In an effort to drive further engagement, the new iOS app from the retail giant allows mobile shoppers to purchase products directly from select catalog pages.
While all-nighters and keg stands remain fixed components of the college experience recognizable to even Animal House's Bluto if he were around today, preparing for college life has changed tremendously.
To wit: discount retailer Target is offering several new tools to help students prepare for the upcoming year, including a shoppable back-to-college catalog and a college registry service.
Target says it is making it easy for students to shop for the products in its catalog with an image-recognition app, "In a Snap." The brand will distribute 3.5 million copies of the catalog this year, says Target rep Meghan Cushing.
The app, which is available for iOS devices, allows users to scan, select, and purchase items in the catalog, as well as in select magazine advertisements. That includes ads for Target's Room Essentials brand in the August issue of Real Simple. The In a Snap app will also be featured in the September issues of Architectural Digest, Domino, and others, Cushing notes.
Shoppable ads will feature an In a Snap icon, Cushing says.
The app uses image recognition technology to enable users to photograph specific catalog or ad pages. The app then pulls the products on the page in question and allows users to shop from among those items. From there, the experience is like shopping on Target's website.
In addition, shoppers will be able to use the app on in-store signage at a new format store, TargetExpress, which will open on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis on July 23.
Cushing says the brand is testing out and learning with the app.
"Depending on guest feedback and results, we'll consider how we use it in the future," she adds.
Cushing says the brand has no plans to release an Android version and she did not share download figures for the iOS app.
In addition, to make it even easier for college students to create lists of everything they need for school, Target says it launched a College Registry in June. Like a wedding or baby registry, the tool allows students to curate products and share their lists with family members or friends who might buy them things.
Cushing says so far thousands of students have created registries, but she did not provide a specific figure.
However, she also notes the two features are separate. In other words, the app cannot be used to add items to a college registry.
And while college students are certainly part of the app's target, Cushing says the audience includes "the digital-savvy guest that would be more apt to shop with a mobile device," which is a bit broader.
Jason Burby, president of the Americas at creative agency Possible, says the college registry concept "makes a ton of sense and is a great way to engage college students looking to create their first home-away-from-home spaces...[Target's] baby and wedding registries are already tremendously successful and many people are familiar with how to use them."
In addition, Burby notes that while there are other dorm registries out there, Target is in a unique position to make the most of it based on its physical and digital footprint, as well as the vast assortment of products it sells, and that In a Snap can help drive further engagement.
But Target is certainly not the only retailer to come out with a catalog enhanced by an app.
Swedish home furnishings brand Ikea debuted an augmented reality feature with its 2014 catalog.
As the name implies, the feature, "Place in Your Room," enables users to see the placement of approximately 100 products around their homes prior to purchasing them.
According to Ikea, the app uses the physical catalog to judge the approximate scale of the furnishings by measuring the size of the catalog laid on the floor in the camera of a user's mobile device. It then creates an augmented reality image of the product above the catalog so it appears correctly in relation to the room on a user's screen.
For the 2015 catalog, the brand has expanded the feature to include nearly 300 products, a rep notes.
The 2015 Catalog App for iOS and Android devices will be available July 24. It gives users access to extended catalog content by scanning designated pages of the printed catalog, including shareable videos featuring DIY tips and stories behind Ikea products, 360-degree views that allow users to look all the way around a whole room, and image galleries, a release says.
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Lisa Lacy is senior staff writer at ClickZ. In addition to ClickZ, her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Luxury Spot, LearnVest, MarthaStewart.com, GoodHousekeeping.com, amNewYork, and The Wall Street Journal. She's a graduate of Columbia's School of Journalism.
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