#TargetWonderland: Store of the Future

Among the many New York pop-up shops and holiday markets I visited in November and December, Target’s “Wonderland” stood apart. While the scope was limited in that it was kid-centric and the navigation wasn’t without its quirks, the concept was forward-looking in many ways.

My first observations were low-tech offers that were welcome by the target audience: stroller valet, and seasonal candy distributed by cheerful elves to the line stretching down the block.

When I got to the front of the line, one of those elves gave me a lanyard with an attached badge featuring a QR code. Then there was another line to use a laptop (old-school, that’s right) to register the code with my e-mail address. A few too many steps. (As an aside, I’ve received no e-mail from Target since then, which surprises me.)

I resisted any sweet tooth temptation, skipping over the customizable candy station. I wanted to find the actual “store”, something I couldn’t see but whose existence I trusted. First, I was forced into a long line to get my picture taken with the elves. There was seemingly no flexibility in the Ikea-style track, but when I said I really didn’t want a photo and just wanted to shop, an elf made an exception.

The bigger space was a maze (in a good way, generally) of displays and interactive experiences tied to various toys for purchase. For example, there was a giant, usable etch-a-sketch aimed at selling smaller ones and a life-size Frozen castle as photo backdrop. All of this was ripe for social sharing, obviously.

To keep everyone’s hands free to jump in the ball pit and play games, visitors didn’t have to pick up toys they wanted to buy and carry them around the store. It wasn’t even an option, as there was no inventory displayed. Accompanying each station was a screen to scan that lanyard QR code so that gifts could be picked up at the end of the maze. (Even better? If they were being shipped directly.)

While I didn’t observe any conversion to purchase at Target Wonderland, I liked the concept and believe there are aspects of it that have significant application.