As retailers have navigated the pandemic, few have garnered as much attention for an ability to marry physical and digital retail to serve customers than Target. Thanks to the omnichannel fulfillment foundation laid prior to COVID’s onset, the company was able to rapidly ramp up its capabilities in order to meet consumers in nearly every contact-free environment during the health crisis: at home, at the curb and (safely) in stores.
We chatted with Frank Bruni, Target senior VP, food and beverage supply chain, and CGT/RIS Executive Council member, for insight into these operations, as well as his views on the role of the retail store moving forward. (Hint: It claims a pretty big starring part.)
RIS: Target has been a high-profile success story for its micro-fulfillment capabilities during the pandemic. What can you share about the work that’s gone into this achievement?
For years, we’d been investing in capabilities that put the physical store right at the center of our omnichannel experience. So, heading into 2020, we had a durable, sustainable and scalable business model that in an unprecedented year enabled Target to continue offering guests a safe and easy shopping experience, however and whenever they choose to shop.
It goes without saying that when we began this journey, we didn't know we would be facing a pandemic, and all its corresponding challenges. But when the flexibility and scalability of our operation were pressure tested, our Target team rose to the challenge. And our team continues to be the heart and soul of Target, absolutely committed showing up for one another and our guests.
EC Member Shares
When did you join Target?
What book is on your nightstand?
Build from Scratch by Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank
Favorite front-end shelf snack?
Good and Gather Sea Salt Roasted Cashews
RIS: Likewise, what are some of the most significant learnings your team has taken away in your rapid acceleration of buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) and curbside services?
Years of investment in our safe, convenient and inspiring one-stop shopping experience helped Target meet the wants and needs of guests and families this last year — and that’s something both myself and the entire Target team is really proud of. Well before 2020, we’d already scaled our Order Pickup and Drive Up services nationwide as part of our multi-year roadmap. That gave us a solid foundation and the ability to improve, enhance and flex quickly to meet the changing needs of our guests in a year like no other.
For example, in 2020, we expanded our vast same-day Order Pickup and Drive Up assortment in record time to include fresh and frozen grocery items nationwide, so guests could have even more choices in free, contactless shopping. We’ve heard it straight from our guests — they couldn’t be more thrilled about the ability to add fresh and frozen groceries to their cart.
RIS: The pandemic has caused some significant consumer behavior habit changes. What are some of the shifts that you think might stick?
Since the pandemic first began, guests have turned to Target for essentials and so much more. And of course, millions of guests used our contact-free fulfillment services for the first time to get their purchases safely and conveniently. As a result, these services combined grew 235% last year — and we continue to see guests use them every day.
RIS: A recurring topic of conversation within the Executive Council has been the changing nature of retail and consumer goods collaboration. How has this evolved from your perspective, especially within the last year?
At Target, and specifically in food and beverage, we’re focused on enhancing the guest experience by making it easy for families to discover the joy of food. A key part of that is providing our guests with a curated assortment of the national brands they love right alongside our portfolio of differentiated owned brands that only Target can deliver.
RIS: Where would you like to see more work done?
Target has a durable business model and a differentiated strategy that makes us a retail leader. And we’ll continue to scale, flex and innovate to meet the needs of our guests.
RIS: What do you see as the future of the retail store, and how will technology deliver it?
This could be the topic of a book — and has been — but what I’m personally energized by is use of stores as “hubs.” In Target’s case, our more than 1,900 stores across the U.S. act as “hubs” that serve guests in person, through same-day delivery services and by shipping online orders directly to their doors.
Just last year, 95% of our more than $92 billion in total sales were fulfilled by our stores — indicating that this is an area where Target continues to deliver as we meet the wants and needs of our guests.