Target introduces an image recognition app

  • Article by: JOHN EWOLDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 22, 2014 - 6:04 AM

“In a Snap” app lets customers take a picture of products in printed ads and purchase or bookmark them.

Picture this: an app that lets you shop with the snap of a camera.

That’s the idea behind “In a Snap,” a new app launched this month by Target Corp. that lets customers purchase items by taking pictures of store items in magazines and printed ads.

With an Apple iPhone, iPad or iPod, a customer can hover over an image, take a picture of it and then buy the selected item or save it for later consideration, eliminating the need to hunt for bar codes or product links. For customers purchasing items, they have the option of having the product shipped or they can pick it up in the store.

The free app, which has been in development for a year by Target’s Rapid Accelerated Development (RAD) technology team, includes dozens of products, but it is still in a test mode. “It’s a single-purpose app that will appeal to millennials and college students or anyone not averse to downloading an app,” Target spokesman Eddie Baeb said.

The app also adds to Target’s mobile shopping assortment, including its flagship Target app and its mobile coupon app Cartwheel, which it introduced a year ago.

In a Snap is available in issues of nearly 10 magazines such as Real Simple, Architectural Digest and Domino, as well as Target’s back-to-college catalog, and via store signage featuring products in the new Target Express store that opens in Dinkytown on Wednesday.

Target is following close behind Amazon, which released a more sophisticated image recognition app called Firefly last month. Ikea and Lowe’s have also introduced similar programs, said Leon Nicholas, senior vice president at Kantar Retail in Boston. “Target isn’t ahead of the game, but they’re on pace with it,” he said about the new app release.

Nicholas sees In a Snap as evidence of Target’s ability to leverage technology, but not any repositioning of the brand. “They need buzz that makes customers want to snap these products in the first place,” he said. “They still need to invigorate the brand. J.C. Penney and Sears learned that merely launching an app doesn’t make them relevant.”

Target’s same-store sales have been declining for more than a year, and that was before the massive credit card breach. Just 33 percent of U.S. households reported shopping at Target in January 2014, the lowest penetration for Target in the past several years.

In other tech developments, Target is launching a YouTube video series this week called “Best Year Ever” as part of its back-to-college campaign. The four-episode series will debut later this month. The company also introduced a back-to-school online registry this summer, an extension of its baby and wedding registries.

 

John Ewoldt • 612-673-7633

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