Target CEO Brian Cornell told a room full of Wall Street analysts earlier this week that the company is testing retail applications for "just about every buzzword you can imagine."
He listed a few -- AI (artificial intelligence), CGI (computer-generated imagery), machine learning.
So what does that look like in action?
The retailer gave attendees of its annual investors meeting a peek at some of the things Target's tech teams have been tinkering with at a science fair-like set-up at its Minneapolis headquarters.
One group showcased a new system Target has put together that is still being tested aimed at helping to make the process of shipping online items more cost-effective. The application on a worker's handheld device figures out which box size is best for the various items in the order so the company doesn't waste money on shipping empty space in the box. It then also decides which delivery carrier is optimal to use, using the technology platform the company now has access to through its acquisition last year of firm Grand Junction.
The next station highlighted a new idea still under development that aims to help Target tackle a perennial problem: out of stocks. By tapping into Target's existing security cameras in stores, the team is using motion detection technology to identify when produce bins in the grocery department are empty. Store workers would then be notified on that handheld device when, say, they need to run to the backroom to restock the bananas.
Another team is working on combining two innovations Target added to its website last year -- 360-degree shoppable rooms and an augmented reality feature called "See It In Your Space." Both additions to the website have led to high conversion rates online, according to Target. So now a team is looking to combine the two to have a more dynamic 3-D experience when virtually placing various pieces of furniture in your living room.
Finally, last year, Target begin delving into voice shopping through a partnership with Google's voice assistant. In addition to being able to add items to your Google Express shopping cart through speaking to Google Home, Target has in recent days added a capability so customers can add items to a Target Restock order by speaking aloud to Google's voice assistant. The team is working to add other similar capabilities in voice commerce.
While Target used to outsource a lot of its tech team, in recent years, the retailer has brought more of it in-house, hiring hundreds of software engineers and project managers. Still, executives said this week that its overall capital spending on technology hasn't increased since the retailer has been more disciplined in focusing on fewer, more impactful projects.
And last year, Target cut many of its innovation projects as its sales slumped and Cornell looked to retool its efforts to focus more on its core business.
On Tuesday, Cornell told analysts that while the retailer continues to look at opportunities in adjacent businesses, the vast majority of its resources and effort are aimed at advancing its main business such as stores, supply chain, private-label brands, and its website.
"Newness and innovation are essential elements of our strategy," he added.