Target Corp. has begun testing a new curbside pickup service at a handful of stores around the Twin Cities.

The Minneapolis-based retailer confirmed the details of the pilot program to the Star Tribune. After placing an order through Target's app or website, customers drive up and park in dedicated parking spaces next to the store and employees will bring the items out to their cars. The service is aimed at saving time and offering an added convenience.

The service, which went live in recent days, is limited for now to Target employees, said Target spokesman Eddie Baeb. The hope is to soon roll it out to the public.

"We certainly see the potential in a broader rollout," he said. "In the coming months, we hope to make it guest facing."

The foray into curbside pickup comes as Target tries to keep its customers from flocking to Amazon with its array of fast-delivery options.

At the same time, Walmart has been rapidly rolling out its own curbside pickup service to hundreds of stores across the country. Walmart's service is focused on groceries, including fresh items, whereas Target's for now is limited to shelf staples and other products currently eligible for its in-store pickup service.

Kowalski's Market in Woodbury this week also added a curbside pickup service for grab-and-go deli items through a mobile app called FlyBuy.

Target has said its next-generation store prototype opening this fall near Houston will also have some sort of a curbside pickup service.

This isn't Target's first time testing such a service. In 2014, it partnered with a Palo Alto, Calif.-based start-up called Curbside, which runs curbside pickup programs for retailers through it own app. The service was tested in a handful of Target stores in California and was eventually expanded to more than 100 stores in markets such as New Jersey, Philadelphia and Chicago.

Target ended that program in 2016, one of a number of projects the retailer pared back as it prioritized its efforts under chief technology officer Mike McNamara.

Baeb said the pilot with Curbside was successful and Target learned a lot from that experience.

"But we saw and believe there's a good opportunity in building our own end-to-end experience that is wholly dedicated to Target," he said. "In having Target run it, we're getting to control and operate the entire experience."

The new service is an extension of Target's in-store pickup service, which now accounts for about 15 percent of Target's online sales volume and much more during the holidays.

The service is being tested at Target's stores in northeast Minneapolis, Roseville and Maple Grove where "Parking for order pickup" signs have been placed in the parking lot.

"It's another example of how we see stores and digital coming together more and more," Baeb added.

Last month, Target also began testing in the Twin Cities a next-day home delivery service of household items called Target Restock, similar to Amazon's Prime Pantry program.

The retailer is also trying out a same-day delivery service out of one of its Manhattan stores.