Retail App Spotlight: A Social Shopping List For Your Mom (And Everyone Else)

Entries for our Co.Labs and Target Retail Accelerator end April 30, so we’re spotlighting entries all week long. One clever contestant takes on a common family shopping scenario with a shared-shopping web app.

We’re asking readers to submit their plans for a retail-related app—then build it for a chance to win $75,000 from Target. Learn more about submitting your own app project here.


This was the first submission we got, and it’s a great one, fitting squarely into the “in-store” variety. First, the entrant lays out the problem he’s solving:

I’m going to Target. Do you need anything?” With this application, my mother could let me know that she’s going to Target, which Target she’s going to, and allow me to populate a shopping list of things for her to buy, even when we’re not in the same square mile.

Next, the developer explains why this idea is Target-specific. This isn’t just a collaborative list-making tool, but actually ties in details from Target’s API about which items are located in which department. (We’re not sure how he’ll get floor-plans for all these Target stores, but we digress.) From the walk-through:

Mom receives my list (along with my brother’s list and father’s list, if applicable) sorted by item (in case some of us ask for the same thing) as well as the relative location in the store. This way, the app can intelligently navigate her around the store, making it easy for her to get what she needs without backtracking. (Or, if it proves to be more profitable, make her backtrack a few times.)

Something we loved about this entry was the thoughtful use of feedback. Once users place items on their collaborative shopping list, the app automatically follows up to let each family member know if they got what they wanted.


… When the app notices that Mom’s leaving the store’s proximity, the app sends my brother, father, and me the results of her shopping trip. (Avoiding the question, “Mom? Did you remember to pick me up new socks? The argyles, not the striped!”)

While this app solves for in-store shopping, this contest is also looking for apps that fit into other categories, namely:

  • Social: How does your application help users to interact with Target and/or each other in way that makes the retail experience easier and more fun?
  • Education: How does your application improve the community and help students, teachers and schools be more successful?
  • In-store: How does your application extend or improve the experience within the store, and/or keep you engaged with Target to plan your next visit?
  • Personalization: How does your application adjust itself to the unique tastes and needs of each individual user?

We’ll continue to highlight entries all week, so start uploading your materials to our Github project ASAP! And if winning up to $75,000 isn’t enough, then do it for the lulz. If the lulz aren’t enough, do it to get to know our celebrity judges:

Ruchi Sanghvi, Dropbox

Ruchi Sanghvi is the VP of Operations at Dropbox. She was also the first female engineer at Facebook, where she co-created and managed News Feed, Facebook Platform, Facebook Connect and Facebook’s Developer Conference F8. She landed at Dropbox via the company’s first acquisition–her startup Cove, which built collaboration and communication software for midsize companies.


Tom Preston-Werner, Github

Tom Preston-Werner is cofounder and CEO of Github, which was founded in 2008 and recently raised $100 million from Andreessen Horowitz to bring source code management into the cloud. He’s now focused on creating tools for Github that are easy for non-programmers to use–such as technical writers, designers, or managers. He envisions someday coding inside a perfectly egg-shaped office.

Suhail Doshi, Mixpanel

Suhail Doshi is the CEO of Mixpanel. Mixpanel is a Y Combinator company with the mission of helping the world learn from its data. Some of the customers that use Mixpanel’s mobile analytics solutions for web and native apps are Path, Airbnb and Kickstarter. A true coder-at-heart, Suhail was black box testing and teaching himself Visual Basic and SQL in the eighth grade. And by the time he was 23, he had the likes of Andreessen Horowitz, Sequoia Capital and Max Levchin investing in Mixpanel. Nerdy? Maybe. Data-driven. Absolutely.

Matt Mankins, FastCompany

Matt Mankins is CTO of and a researcher, inventor, and entrepreneur with degrees from the MIT Media Laboratory and the University of Miami. Mankins works to apply digital technologies to longstanding human activities, such as the growth of cities or the economics of creativity. He is cofounder of numerous companies, including EMUmail, In-a-Moon, and Crounty, and owns the Lorem Ipsum Bookstore in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Casey Carl, Target

Casey Carl is President, Multichannel, and Senior Vice President, Enterprise Strategy, for Target, where he oversees and Mobile Merchandising and Experience, in addition to Enterprise Strategy. He joined Target in 1997, where he has held a variety of roles in areas including Buying, Negotiations and Operations.

Here’s the video for this entry. As you can see, shooting on an iPhone works just fine for this–the submission process is designed to be as quick as possible.

Enter the Co.Labs and Target Retail Accelerator here!

[Image by Tharrin on Flickr.]


About the author

I've written about innovation, design, and technology for Fast Company since 2007. I was the co-founding editor of FastCoLabs