Target Makes Us a Bit Crazy

Readers who have been following my postings know I have been at least semi-crazed by what Target is up to, improving everything except a system open to the loss of vital credit card information. Yet, the system fails at everything designed to improve transactions (for example).

targetThe latest is an effort by Target at 50 U.S. stores in Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, New York, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle. The approach uses a large assortment of small, local connections known as beacons to promote sales on goods within the store. (Currently, only  Apple’s Phone is supported. Android backing is on the way.)

Each beacon, a device typically egg sized, sends local information to customers’ Bluetooth-equipped phones. Items include specific sales, bargains, and good deals aimed at particular customers. The system follows customers’ interests so that looking at one class of product in the store may put together an image on products that may be different but still of interest the customer.

Let’s say you’re shopping in the Baby Department. Once you opt in to this new technology, product recommendations from BabyCenter may pop up on your iPhone (via push notifications or in-app updates) on the Target app’s “Target Run” home page. The “Target Run” page is like a social media site’s newsfeed, so the latest content—i.e. product recommendations or coupons based on your location—is added to the top of the page.


Cleaver, but something is really missing. What you need is a way to sell the additional product right there, giving the customer a way to pay for the purchase in a safe transaction. The sad truth for Target, however, is they have managed to lose information on thousands of customers’ credit cards. Target promises, some day, it will began to provide safe card transaction when CurrentC is introduced–whenever. Meanwhile, the continued demands on CurrentC prevent the adoption of the safer Apple Pay and Google Wall.

The poor and unsafe treatment of card data is foolish and enduring. But it is going to continue until the big native retailers stay in–and so far, they are not intent on challenging CurrentC.



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Steve Wildstrom

Steve Wildstrom is veteran technology reporter, writer, and analyst based in the Washington, D.C. area. He created and wrote BusinessWeek’s Technology & You column for 15 years. Since leaving BusinessWeek in the fall of 2009, he has written his own blog, Wildstrom on Tech and has contributed to corporate blogs, including those of Cisco and AMD and also consults for major technology companies.

3 thoughts on “Target Makes Us a Bit Crazy”

  1. I think this fits into an ongoing theme of IT suppliers going for reach, features and revenues instead of security.
    And this seems to work: that’s how Windows and Android were built, to take 2 of the more successful examples.
    I’m not sure things will change until consumers get smart (unlikely, it already took a while for companies to… oh, wait, not yet), or laws make providers liable for security breaches (fat chance).

  2. I get that Target was a victim. Just because I leave my backdoor unlocked does not mean I want someone to come in and steal my things. But at some point I have to take responsibility for my own things and lock the door, maybe even put in an alarm system, even a camera. At what point does Target become culpable?


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