3 Takeaways from Target's Cartwheel App

Consumers may spend more time in apps than they do on the mobile Web, but that doesn't mean retailers are providing exceptional in-app experiences. Merchants have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to providing branded apps that actually mean something to their customers.

One of the largest exceptions, however, is Target. With its Cartwheel app, Target is givings its customers a reason to return to the app time and again, because it's not only super easy to use, but it also helps shoppers save money on the items they already buy (as cliché as it sounds). Here are three takeaways from Target's Cartwheel app that retailers can learn from:

1. Give 'em a Badge

Gamification remains a top digital strategy for brands that want to increase loyalty within their user base. Target uses badges to incentivize its users to use the app repeatedly. When they take certain actions - like scan a product in store - they can unlock badges which gives them an extra spot within their offers (users are only given 12 spots for "coupons" that they can redeem on each visit. They can, however, remove offers at-will and add new ones to fill the 12 spots.).

2. Personalize - Of Course

Target's Cartwheel app offers a variety of personalization features. Not only can users customize the experience by sorting offers in a way that means the most to them - expiring soon (see image), trending, category or biggest discounts - but they can also save their offers within their "My Barcode" section, which also tallies how much money they've saved over their lifetime within the app.

Behind the scenes, the Cartwheel app gets smarter with each use. Target collects information to customize users' experiences and make Cartwheel "better." Third-party companies collect click-stream info, browser type, time, date and barcode information during users' visits to provide offers likely to be of greater interest to shoppers. These parties typically use a cookie or a third-party Web beacon to collect this information.

3. Save Trees

Customers adding coupons or other incentives within an app should never - under any circumstances - have to physically print anything. Showing the document on their mobile devices should be sufficient. Still, many retailers offer mobile coupons that are not scannable at checkout. Target's Cartwheel app enables users to simply hand their smartphones to in-store cashiers who will scan a barcode that holds all of the offers the users have saved.

Bonus: Advertise Where Your Shoppers Are

Chances are that Target has a specifically mom-filled demographic. Moms are one of the most active groups on social media, so Target is smart in advertising Cartwheel on Facebook where it can target this demographic.