With the upcoming addition of Prat Vemana, Target Corp. is crystallizing the chief digital officer role.
Minneapolis-based Target this week announced that Vemana will be joining the company on Oct. 31 as chief digital and product officer. He comes to the discount store chain from health services giant Kaiser Permanente, where he now serves as senior vice president and chief digital officer.
In the newly created role, Vemana will direct Target’s digital business, a wide scope of responsibilities that spans site merchandising, user experience, digital operations and product and Target+, the retailer’s expanding third-party online marketplace. He also will help Target’s product teams cultivate an omnichannel view to drive the company’s overall product strategy. He reports to Cara Sylvester, who in May was named to the new post of chief guest experience officer.
"It is rare to see a single brand that is relevant across generations." — Prat Vemana, chief digital officer, Target (Photo courtesy of Kaiser Permanente)
Target noted that digital now accounts for 20% of its sales. For the fiscal 2022 second quarter ended July 30, digital sales rose 9% on a comparable basis atop a 9.9% gain in the prior-year period. Sales in same-day services — Order Pickup (in-store pickup), Drive Up (curbside service) and Shipt (same-day delivery) — climbed nearly 11%, led by Drive Up, which grew in the mid-teens percentage after rising more than 80% a year ago. More than 95% of Target’s Q2 sales were filled by its stores.
For the 2021 fiscal year, Target saw digital sales surge 20.8%, building on a 145% jump in 2020.
“Digital continues to be a major growth driver for Target, and we’re excited for Prat to bring his proven expertise in this area to an elevated role on our leadership team,” Chairman and CEO Brian Cornell said in a statement. “Our team has created a digital shopping experience that is truly best-in-class and, under Prat’s leadership, our digital business is well-positioned to continue growing for years to come.”
Vemana takes over the chief digital officer role from Sylvester, who also holds the title of executive vice president. Previously, she served as chief marketing and digital officer, a role she assumed in February 2021. Sylvester had picked up the digital chief’s role from Rick Gomez, who was appointed chief food and beverage officer after having served as chief marketing, digital and strategy officer. Gomez had added chief digital officer duties in January 2019 to his role as chief marketing officer.
“Our guests choose Target because our shopping experience offers them a sense of joy and ease that can’t be beat, and our digital business plays an increasingly outsized role in bringing that to life for the millions of people who regularly visit our stores, website and app,” according to Sylvester. “With his experience leading digital businesses across consumer-facing industries and a guest-centric vision, Prat is the ideal leader to further accelerate Target’s digital growth and maximize our impact for guests, team members and our business.”
As chief digital officer at Kaiser Permanente, Vemana led the enterprise product management and experience teams. Target noted that he drove Kaiser Permanente’s digital strategy by modernizing its platforms for faster, more nimble migration, deployment and management of applications. His efforts also included the rollout of consumer experience enhancements such as a redesigned mobile app and the launch of same-day home delivery for the health care firm’s pharmacy business.
A 30-year IT and digital veteran, Vemana also brings a smattering of retail industry experience to Target. Before joining Kaiser Permanente, he spent nearly four years at The Home Depot, most recently as chief product and experience officer, and at Staples, where he last served as vice president of global e-commerce.
“Target is the gold standard for consumer experience in retail, both online and in its brick-and-mortar stores,” Vemana said in a Target Q&A following his appointment. “I experience this personally. Recently, after placing an online order with Target, I pulled into the parking lot. The app notified me that my order was ready and asked if I wanted to pick up my order using Drive Up. That is amazing customer service. This level of anticipating needs and proactively offering solutions is a big part of why I am so excited about the opportunity to join the team and help shape the way we use digital technology to bring joy to guests.”
Target’s omnichannel approach has fueled cross-generational appeal, Vemana noted. “I am also impressed by the universal appeal of the brand. It is rare to see a single brand that is relevant across generations,” he said. “My mom, my wife and my daughter all go shopping together at Target, and all three come back excited about what they found.”