For the sake of convenience, low prices, or both, shoppers who used to routinely pick up household items at Target have slowly taken their business over to Amazon. Target wants its customers back in a bad way.
Last fall, Target introduced a subscription service for parents, allowing customers to order diapers and other baby goods on a recurring basis—always with free shipping and often with significant discounts. The new service was widely viewed as a blatant counteroffensive against Amazon, which has a long history of targeting Target and other brick-and-mortar-based retailers by undercutting them on price, which has a very popular Subscribe and Save program that grants discounts on pre-scheduled goods purchased, and which has slowly but surely removed discounts for moms over the years.
Apparently, Target was pleased with how its parent-focused subscription played out, because on Thursday it announced a broad expansion to Target Subscriptions. The original service offered a total of 150 products, all of them essentially aimed at moms—diapers, wipes, formula, etc. The new Subscriptions service allows customers to choose from more than 1,500 products to order on a recurring basis, and the demographic being "Targeted" goes way beyond parents with young kids. Now, all sorts of household staples, from cleaning supplies to printer ink, pet treats to laundry detergent, can be purchased via Target Subscriptions.
Subscribers obviously get to save themselves a trip to the store. That's one bonus of using the service. They also get free shipping on deliveries and returns. And they get discounts—a flat 5% off on all Subscription orders, plus another 5% off if payment is made via a Target card.
Amazon might quickly point out that its Prime service comes with speedy two-day shipping on most orders, whereas Target's free shipping might take five or more days to arrive after the time of purchase. But remember, with the Subscriptions service, we're talking about staple household items needed on a regular basis: The big attraction of this service is that it helps you stock up on items before you run out, not when you're in desperate need. So expedited delivery, while nice, doesn't seem essential.
It's also worth noting that Amazon Prime now costs $99, up from $79, while the Target Subscriptions service—and Amazon's own Subscribe and Save program, for that matter—is free.