Target to roll out generative AI chatbot for store employees

Dive Brief:

  • Target plans to introduce a new generative artificial intelligence technology for its store employees at all of the company’s nearly 2,000 stores nationwide by August, the company announced Thursday.
  • The company is launching an AI-powered chatbot tool, Store Companion, as an app on store associates’ handheld devices. The app is designed to help store associates answer process and procedure-related questions. It’s currently in pilot testing at about 400 locations ahead of a planned nationwide roll out.
  • Target is also using gen AI to enhance product display pages to display personalized customer search results and summaries of product reviews. Target also began introducing guided search on its online store. Customer product searches can now return a broader selection of relevant items. The enhanced search experience will be available to all customers later this summer.

Dive Insight:

Target’s in-house technology team developed the Store Companion chatbot in about six months by using frequently asked questions and process-related documents from stores across the U.S.

“We know technology will continue to play an outsized role in the future of retail — for our team members, our guests and our business,” Chief Information Officer Brett Craig said in a statement. “With that in mind, we’re continually experimenting with new tools to make it even easier for our team to do their jobs and to bring more of what guests love about shopping at Target to life. The transformative nature of Gen AI is helping us accelerate the rate of innovation across our operations, and we’re excited about the role these new tools and applications will play in driving growth,” Craig said.

Target is the latest big box retailer to announce that it plans to use AI to support its customers and frontline workers. Walmart began using gen AI late last year to enhance customer search and provide frontline employees with real time information that can help them answer customer queries and obtain operational information.

About a month after introducing generative AI, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said the company was already seeing positive results. The benefits of using generative AI in retail include the technology’s ability to contextualize and personalize information for customers, Jon Alferness, the chief product officer for Walmart U.S., told Retail Dive in a recent interview. Target appears to be following a similar path.

Target said its goal in introducing Store Companion is to make the frontline associates’ jobs easier, allow them to work more quickly and efficiently and deeper customer engagement to improve the shopping experience — goals that mirror what Walmart is doing with generative AI. 

The company said its store associate app can provide instant answers to questions like, “How do I sign a guest up for a Target Circle Card?” or, “How do I restart the cash register in the event of a power outage?” The chatbot can also offer on-the-job learning resources for new or seasonal employees.

“We’re hearing great feedback from our team about the new app,” Jake Seaquist, store director at one of the pilot stores in Champlin, Minnesota, said in the company’s announcement. “Streamlining day-to-day tasks goes a long way with our team members and adds up to more time spent with guests and a better guest experience across the store.”

Generative AI and personalization are helping Target to expand its offerings to shoppers. During a May earnings call, Target’s Chief Growth Officer, Christina Hennington, said the company was “very encouraged” by recent results from a partnership with a major vendor to test personalization for guests shopping in personal care categories. The results “showed a nearly three times lift in conversion rates from personalized promotions versus mass offers, including higher sales lift across the rest of the category as well,” Hennington said.