Target taking aim at online rivals by offering free in-store Wi-Fi, smartphone navigation to guide customers to merchandise; shoppers will also be able to use smartphones to buy items from TV commercials, bus station ads

LOS ANGELES , October 19, 2012 () – Target Corp. is adopting a take-no-prisoners style this holiday to combat online rivals.

The discount chain announced a host of new strategies to tempt customers to buy this season, including free Wi-Fi at all Target stores, new ways to shop from smartphones and a pilot program to test out an in-store navigator.

Shoppers will soon be able to use their smartphones to buy items from TV commercials, bus station ads and catalog pages by sending a text or scanning a QR code. They'll also be able to scan those digital barcodes scattered within brick-and-mortar stores to buy products and ship them directly home.

Target is testing "wayfinding technology" at all new CityTarget locations and other select stores. It enables smartphones to recognize a shopper's location inside a shop and helps guide them to the right merchandise (which will make it that much easier to skirt the frenzied hordes during the holidays).

"Target's holiday plans are built around an outstanding shopping experience, exclusive merchandise and competitive prices," Target Chief Executive Gregg Steinhafel said.

To that end, the company has already vowed to match the prices of Web rivals Amazon.com and the online stores of Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Toys R Us.

These new moves are but the latest attempts by old-fashioned big-box retailers to pry dollars away from ultra-competitive online retailers such as Amazon. Best Buy has also promised to match online prices on certain items, while Toys R Us has beefed up its layaway program so belt-tightening consumers can pay off holiday gifts a bit at a time. Wal-Mart is experimenting with same-day delivery in certain markets.

Follow Shan Li on Twitter @ShanLi

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