Target + Pinterest = a Quest for Holiday Dollars

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Target is licensing Pinterest Lens.
Target is licensing Pinterest Lens. Credit: Target

Target and Pinterest are teaming up on a new service for consumers that could make copying a friend's nursery décor or finding a backpack exactly like a coworker's much easier.

The Minneapolis-based retailer is licensing Pinterest Lens, a visual-search tool that debuted this past February. Now, consumers who use Lens via Target's app can take a picture of products they want and Target will send them a set of potential lookalikes from

Target will be the only retailer in the U.S. to leverage the service, available first through its gift registries and then through its app—just in time for the holidays.

As more consumers use the product, Target will get better about learning what styles and trends drive purchasing decisions and be ready to adjust its marketing around such inspirations, said Rick Gomez, chief marketing officer of Target, in a statement.

The move is the latest effort by marketers to leverage visual technology to drive consumer sales. Home Depot and Neiman Marcus have camera-based image search technology, but Target's new strategy allows for pictures of real-life objects. We should also expect new partnerships from other providers, like Slyce, a startup, Google Goggles and Apple, which has built an augmented reality kit into its latest operating system, says Matt Britton, chief executive of Crowdtap, an online marketing service.

But there could be growing pains.

"The biggest question on consumers' minds is, 'Will this actually work? Or will we need to go through a painful innovation cycle,'" Britton says, noting that voice recognition has had misinterpreation issues for years.

A Target spokesman declined to say how long the deal with Pinterest will be, but did say it is a multi-year arrangement.

Target's Cartwheel app, a coupon provider that has now been integrated into the Target brand app, is well-liked by customers, so the partnership could help to drive more sales when the retailer is using everything in its wheelhouse to build buzz. Cartwheel was the 10th-ranked iPhone shopping app as of Sept. 25, and the second-top brick-and-mortar app after Walmart, according to Sensor Tower, which measures mobile app analytics. In August, some 300,000 downloaded Cartwheel, Sensor Tower found; this compares with 400,000 downloads for the app from much-larger Walmart.

Gomez and Pinterest President Tim Kendall will speak more about the partnership at an Advertising Week panel later this week.

Contributing: George Slefo

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