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The members-only app that grew loyalty and product sales for Target

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Target partnered with Lumenalta to develop Studio Connect, an app to give its guests a voice in co-creating its 49 private-label brands.

Target, a U.S.-based retail giant, has amassed a cult-like following for its 45+ owned brands. It didn’t reach $109B in annual sales by just sticking to the status quo: Target has gone to great lengths to collect customer feedback at every turn.
In 2016, Target partnered with Lumenalta (formerly Clevertech) to develop Studio Connect™, a small private creative community that gave its guests a voice in co-creating Target’s line of products and brands.
“We created an always-on connection between our community members and teams in an effort to broaden our perspectives to ensure that our guests’ experiences with Target and our owned brands felt relevant,” says Stacy Adelmann, Target’s former design manager-turned-director of community and strategic enterprise audiences for Studio Connect.
The Studio Connect app humanized the creative process of product development by showing another way that product developers and designers could connect directly with Target superfans, resulting in improved customer growth and retention, above-industry-average satisfaction, and a more cost-effective product development process for its owned brands.
new private-label brands launched
As Target began to invest in humanizing its experiences for its owned brands, it needed a way to bring its guests along to drive Target’s future. Their product designers wanted a direct line to their guests, but traditional market research came with obstacles: It was too expensive; it took too long, and designers were unable to re-engage with interviewees. 
Because of the speed of retail, companies couldn’t afford to wait weeks for an in-person focus group or survey to run. The Target team tested a different way and invited 100 kids to a design research event created through play. A lightbulb went off: “How might we create an ongoing relationship with our guests?” asked Adelmann. The company needed a way to replicate the magic of the in-person gathering at scale.
Target partnered with Lumenalta to build a “secret” app for 600 members — just 0.002% of Target’s regular shopping demographic. But before writing a single line of code, the Lumenalta and Target developers sat in on guest interviews to hear first-hand from Target’s designers and community members.
“We had an opportunity to facilitate how Target’s community and product designers wanted to create together in deciding what [products and] features were important to them, but ultimately how intentional that co-creation design process felt.”
Stacy Adelmann, former Studio Connect Director and Co-Founder at Target
The Instagram-like app paved a way for designers to directly engage with customers and get rapid consumer opinions on products and potential products. For example, a question to shoppers read, “What accessories are you looking for this Fall?” Target used the responses by the Studio Connect community to develop its upcoming line of Fall accessories. While app users weren’t paid for their feedback, they earned points towards discounts and gift cards.
A post on Target's Studio Connect app reads: What accessories are you looking fr this Fall?
“The goal was always to make the tech invisible — right away, the endless possibilities opened the door for creativity. [Lumenalta] had an appetite to solve a problem with us, not tell us how to do it,” says Adelmann. “They helped us break down walls and barriers when it came to connecting to the humans of Target. We moved faster than we ever had… We could do what real startups do.”
Studio Connect brought together a community of 5,000 people with an active rate of 300 people a day. 
Once the beta app launched, they immediately were selected for the Apple App Store Editors’ Choice, but turned it down because they didn’t want to celebrate what they could do, but put the spotlight on the humans connecting through their app. And 49 private-label brands later, the team is continuing to find creative ways to co-create with its guests through human-centered design. 
“It was so cool to have all the different expertise come through the different time zones from [Lumenalta]; the team was so fluid. The team could just pop in and pick up the work; it was always a complement,” says Adelmann. “They were my best working years because it never felt like work.” 
Target - Studio Connect Case Study

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