February 9, 2010, 12:00 AM

Target enables customers to redeem gift cards through their mobile phones

Shoppers can save gift card information to their Target.com accounts. When at a register, a customer with an Internet-enabled phone can access her card information, which pulls up a 2-D bar code for a clerk to scan.

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To redeem a gift card, one must remember to bring it to a store. Not anymore at Target Corp., where consumers at any of its 1,740 stores need only remember to bring their mobile phones.

Target shoppers can save gift card information to their Target.com accounts, either through Target.com or the mass merchant’s mobile site m.Target.com. When at a register, a customer with an Internet-enabled phone can access her card information, which pulls up a 2-D bar code. A clerk scans the bar code on the phone’s screen and the amount is taken off at the register.

“The addition of Mobile GiftCards to our suite of mobile shopping solutions further simplifies the Target experience for our guests,” says Steve Eastman, president of Target.com. “We will continue to surprise and delight our guests with innovative and highly relevant mobile capabilities, enabling access to the Target experience anytime and anywhere.”

Target is among the first American retailers to deploy the necessary scanning hardware to scan two-dimensional bar codes, which are popular in Japan. Larger retailers like Target using 2-D bar codes could create a trend in the U.S., some experts say.

“This is absolutely huge,” says Michael Becker, North American managing director at the Mobile Marketing Association, of the Target deployment. “The big issue with 2-D bar codes has been the last mile, scanning and redemption at the point of sale. Now one of the largest retailers in the U.S. is showing recognition of the importance of that capability and a commitment to it. Target is giving marketers the end-to-end 2-D capability. This should be a sign to all other retailers that this and similar point-of-sale redemption techniques are hitting the market and they should be seriously considering them.”

Target is No. 20 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide (a PDF version of the company’s financial and operating profile can be ordered by clicking on its name).

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