At almost the last minute, Susan Post said, her team redesigned the app they were building at Target.

Her team was scrappy, though, and was truly acting like a startup inside the behemoth retail corporation. The Cartwheel app was something they hoped would be a wholly new retail app experience.

The project didn't start out that way. At the start, it was like any other corporate project. Post explained the experience in building the app at #MobCon in Minneapolis last week.

"There were far too many decision-makers and everyone had a different idea of what success looked like," said Sarah Post, the Product and Business Lead for the Target app. It took some time, but Post's bosses trusted her to make the app something customers would want.

The secret ingredient may just have been the morning they invited a bunch of moms to test the app out in-store and give Post's team their feedback.

"Just bring some moms in, serve them breakfast and they'll tell you what's wrong with your app," Post said.

They took that feedback and used it to improve the app on the fly. It's already gained more than 20 million users since its launch in 2013. There were no big campaigns to launch the app, no agency hired to build or promote it.

Here's what any company - big or small - can learn from Target's experience:

  • The era of "Big Bang" launches is over. Don't act like this app launch is the greatest thing ever. You then have to live up to the hype. Better to exceed expectations.
  • Time is more important than money in building a new product or app. Take the time to do it right.
  • Think lean. The less your product or app does at launch, the less complex it is. You can add features in later. If you try to make it do too much, there are more ways it can fail.
  • "Find the revolutionaries in your enterprise" and help them prove out their ideas. There are creative people everywhere. Don't get caught up by silos or verticals.
  • Make sure everyone in the project actually knows what he or she is responsible for.
  • If you are a massive enterprise or organization, think of scaling up like the Wave in a sports stadium. The first person does it and looks kinda weird. Then a couple others, a few more, and it stopstrange. And next thing you know, the wave is making its way around the entire stadium, everyone in sync.
  • Don't disband the team that develops an important product or app after the launch. The launch is the start. The team needs to keep iterating, fixing and updating.
  • And don't forget to get those moms in to tell you what you've done wrong.
Published on: Nov 25, 2015