Here's What We Think Target’s New ‘Goldfish’ Project Is All About

goldfish-blue_730x280.jpgMaking the rounds this week is news that Target has lured away another top-level executive for its top-secret “Goldfish” project. Sam Parnell, former chief technology officer at the Bleacher report, is the latest to join the retail giant, where, according to the Minneapolis/St.Paul Business Journal he is “tasked with building an engineering team to support innovation.”

Those joining prior to Parnell include Priya Rajendran, formerly of PayPal, as senior director at Target Innovations and Caitlin Hall, co-founder and product owner of “Goldfish.” Hall has held technology roles at Target since 2013 and worked on the company’s mobile app.

Trying to glean information about “Goldfish” from job postings provides a few clues. In them, the top-secret project is described as a “new franchise within Target” and that the “overarching focus will be on bring innovative product ideas to market via technology—with a relentless focus on the customer and Target’s top and bottom lines.

So, uh, ya, that’s pretty vague.

Searching through industry publications doesn’t bring much more either. Many don’t seem to agree on what’s going on. Business Insider seems to believe that the major focus of “Goldfish” is to reinvent the online grocery shopping industry, which has slowed in growth in recent years. 

Next Market has argued the project could bring to the layout of Target’s brick-and-mortar locations, writing “there's always the possibility it could be considering a ‘show room’ retail concept like that of b8ta, a model which forgoes owning product inventory (the product companies essentially rent shelf space) and focuses heavily on in-store engagement analytics and analysis”

PYMNTS writes that Target is trying better position itself with competitors such as Walmart and Amazon, reporting that, “Right now, Target is hoping that it can perhaps nimbly position itself better against Walmart — and digital commerce’s ranking master class teacher, Amazon — with its more holistic approach to reinvention that ties reimagined tech to a revitalized store experience. It is an ambitious swing in a retail marketplace with little margin for error, particularly for physical retailers who are increasingly seeing their share of consumer spend falling, as more and more customers are giving into the siren song of digital commerce.”

And then there are numerous publications that haven taken project leader West Stringfellow’s words that the project could either be folded into Target’s existing operations or spun into it’s own store at face value. Another separate store does seem grandiose, but we suppose it is possible. 

Really, though, our guess is that the main goal behind “Goldfish” is a rethinking of Target’s inventory and the way its brick-and-mortar locations are laid out and stocked.  Perhaps the “new franchise” they are hinting at could be an attempt to produce something akin to the so-called “stores of the future.” 

If you remember, we wrote back in March 2016 that “Target announced that they are continuing to focus on assortment and supply chain issues this year in an effort to realign in-store merchandising, with the ultimate goal being to both reduce surplus inventory and prevent in-store merchandise from going out-of-stock,” and that they proposed to do so through the use of big data, assortment optimization, and retail analytics.

Incidentally, that report came out about the same time that rumors started swirling about project “Goldfish.” We doubt it’s a coincidence.   

It appears Target is betting its future on retail analytics. We think that’s a smart choice. 


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