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Target.com Missed the Bullseye… by a Mile

Last August, Target.com launched an epic web site redesign. (It was dubbed internally as “Everest” if that gives you any idea of the size of the undertaking.) They dumped Amazon[1], who they had partnered with for a decade on e-commerce, and brought all of their e-commerce pieces under their own control.

Obviously, it was a huge endeavor, ripe with potential for mistakes and failure.

So ripe in fact that the whole thing became horribly rotten. The new site launched and was filled with errors. And we’re not just talking about little itty-bitty copy errors or a missing image here and there. We’re talking massive, basic functionality errors. Users could not check out. They couldn’t add items to their cart. People wanted to buy things from Target.com, but couldn’t. These are basic e-commerce directives that were broken. Bad, bad juju.

Natalie Zmuda and Kunur Patel sum it up nicely in their article on AdAge:

Tweeted one annoyed customer: “Dear @Target I’ve been trying to spend money on your site ALL DAY and every time I try to check out I get a Bad Request page. FRUSTRATING.”

So, how in the world did such a big company like Target completely flop their new web site? Of course, I’m sure there were a lot of reasons. But, it came down to a simple fact: Target had hired more than one company to build the site. In fact, they brought in — get this — 20 different companies to assist. Twenty! This was quite simply a recipe for disaster. There was simply no way for Target to manage that many firms, some of whom offered overlapping services.

As the old saying goes: Too many cooks will spoil the broth.

This phrase can be applied to many things in business, and it definitely applies to any creative process, including launching a new e-commerce web site.

Target should have hired one firm to manage and run the project. They should have placed their trust completely in that firm and allowed them to contract out to additional experts as they needed to. If they had done this, their new site would have launched with success, instead of failure.

In the following months since the launch, Target has pushed out many fixes and enhancements. The site seems to work much, much better now than it did last August. Kudos to Target’s team for getting their site to where it needs to be. But, Target could have saved a lot of consumer anger, headaches, and brand damage if they had done it right the first time.

When you’re considering a web site redesign, or any other creative project, put your trust in one creative firm. Don’t make Target’s mistake and hire more than one. This simply sabotages the project and almost guarantees failure. Set your project up for success by letting one firm run your project.

Of course, Cygnet Midwest has a ton of experience in redesigning web sites and also creating e-commerce web sites. Need help with yours? Don’t hesitate to drop us a line today!

[1] The rumor is that Target’s hand was forced in this move. Supposedly, they had been sued for failing to follow 508 compliance, a law that states disabled users should be able to access web site content as easily as a normal user. Amazon’s e-commerce infrastructure did not support 508 compliance, so Target had to leave the fold and strike out on their own.

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