The Co.Labs and Target Retail Accelerator challenged entrants to design and build an app that would extend the Target customer experience into new areas, leveraging mobile software--native or web-based--to produce new and pro-social effects in their community, family, school, or social network. Our celebrity judges have selected their finalists, who each received $10,000 seed money and a Target mentor for the next stage--competing for a $75,000 buyout grand prize. Here we're breaking down each of the finalists: The goal of their apps, the use cases, the clever twists, the potential roadblocks, and (of course) the reasons they advanced to the next round. Keep your fingers crossed for the entrants, who get judged this week; we'll announce the grand prize winner on June 27th.
Target does a lot of philanthropy work, but according to these entrants, customers lack a way to contribute, and their mobile device is the natural place to bridge the gap between shoppers and social initiatives. The judges agreed. Team HYS3 is comprised of Siyuan Tu, Sangmi Park, Haihong Wang, Shelley Leung, and Yuan Gu.
As this team says in their app spec, every Target store has a community around it, and this community can be leveraged to help other poeple in the community in times of need. The overarching point of TargetCares is to help the store connect with the people that live in the surrounding towns and neighborhoods, and be sensitive to their needs.
A local school is affected by natural disaster. The administrators and teachers compile a list of supplies they need via the TargetCares app, and those needs are surfaced to other local Target shoppers inside the app. Shoppers can come to the aid of the school by buying items off the list, ensuring there aren't any duplicate donations, while also ensuring the donations meet the actual needs of the school.
Supporting local causes earns a shopper-philanthropist special "badges" which they accumulate as record of their good works. Tied into the badge system is a points system which awards donators with special coupons for donating. Better yet, people can post these badges to Facebook, simultaneously earning them some back-pats from friends while also raising awareness of the cause the user donated to.
The judges shorthanded this app as "community crowdsourcing for people in need." There were a few apps that boasted similar concepts, but the details of this spec were especially well-considered; users could follow causes, and the app makes provision for Target to approve what causes appear here, ensuring none of them run counter to the values of the brand. The gamification elements--badges, points, and coupons--are simple enough to be familiar to any Foursquare user, but incentive enough to actually drive action. Design and typography choices in the mockups were pleasing to the eye, and the judges also remarked on the social capabilities of the app; namely that you can see friends' donations and causes, which is a nice passive way for users to discover new places to donate.
For the social connectivity in this app, no network infrastructure was specified. Building a social network around this single application would prove difficult, even with the weight of Target marketing behind it. Piggybacking on an extant social network might be the best option, but which one? It's dubious that one network (even several popular networks) would reach the sum total of Target's customers, which vary wildly in age, background, and location.
[Image: Flickr user Sean Davis]