Target will begin to test a service that uses Bluetooth-connected household devices to monitor your supply of toilet paper, paper towels and hand soap, and automatically order more when you need it.
Here’s how Target Fetch will work: You’ll receive a toilet paper spindle (the springy thing that holds the roll), paper towel holder and soap pump that are all Bluetooth-enabled and equipped with sensors. You connect each device to the Target Fetch app and answer some questions within the app about how much toilet paper, paper towels and soap you have on hand and what brands you prefer. The sensors in each product will keep track of how much of each item you use, and the app will use algorithms to learn about your usage. You’ll receive an alert 10 days before the app predicts you’ll run out of a certain product. If you choose not to intervene, Target Fetch will automatically order what you need from Target.com and ship it to you for free (you still have to pay for the actual product).
The Target Fetch Indiegogo campaign, which was first reported by The Spoon, will offer different options for how you can participate in the beta testing, and it will cost an average of $40. Target will begin to ship the devices to participants in October.
According to an emailed statement from Target, the company will use the information it gathers from these early consumer tests to evaluate its approach to Target Fetch going forward.
“We’re always exploring and testing new products and services in an effort to create a differentiated assortment, elevate our shopping experience and meet guest needs now and into the future,” the statement said.
When it comes to automatic ordering, mega online retailer Amazon has been the one to beat. Amazon Subscription Services lets you choose products that you want to come to your house on the schedule of your choosing. In 2015, the company rolled out Amazon Dash Buttons, the small, Wi-Fi-connected devices that you can press to automatically order food, beauty products, household goods and other items directly from Amazon. There’s also Amazon Dash Replenishment Service, which lets manufacturers build Amazon’s automatic ordering technology directly into their products. Target Fetch products sound similar to the Brita Infinity smart pitcher, a Wi-Fi-connected water pitcher with Amazon Dash integrations that automatically orders a new filter from Amazon.
What makes Target Fetch a bit different is that it’s putting the autoreplenishment technology into kitchen and bathroom items that you already use. It makes the value proposition a little easier to swallow than buying a whole new large appliance just because it can automatically reorder dishwasher capsules. And a paper towel holder, toilet paper spindle and soap dispenser are much more subtle than Amazon Dash Buttons, which are covered in the corporate logo of the product you want. Target’s success in autoreplenishment will depend upon its ability to improve upon or expand what Amazon has already offered.
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