One of the downsides to reading and writing about consumer behavior and decision making is the awareness of the various methods others use to influence your own decisions. It could be exploiting one’s preference to think they’re getting a discount, playing word games with how sales are presented, or targeting customers based on expected behaviors.
Businesses certainly have a vested interest in influencing the decisions of customers or potential customers, and Target has been going after The Sheconomist and me for years. It’s paying off. They know what their customers want.
At first Target was just a discount retailer with just a bit of upscale atmosphere. But in the 21st century they went full bore in competition with Walmart and even some department stores. Nowadays Target is one of the most sophisticated retailers in the country. They have well known designers making clothing lines just for them. No longer do you go to Target to pick up some detergent and candy. Target is a destination in an of itself.
The other thing Target does is offer a wide spectrum of products across the consumer wealth spectrum. The wealthiest of people are amongst the millions of shoppers Target sees every day but of course many of their products are priced to be competitive with Walmart. Target intends to be the store you can shop at for you college needs but will still come back to for your wedding registry, baby supplies, and every other milestone of your life. While still offering convenience for those detergent/candy runs.
As I said before, Target knows their customers well, and my family is no different.
Last week we were out to dinner and decided we wanted to make one of our favorite desserts, which requires peanut butter. We didn’t have any. Thankfully there was a grocery store in the same parking lot as the restaurant we were currently enjoying. We could have made a quick run in but decided to make a trip to Target instead.
Our justification seemed sound. We knew we’d eventually end up at Target anyway that weekend so might as well go now. Well, while we were there we were reminded Target sells a favorite cereal for a considerable discount compared to grocery stores, so we got two boxes. The Sheconomist has an unhealthy attachment to a certain kind of gummy bear, so we got that too. Things went downhill from there…
By the time we actually got to leaving Target I’d found a new t-shirt I had to have, and my better half found some sunglasses and remembered she was low on her overpriced chapstick. What started as a need to pick up an item less than $3 turned in to a $50 trip. It could have easily gotten pricier. Wifey wants a new bathing suit and dress for a trip to the beach, and I’ve had my eye on a canvas print of a favorite sports stadium they sell. Counting up everything we could have or did buy, Target effectively replaced as many as five stores we would have had to go to. And they did that all with a jar of house brand peanut butter.
It really pains me to say this, but congratulations Target. You have made yourself a destination that shoppers want to go to, and managed to package in a collection of goods designed to rob the wallets of anyone with even a dime of discretionary income. It’s an incredible success that no one has been able to copy.