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.
What was your role in working in Divvy?
I was Divvy's product strategist. So I tried to find out as much as I could about Target and about the patterns in the retail space right now. It was a lot of secondary research and then kind of pulling out interesting things that would be inspire us. I think I pulled out like four or five different topics, kind of ideas for the kind of thing we could do. I think they were all really good ideas to begin with. But it was really just a starting point early on in the creative process. It was answering question like "how can we us subscriptions within physical retail?" It was a very wide array of things we were looking at.
What for you decides what's a good idea and what's not?
Well, we just thought about what are the important things for Target and also what ideas our competition was likely to have. But it all comes down to trying to create as many shopping occasions as possible. Divvy pretty naturally came out of that revelation. So the idea is that when you walk into a store, you're not walking in alone but with your whole social network of possible shoppers with you. And that creates a ton more purchase opportunities. When we realized the power of that concept we really gravitated towards that idea.
In working as a strategist for Divvy, what did you find personally challenging?
I haven't done that much retail work myself. So it was an interesting challenge to kind of dive into that. I've been working in digital my whole career so it was actually kind of an interesting change to see the physical retail side of things and learn what's hot there.
So what's your past work experience in the digital space like?
I've been at TBWA Pilot for almost four years now. Before that I headed up a global digital team at Nokia. I was the head of planning for the N-series range which is kind of their—in very big quotes—"iPhone killer." So I did a lot of planning work and building relationships.
How did your experience in mobile at Nokia inform your thought process on Divvy?
I've been working on mobile my whole career. I think the most interesting part of that world is that a mobile application is not a whole website squeezed into a smaller screen. It's actually a tool that lets you talk to your friends. That's the origin of the mobile phone. It makes it easier for you to make social decisions. So we're not trying to squeeze a service into the mobile phone, but apps like this are an extension of what the phone was originally designed to do.
More generally then what's your own philosophy on what makes a good mobile product?
Well, the most important thing is something that's actually feasible and practical. The starting point for Divvy was making sure it can work as its own, stand-alone app. But we also wanted to complement the existing Target ecosystem. So we came up with something that could kind of be an add-on that fits fluidly into the flow of things. I think Chris Reardon did a great job with the UX because it really does seem like a continuation of the world of Target, which is very much what we waned to do. We didn't want to have a real jagged edge that's jarring from the rest of the Target experience.
What are the kinds of things you do for fun outside work?
I try to go jogging quite a lot. But it's been too hot in New York to do that for some time now. I've started to dabble into code myself. I'm looking at jQuery and Node.js just as a hobby. It's fun to kind of dabble and learn how to code that way. Even the past three to five years there are so many more things online that you can use to learn to code. It's much closer to assembling Legos into whatever order you want than building everything from scratch like it used to be. And there are so many people out there who are willing to help newbies like myself. I think it's the new Latin—everybody has to learn a little bit of code to know how the world works.
How are you learning to code?
There are a bunch of cool courses. There's actually one open Stanford course I'm in that I think has over 100,000 participants. So it's clearly blowing up.
[Image: Flickr user James Blunt]