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.
How do you easily curate products in a flexible, dynamic way, across multiple use cases? That's the problem Lookbook seeks to solve. Sometimes a shopping list is too rigid; people collect lists of products for all kinds of reasons. Whether it's for a wishlist, a color palette, gift ideas, design inspiration, or any other impulse, Target shoppers don't have an easy way of making loose collections of items which they can share and save easily in sets. Team Citizen Made is comprised of Bryn McCoy, Rachel Brooks, and Karen Lee.
The idea here is to give users a dead-simple and elegant interface through which they can curate, share, and save items in Target inventory, in a visually appealing and easy-to-navigate way. The focus here is visual: Items are being saved because of their appearance or appeal, not price or availability, the way that shopping list apps organize themselves. The point here is to curate and share for the sake of curation and sharing, much along the lines of Pinterest, a social service with which this app connects. All the while, the app is collecting user data which Target can use to pair products, understand tastes, anticipate shortages, or utilize for other big-data purposes.
Multifarious uses cases are easy to imagine for Lookbook. One user might collect items they're considering buying as a collection for a certain room in the house; others might use it to plan outfits; still others might use it as a visual food-shopping list at a SuperTarget or an easy way to save items they want to buy later. The potential of flexible product groupings is wide-ranging.
This app benefits from a clever data play. The first part of the strategy is the use of user-generated data to help populate item listings more wide-ranging, user-contributed tips. What matches well with this dress? What are some rain boots that go along with this umbrella? What's the best use for this sort of chair? An almost wiki-like element allows users to annotate the products they've curated, adding two layers of data on top of the existing product catalog. Not only can Target tell what users are liking, but they can begin to draw correlations between people who like similar items, potentially improving their "related item" search. Additionally, Target gets a better understanding of some of its customers' real-world questions, ideas, and suggestions about products, which Target can draw on to fill gaps in their catalog descriptions, or to better understand what motivates their customers. They can do this with past purchase data too, but since curation doesn't require spending money, this database will be much bigger and broader in scope, making it a good complement to purchase data.
The judges were impressed by the simplity of the concept, which belies the incredible potential of the data. A product like this is all about curb appeal: It has to look good and be quick and easy to use. This all-female team of designers and developers delivered a terrific mockup that accomplishes all that and more. They've also made curation simpler by building in suggested products, based on correlations in other users' curated picks. Another major win is Pinterest integration, which all but a few entrants included in their spec. Since Pinterest is such a force in the shopping, fashion, and design worlds, it makes perfect sense for this app to directly connect Target inventory to Pinterest boards.
A big question here is whether users are intersted in curating within an app that only has access to the inventory of one store. Granted, Target's inventory is expansive, and there's little want for choice. But part of the fun of curation is mixing items from different sources and styles to create a personal statement about one's particular aesthetic.