Mars Collaborates More with Retailers to Spur Impulse Purchases

By Dale Buss


The marketplace for candy bars and chewing gum keeps changing as retailers and the shopping habits of Americans both change. So Mars Chocolate and its Wrigley division are taking a new tack to meeting consumers’ demands and expectations in impulse-shopping “transaction zones” across the store.

Specifically, the marketers are making a fresh and unprecedented effort to collaborate with retailers to optimize merchandising not only in the traditional front-end impulse-purchasing areas of the store, but also in new and growing purchasing areas such as the pharmacy and café – and even online. They’re updating their merchandising recommendations to include new variables that are “agnostic” to the location of the transactions, including macro trends such as the increase in snacking, the size and growth of the confectionary category, and new research around “shopper need states,” according to the company.

“It’s no secret that people don’t shop like they used to, and the traditional mix of impulse items in transaction zones needs to better meet consumer needs,” said Kurt Laufer, vice president of U.S. sales for Wrigley. “By tapping into our deep understanding of the shopper and taking a hard look at what items are performing and why, we believe our strategies can help our retail partners capture valuable impulse sales.”

The two companies combined forces, of course, when Mars acquired Wrigley in 2008, putting together a $33-billion confectionary-brand juggernaut that would even better challenge giant Hershey than the two companies could separately. Nowadays, they are in the midst of testing this merchandising strategy with “all retail partners,” a company spokeswoman said, to come up with customized solutions, so Laufer couldn’t be more specific about learnings so far. Mars and Wrigley are not sharing “exact recommendations of what [retailers should] merchandise where, as recommendations will vary by channel and retailer.”

Overall, the two divisions of Mars, Inc. are forging a joint vision of better meeting shoppers’ needs at all the places they check out and their decades of impulse leadership and new global shopper insights to partner with retailers to implement forward-thinking recommendations on merchandising, to improve the shopping experience and to drive growth.

Clearly, the front end by the checkouts and the surrounding area remains critical as it’s still the largest impulse area of the store. But increasingly, shoppers are transacting with confectionary brands and products in other parts of the store including the pharmacy, and on their mobile phones and even with “buy online, pickup-in-store” models, Mars said. As shopping continues to evolve, the company believes, retailers and manufacturers must increase conversion of impulse items across all of these transaction zones and regardless of channel.

Mars has concluded from global research about shoppers’ “emotional journey” to buy candy and gum that “checkout is the emotional low point of the shopping journey, no matter where or how you pay.”

Retailers can help shoppers overcome this low point and capture more impulse purchases by merchandising to better satisfy the three key shopper mind sets, or “need states,” that Mars has identified:

  • Refresh: Shopping can be stressful and tiring, so shoppers look to refresh or recharge themselves once the job is done, the company said. Items fulfilling the “refresh” need state, Mars believes, including gum, mints, beverages and snacks, should occupy 51 percent of total space, according to its research that developed guidelines based on national averages across channels.
  • Reward: Shoppers often seek a treat or reward, such as chocolate and non-chocolate candy, after the “chore” of shopping is complete. Items addressing the “reward” mentality should occupy 39 percent of a retailer’s total space devoted to the category, Mars has concluded.
  • Remind: It is helpful for shoppers to find items they forgot to add to their lists, such as batteries and lip balm, in the transaction zone, in addition to confections and other snacks. These items should occupy about 10 percent of the total space, the company said.

Satisfying these three distinct shopper mindsets “is key to promoting conversion for categories like chocolate, gum, mints and candy,” said Tim LeBel, vice president of sales for Mars Chocolate North America. The brands “are working with retailers across channels to ensure current and future checkout choices satisfy their shoppers’ needs during checkout and drive impulse purchases.”

The checkout remains the main destination for confectionary brands. Mars aims to make sure that wherever the checkout is, its Mars and Wrigley brands are working with retailers to optimize their footprint in impulse purchases.

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