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Target Moves Further Into AI Space With ‘Store Companion’ Chatbot for Employees

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Key Takeaways

  • Target on Thursday announced plans to roll out a generative AI “Store Companion” designed to train employees and solve problems.
  • The chatbot installed on company devices can help employees spend less time on problems, and more time with customers, the company said.
  • Other retail and fast-food companies like Walmart, Wendy’s, and McDonald’s have experimented with AI during the generative AI boom of the last year-plus.

Target (TGT) is leaning further into artificial intelligence (AI), announcing plans Thursday to roll out a new generative AI chatbot to all of its stores this summer.

The chatbot, named the “Store Companion,” will be used to train new employees and answer questions about company policies, designed to make Target workers and stores more efficient, the company said.

What ‘Store Companion’ Will Do

The chatbot will be installed on company devices so employees can get instant answers to questions about a range of topics, from the Target Circle rewards program to how to restart a cash register after a power outage.

“The transformative nature of GenAI is helping us accelerate the rate of innovation across our operations, and we’re excited about the role these new tools and applications will play in driving growth,” Target Chief Information Officer (CIO) Brett Craig said.

The tool is currently being piloted at roughly 400 Target locations, and the retailer said it plans to roll out Store Companion to all of its nearly 2,000 stores by August. The company said that the tool will help employees spend less time solving problems, giving them more time to interact with customers.

‘Store Companion’ Joins Other GenAI Projects From Target, Other Companies

Target said it also plans to roll out another generative AI tool for its employees in the next several months, and has experimented with customer-facing AI products like AI-assisted search, new product descriptions, and review summaries created by AI on its website.

The new wave of GenAI technology has led to a range of new AI experiments for companies outside of tech, but some of the features have delivered mixed results. Fast-food giants Wendy’s (WEN) and McDonald’s (MCD) have experimented with AI-powered chatbots in some drive-thrus, but McDonald’s ended the project, and its partnership with IBM (IBM), earlier this week.

One of Target’s main competitors, Walmart (WMT), said in an earnings call last month that it has partially rolled out some AI features like technology that allows shoppers to walk out of its members-only Sam’s Club stores without having their receipt checked by an employee.

Target shares were little changed in premarket trading Thursday after closing the prior session at $142.54. They are essentially flat in 2024 but up 7.4% over the past 12 months.

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