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Target equipping store associates with generative AI chatbot

Target generative AI
The Target Store Companion AI-based mobile associate tool (Image: Target).

Target Corp. is rolling out a new artificial intelligence solution that will help store associates answer customer inquiries.

The solution, called Store Companion, is a proprietary generative AI chatbot that can perform tasks such as answering on-the-job process questions, coach new team members and support store operations management.

The new chatbot will be available as an app on specially equipped handheld employee devices, providing immediate answers to their questions about processes and procedures. For example, associates 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 is also designed to serve as a store process expert and coach, helping new and seasonal associates learn on the job. To develop Store Companion, in-house Target used real frequently asked questions and process documents from its store teams across the U.S. 

Target is currently piloting Store Companion at about 400 stores, using the teams' feedback to improve the experience ahead of the chainwide rollout. According to Target, early feedback from pilot teams is positive and since the pilot began, experienced associates have helping shape the tool.

Target leverages generative AI across the enterprise

In addition to Store Companion, Target plans to roll out another internal generative AI tool in the coming months, starting with its headquarters employees. The retailer is also leveraging generative AI in customer-facing solutions, including product pages and search capabilities that curate the most relevant results.

Target is also using generative AI to summarize reviews and make the product descriptions on its site pages more relevant and enhances product titles with more robust information More than 100,000 of these pages are expected to be complete by the end of summer 2024.

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Target has begun rolling out a guided search functionality on its e-commerce site which allows customers to search the site using conversational language. For example, a search for "summer party" will return a broader range of relevant items, such party supplies and invitations, outdoor tableware, meat for grilling, and snack and drink ideas; as well as commonly forgotten items such as sun protection, insect repellents, and outdoor games. 

This enhanced search experience will continue to expand and will be available to all consumers later in the summer. Target will continue testing dozens of additional generative AI applications, such as technology it debuted during the 2023 holiday season to forecast product demand and keep items from going out of stock, throughout 2024 and beyond. 

Sam’s Club, the warehouse club subsidiary of major Target rival Walmart, also allows employees to ask job-related question in natural language and have the answer displayed on their device screen in real time via its AI-based Ask Sam app.

"We know technology will continue to play an outsized role in the future of retail — for our team members, our guests and our business. With that in mind, we're continually experimenting with new tools to make it even easier for our team to do their jobs and to bring more of what guests love about shopping at Target to life," said Brett Craig, executive VP and CIO, Target. "The transformative nature of generative 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."

"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, executive VP and chief stores officer, Target. "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."

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