I’m putting my customer hat on today to share my initial thoughts on a new tool from Target called Cartwheel. Have you tried it yet? I’d love to get your thoughts.

Last Thursday morning (7:18am), I received an email from Target that announced a new tool they were launching. The subject line said, “Shh. This special invite is just for you.”

As I read down that email, I saw this:

… before everyone else.” Wow, very cool. I feel special. I’m not sure how they determined I was one of their best guests, but I do have Target cards and accounts, so I assumed they based this status on at least one of those.

But imagine my surprise when I logged onto Facebook a couple hours later and saw them announce Cartwheel to the world (or at least to their 21 million + followers). OK, I felt just a little less special.

[Update 6/4/13 4:30pm PST: I just found out that Cartwheel actually launched three weeks earlier, on May 8. Target needs to rethink their messaging – or am I just hyper-sensitive because I look for stuff like this?]

Nonetheless, I wanted to check it out. I was hoping this app was going to solve a need that I’ve had for quite some time now: I want to load my coupons on my grocery loyalty cards – or onto my REDcard somehow. Why can’t I do that? Why can’t manufacturers and/or grocery stores just apply their coupons to my loyalty cards? Why do I have to clip, sort, find, carry, fumble, etc. coupons every week? AND use my loyalty card on top of that to get additional “preferred savings?”

Perhaps Cartwheel is the answer! I couldn’t wait to see what it was all about. As I started looking around, my initial questions were:

1. Why do I have to log in with my Facebook account? I have a Target account and a REDCard; why can’t I use either of those accounts to log in? Not everyone wants to log in everywhere with Facebook or some other social media account, and not everyone (shock!) has a Facebook account.

I researched this, and using your Facebook account is the only option today.

2. Where is the app? Ha! This is a big downer; there is no mobile app. To use it in the store, you have to go to their mobile site, and that is less than ideal. Actually, it is not user-friendly at all.

I researched this, too, and a mobile app is on its way this month. Thank goodness!

3. Are Target stores prepared to use this? My main concern with anything new like this is that store employees haven’t been trained on it or have no idea what it is. I’m speaking from experience with other new tools. Researching this, my fears were confirmed.

4. Why do I need one more thing? Now that I know what it is, I’m assured that this has not solved my pet peeve with coupons and loyalty cards – if you have store (or manufacturer) coupons, just put them on my card, not on yet another app or account.

5. Why did they make it sound special? I like the idea of being a charter member or getting early access or a first look. To me, that says that a limited number of people are getting access. That makes me feel special.

6. Why didn’t they just tell me it’s a beta? In that initial email, there was no mention of this being a beta, and the website in those early hours made no mention of being in beta.  First impressions are everything. I might not go back and use it again, if it fails or doesn’t meet expectations out of the gate. Why not be transparent and tell customers that all the bugs haven’t been worked out yet? When I went back later, though, to start researching for this post, I noticed that they had added a “beta” superscript to the logo. But prior to that, I went to their Help pages. Why do I have to go to there to get answers to obvious questions? Why didn’t they just communicate these things clearly in that initial email? Or on the splash page when you first create your account?

I think they missed an opportunity or two here (missed the target?), and I hope they (a) truly do incorporate customer feedback, (b) make some changes (quickly), and (c) communicate to their customers proactively about those changes.

Never underestimate the power of communication.

The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak. -Hans Hofmann

The main goal is not to complicate the already difficult life of the consumer. -Raymond Loewy