Target has an in-store space for explaining the smart home

It’s only in one Minnesota location for now, but other stores will soon have it.

Last year Target unveiled its Internet of Things "Open House" experiment in San Francisco. The goal was to create a shopping experience that would help customers figure out how connected devices work with each other. In the confusing and fragmented world of IoT, the retailer carved out a little corner of knowledge. Now it's moving past the testing phase and opening a "connected living experience" in a suburban Minneapolis store.

The Minneapolis setup won't be as elaborate as Open House in San Francisco with its touchscreen tables. Instead it will have large displays above the products that explain how a gadget interacts with other devices. Target will also make sure the staff is up to speed.

But it will still be more than just a fancy display. Scott Nygaard, Target senior vice president of hardline told Engadget everyone in the department will be ready. "All of them will have special training, and there will be dedicated staff there at all times."

The Ridgedale store will be the first in what could be a major change to how the retail chain sells electronics. Like Google, Apple and Amazon, Target sees the connected home as one the next big things in tech. But the company has found that its shoppers are confused not only about how these devices work together, but where they're actually kept in the store. Would a smart thermostat be in the electronics or home section?

Putting all the devices together in one spot and creating scenarios that emphasize how a smart light and a connected garage work together not only highlights what's possible, it helps sell stuff. "When we have working displays in-store we see a significant sales increase," Nygaard said. "It shows what the experience is like. That's where we really see the benefit."

Target plans on bringing its connected experience to other stores to see how shoppers react. Cupertino, California, and Tribeca in New York City are the next two locations, according to Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer Casey Carl. After that? "We want to become the go-to resource that's credible in this space," Carl said.