-Fi in all of its outfits, and certain locations will demo wayfinding tech that helps customers navigate stores with their phones.

In addition, the company has beefed up its online infrastructure. Last year, Target fell short of its fourth quarter sales estimates. Part of that was blamed on a weak price matching policy, but technical issues also played a role as its site crashed many times over the holidays. To prevent that from occurring again, the company's site can now handle triple the amount of shoppers. All of this, of course, is in addition to the usual holiday preparations, including the hiring of between 80,000 and 90,000 seasonal employees.

Despite retailers' best attempts to compete with online operations, analysts don't foresee any threat to Amazon and its ilk. For instance, Barron's notes that Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster believes the price matching moves are more about tricking consumers into thinking they're saving money and less about actually helping them do so. Munster explained that such programs often require customers to show an identical SKU, but that's easier said than done because many retailers have their own SKU for pricey items.

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