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Target Launches Gen-AI Chatbot for Store Associates Chainwide

Target’s new gen AI-powered chatbot, Store Companion, is designed to make team members’ jobs easier.
Target’s new gen AI-powered chatbot, Store Companion, is designed to make team members’ jobs easier. (Image courtesy Target)

Target plans to roll out a new gen AI-powered chatbot designed to aid store associates in nearly all of its 2,000 stores following a six-month pilot at 400 locations. The majority of Target’s associates will have the tool, called Store Companion, in hand by August to help with on-the-job process questions, new team member training, store operations management and other tasks.

The Store Companion chatbot will be available as an app on store associates’ specially equipped handheld devices, providing immediate answers to their questions about processes and procedures. For example, team members can input prompts like “How do I sign a guest up for a Target Circle Card?” and “How do I restart the cash register in the event of a power outage?” and receive instructions and resources in seconds. The tool also serves as a store process expert and coach to help new and seasonal team members learn on the job.

“Generative AI is game-changing technology and Store Companion will make daily tasks easier and enable our team to respond to guests’ requests with confidence and efficiency,” said Mark Schindele, EVP and Chief Stores Officer at Target in a statement. “The tool frees up time and attention for our team to serve guests with care and to create a shopping destination that invites discovery, ease and moments of everyday joy.”

To develop the tool, Target’s in-house technology team used real frequently asked questions and process documents from its store teams across the U.S. Feedback from the 400-store pilot was also integrated into the version of the tool now rolling out chainwide.

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“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,” shared Jake Seaquist, Store Director at one of the pilot locations in Champlin, Minn. in a statement 

Just the Beginning: Gen AI Also in Use at Target HQ and Website

The Store Companion initiative is part of Target’s broader effort to use emerging gen AI technologies across its business. The retailer said in a statement that it also plans to roll out another internal gen AI tool in the coming months, starting with its headquarters team members, although details of what that tool would be designed to do were not shared.  

“When placed in the hands of Target’s most important asset, its team, this technology has the potential to transform day-to-day tasks and empower team members to be more efficient and spend time doing the most meaningful work,” explained Target in the statement.  

Target also is already using gen AI in a variety of areas to enhance its digital customer experience, including gen AI-powered product pages, guided search capabilities and reviews summaries designed to make it easier for consumers to find what they’re looking for and have confidence in their purchases. The company expects to have more than 100,000 of its website pages live with these enhancements by the end of the summer.

Target said it plans to continue testing “dozens of additional gen AI applications” throughout 2024 and beyond. “We know technology will continue to play an outsized role in the future of retail — for our team members, our guests and our business,” said Brett Craig, EVP and Chief Information Officer at Target in a statement. “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.”

Retailers Feeling Urgency About AI Adoption

Target isn’t alone in moving ahead full force with solutions that aim to leverage the power of gen AI, and in fact, Salesforce predicts that AI will have a major impact on holiday sales this year. Among the many other retailers that have integrated gen AI into their customer-facing operations include PoshmarkShopifyAmazonWalmart and Etsy.

However, the rapid rate of gen AI adoption in retail — which research from Lucidworks found was among the industries with the fastest pace of adoption — is also putting pressure on retailers, with 34% of retailers saying they already feel they’re falling behind their competitors, according to the Lucidworks survey.

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