Target Fetch Introduces Consumers to Smart Home as a Service Programs
Paper towels, toilet paper, and hand soap aren’t the types of products we would every normally talk about on Dealerscope, but Target has found a way to get us to do just that. In early May, the company raised a few eyebrows when it announced a new campaign on the Indiegogo crowdfunding platform for something called Target Fetch.
The new monthly subscription service is a really unique take on the product replenishment model that combines some smart home technology with something akin to Amazon’s Dash program. Think, Smart Home as a Service. Rather than using buttons that can be placed throughout your home, though, Target’s Open House Labs team has embedded sensors into everyday products that can tell when you’re getting low on something and automatically reorder that product for you.
The initial offering includes three different dispensers: a paper towel holder, a toilet paper spindle, and a soap pump. For $2 per month per product, the user can “install” these items in their appropriate location throughout their home, use them like they would any traditional paper towel holder, toilet paper spindle, or soap pump, and watch the service work its magic.
The products connect to the Target Fetch app, which is really what drives this replenishment experience. Once the product is set up and installed, the user logs into their Target account on the Fetch app to set up their preferences. This includes things like brand, and how many rolls of paper towels or toilet paper are left or how much soap is left in their container. From there, they can verify and add payment methods and manage other account preferences. The app also allows you to indicate when you’ll be on vacation (so shipments won’t be made or will be scheduled shortly before your return), make real time adjustments to your orders, and more.
The products’ sensors utilize what Target calls a predictive algorithm to learn and anticipate the user’s usage habits, which helps it determine when is best to make those replacement orders.
One quirk about the products is that the run on AAA batteries. According to the Indiegogo page, Target says it will keep track of how much juice is left in those batteries and will order replenishments for each product. They have a stated battery life of about 6 months, but they’re aiming to get that up to one year. And, for now at least, Target says the battery replenishment will be on them. Additionally, since these products are part of a subscription service, if you are to cancel your membership at any point in time, it looks like you’ll have to send those products back.
This Target Fetch program has a lot of things to like about it, especially with regards to what this means for the future of smart home technology. It turns the concept of smart home into something more of a “smart life” concept.
I see the benefits. There’s not having to carry that large packages out of the store and fit them in your car with the rest of your Target run purchases. And there’s the fact that you’ll never be in a situation where you run out of one of these necessities at the most inopportune moment. But at the same time I’m not sold on the idea of it being a subscription service—why pay upwards of $6 to get stuff delivered that I buy anyway?—but I think it’s a great first step.
Thinking a little bigger picture, the technology is something that I’d love to see integrated into more products. The fridge, for example: How about, rather than simply adding milk to my shopping list because it’s about to expire, it gets reordered for me. If that’s the kind of future we’re working towards, it’s something I’m willing to get behind. It gives all of this smart home technology that we’ve been talking about for years now some very real time-saving functionality.