Agencies Pitch E-commerce Duties for Target

Retailer Said to Be on Hunt for Firm With Broad Digital Expertise

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Minneapolis-based retail giant Target is looking to shake up its agency roster once again.

The company has circulated a request-for-information document to agencies for e-commerce duties. The move is one of the first-agency related moves that we've seen since new CMO Jeff Jones has arrived at Target and it comes just a year after a problematic site revamp.

Executives familiar with the matter say e-commerce is a key part of the scope of duties, but according to a copy of the RFI obtained by Ad Age , the company is on the hunt for a firm with broad digital expertise.

As many as 10 agencies from various holding companies are competing to handle Target 's e-commerce business, according to executives familiar with the matter. SapientNitro is one of the lead partner agencies on the e-commerce business, though the retailer works with many firms on its digital efforts. Neither Target nor the agency immediately responded to requests for comment.

It's possible that the search is for an additional agency to add to its team rather than supplanting one.

The RFI document states: "As Target continues to develop its e-commerce and digital marketing platforms, we are currently in search of best-in-class digital partners to round out our current roster of agencies. The ideal partner(s) will have demonstrated retail e-commerce experience, designing and enhancing digital platforms from strategy to execution within online, digital in-store retail tools, mobile and tablet channels as well as cross-channel integration."

The RFI -- which is rather dense and wordy -- also elaborates that the company is looking for: "a strategic partner driving innovation and strategy across channels specifically brought on to support the multichannel work stream and the sub-work stream within the digital experience team to counsel how our channels are going to work together for consistent touch points for the guest."

The move comes as marketers prepare for the all-important and fast-approaching holiday season. And for Target , it's also likely an attempt to correct its own past glitches.

Two years ago, the retailer decided to regain control over its online sales and enlisted more than 20 vendors -- including SapientNitro (as partner and lead integrator), Interpublic Group of Cos' Huge , Infosys, IBM and Endeca -- to build its own e-commerce technology and website, Ad Age reported at the time. On Aug. 23, the company launched its redesigned Target .com, ending the retailer's decade-long relationship with Amazon.

But the site didn't deliver, and during a critical holiday-shopping period irate customers unable to complete purchases took to social-media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to express their anger. At the time, Ad Age had learned that there was friction between Target 's marketing and technology departments.

More recently, Target joined other retail giants to create a mobile-payment app through a new organization called Merchant Customer Exchange. The initiative now places more pressure on its mobile e-commerce technology and function than ever before.

The move to review also follows a couple of bold marketing changes. In January, Target dropped longtime agency Wieden & Kennedy. A few months later, the retailer tapped McKinney's Jeff Jones for its vacant CMO post. And around that time, it issued an RFI to a number of media agencies. That process has gone quiet, according to various agency executives, and the account remains at its 30-plus -year media shop Haworth.

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