The former president of is launching a new company that will focus on helping retailers integrate mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets into store environments.

Dale Nitschke, now the managing partner at the Ovative/group consulting firm in Minneapolis, said Talking Fish will spin off from Ovative in the first quarter of 2012.

Nitschke, who served eight years as president, said retailers are only now recognizing the possibilities of using mobile devices to drive sales and marketing while the customer shops in the store.

"There are a lot of mobile apps for serving customers when they're outside of the store," he said. "But how do you transform all of the information you collected from customers and enable that in the shopping environments inside the store? Most people aren't thinking about that right now. It's very early stage."

A longtime Target executive, Nitschke helped launch in 2001. Last year, the website generated $1.3 billion in sales, according to Internet Retailer., which the retailer relaunched last week, now attracts about 64 million visitors a month, including 35 million unique visits.

Retailers like Richfield-based Best Buy Co. Inc. have begun experimenting with GPS-locator technology that allows retailers and manufacturers to send targeted messages to consumers on their smartphones as they examine specific products in the store.

ShopSavvy, a San Franciso-based developer of shopping apps, recently teamed with Longboard Media to offer such a service in Best Buy stores for the back-to-school shopping season. Consumers with the ShopSavvy app can use their smartphones to scan merchandise and receive relevant offers, product information and reviews.

However, most retailers view stores, mobile devices and websites as separate entities. Nitschke said that's a mistake. Whether the customer buys a computer on the Internet or in the store is irrelevant, he argued. What matters is how their experience, wherever it was, influenced the purchase, Nitschke said.

"We're strong advocates for moving away from 'channel mentality,' whether it's a store [or] a mobile device," he said. "You are going to do what's right for the customer. Traditional retailers used to focus on stores and merchandising. All of sudden, it's like 'Gosh, we should be building our institutions around the customers.'"

Thomas Lee • 612-673-4113