No surprise: Target punches ticket on its video rental business

Target Ticket — the “me, too” offering that retailer Target launched 18 months ago — is shutting down this week. That really shouldn’t be a big surprise.

The brick and mortar retailer tried to make a foray into the deep digital forest, but it did so without a map, did nothing to differentiate itself from other players who already knew their way around and tried to take a small piece of the electronic-sell-through pie, a la Walmart and its Vudu franchise.

Target Ticket fell short on a couple of fronts.

Unlike Walmart, Target didn’t get a jump on the competition. It rolled Ticket out almost three years after Walmart was up and running with Vudu.

More critically, it misread its audience.

Many of the movies offered on Target Ticket were the same as those being offered by Redbox — for $2 less — and at the same price as other, more established services from Apple and Amazon.

For Target, price is crucial; its customers expect value. Target Ticket didn’t deliver.

At the core, perhaps the idea that for Target to have had an impact, it would have had to position itself as an online retailer. It’s not, and its customers know that.

Target Ticket did little to differentiate itself. Search, discovery, recommendation and personalization weren’t highlighted in the service. With the competition already established, that’s becoming table stakes.

And, that’s not to say that there isn’t room for success… there is, for the right business.

Could that be Overtstock.com, which recently announced plans that not only included EST, but potentially an SVOD play and – gasp! – original content to boot? Does it have a chance?

Sure.

The big difference is that Overstock.com is a digital native; it lives in the space. Overstock.com customers come looking for it online and often use the site’s online video to learn about products.

That’s a big first step.

How it takes steps two and three will help decide its fate.

Stay tuned.

Jim O’Neill is Editor of Videomind and Principal Analyst at Brightcove. You can follow him on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn