New Open House space

Target’s VP of IoT: How Consumers and Entrepreneurs Inspired Our Latest Open House Redesign

A Bullseye View “Perspectives” is a forum for Target’s top executives to share their points of view on everything from industry trends to best business practices. In the story below, Gene Han, vice president of Consumer Internet of Things (IoT) and head of Target’s innovation office, introduces the Target Open House after its extensive renovation.

For many, connected home technology is equal parts exciting and confusing. As the guy in charge of consumer Internet of Things at Target, which is all about bringing great connected products to our guests, I hear consumers tell me all the time: “I like the idea of connected home technology—but it’s so intimidating that I don’t know where to begin.”

To help decode these questions (and many more), we created Target Open House, a connected device concept store we debuted back in July 2015. The space gives guests hands-on interactions with new products and services, and provides the entrepreneur community a spot to gather and learn from one another and consumers.

We’ve learned a ton in the past 18+ months. Since opening the space, more than 150,000 guests, entrepreneurs and even Chief Product Officers from more than 75 different companies came through our doors, including many international visitors. A top-level executive from a large retailer in France said Open House has become “the global benchmark for retailing connected devices.” On top of that, we hosted more than 25 events with folks from the local IoT community. But our aim is to keep learning, so we had a lot of conversations and took copious notes. 

The feedback helped us more clearly understand what consumers need and want when it comes to IoT. Take, for example, a conversation I had with Jamie, a mom from San Francisco. Jamie wanted to make it easier for her disabled son to answer the door when he is home alone. She also was looking for ways to automate routine tasks like turning on several lights at once, which took her son considerable effort in a wheelchair. But she didn’t yet know which smart devices could help. We introduced her to Ring, a video doorbell that interfaces with your smart phone, and Flic, a small button sized clicker that can automate tasks such as turning on connected lights.

Another guest I talked to was Kyle, who was a busy executive and pet lover that felt bad leaving his cat for his 14-hour workdays. We worked with Kyle to set up a WiFi-enabled pet feeder and smart camera to keep tabs on his cat during the day.

It’s because of input from people like Jamie and Kyle that we were able to thoughtfully redesign Open House in ways that help us better fulfill its purpose: to demystify connected home technology for consumers and give entrepreneurs a space to showcase their products.

Today, an updated Target Open House is back after a seven-week renovation. Our latest iteration of the space, brought to life with the help of our partners from our in-house creative team, features a number of exciting new elements and products I’m thrilled to share.

For starters, our new Garage space serves as an area for companies to showcase or launch their products on a retail shelf, get valuable quantitative and qualitative feedback on their products and have direct visibility to Target buyers. We’re making it easier for startups to get their products in front of thousands of guests earlier, before they’re even available for sale.

Take a look at the sixteen products on display in our Garage today:

Along with new products, we’re also debuting a new tool called Mission Control. This software will help startups submit products to be at Target Open House and also offers a real-time dashboard for startups to see guest interactions, get feedback and understand traffic and sales for their products.

Open House Mission Control image

We’re also doubling down on our commitment to supporting the entrepreneurial community with our updated event space to host larger gatherings, as well as enhanced feedback and analytics for vendors.

Open House event space

And we’ve drawn on new areas of interest and potential by adding a new arrangement of rooms and experiences to the signature acrylic house inside the store space.

IoT is a constantly evolving space with infinite opportunity—and we’re committed to helping guests understand it better. Check it out in the video, below:

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