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Counselor Commentary: Little Customer Perks Add Up

Since last December, Target has largely been battered and beaten in the press – and rightfully so – for its handling of a massive data breach that affected up to 110 million customers.

Since last December, Target has largely been battered and beaten in the press – and rightfully so – for its handling of a massive data breach that affected up to 110 million customers. Target’s response was sloppy and slow-footed, especially in its disclosure of the incident’s severity. Unsurprisingly, profits at Target have slumped, with the breach costing the company a staggering $148 million. Sneering critics wonder what the retailer will do for an encore this coming holiday shopping season.

Fortunately for Target, it has a turnaround plan and, frankly, it’s a good one. The retailer is becoming a leader this fourth quarter by providing several valuable perks to customers, including extended price-matching, rotating mobile discounts and game-like apps for kids – a benefit to weary moms and dads. Target’s biggest move, though, is offering free shipping on all online orders from now until December 20 – the cut-off date for guaranteed Christmas delivery. Take that Amazon and Walmart. The free shipping decision, which again has no price thresholds, is risky, but smart – a combination that should be applauded.

Something else that’s noteworthy is Target’s offer comes at a time when other retailers – like Best Buy and Gap – are raising the amount of money customers must spend to earn free shipping. Target is now firmly on the right side of the PR battle. “We know shipping costs play a big role in online purchasing decisions,” said Kathee Tesija, Target’s chief merchandising officer. “We believe our free shipping offer will create excitement and incremental sales for Target.”

Well said. Alright then, let’s focus on your company for a moment. What risky, but smart, perks are you offering clients and prospects? How about customized packaging? Complimentary graphic design services? Free samples? Reward point programs? Sharable mobile coupons? Or thank-you gifts included with orders? Here’s the point: Be daring, people. Don’t under-promise and over-deliver. Set high expectations, meet them, and think creatively about giving customers a little something extra. Sure, every company has a bottom line and you know how far you can go with perks. But don’t be afraid of challenging the norm.

So let’s review. Yes, it’s only October 23, but Target has earned the right to say it’s in front of the pack this holiday season and maybe even after that. Can you say the same about your business?