“We know shoppers’ needs are changing,” Tiffany Menyhart, director of US category management at Wrigley, said. “Consumers may choose to treat themselves, or choose something refreshing and healthy.”
“We really took a look at the flow, the transition of what products should be there [at the front end], and came up with a concept to work with our retail partners like Jewel-Osco to understand shoppers’ feedback,” she said.
Driving conversion through better merchandizing
Mars did a study in 2016, called “Path to Purchase,” to observe how 17,500 shoppers in the US engage with the confectionery category online and in-store retail.
The study also entailed various types of qualitative and quantitative research, including everything from ethnography to focus groups and creating concepts for merchandizing.
“You can’t always create a store within a store, that’s not necessarily scalable for retailers, it’s also very expensive,” Menyhart said.
The store-within-a-store concept, which has previously been adopted by Hershey, is a stand-alone space outside of checkout aisle in the stores to create a shopping experience that takes consumers out of their usual shopping routine, ConfectioneryNews reported last year.
“One absolute truth is consumers love this category, but the other truth is they can’t find what they want. It’s a chaotic mess.”
One of the essential strategies is to display confectionery products throughout the whole store so consumers can easily guide themselves to the confectionery aisle and find the brands they like, she said.
“We also know through our global research that shoppers are definitely willing to commit when things are merchandized appropriately: they would rather be occupied while they’re waiting than unoccupied,” Menyhart added.
“That improves their shopping experience so much so that we saw conversion increased from 15% to 55% during our research.”
Mars also used videos at select Jewel-Osco stores to understand shoppers’ confectionery purchasing behavior, and those stores saw a conversion increase of 57% compared to the test Mars did at its control store queue.
Impulse purchases in digital retail
When asked how consumer behavior has evolved along with the increasing presence of technology in confectionery purchasing, Shaf Lalani, VP of customer experience at Mars, said, “impulse purchase speaks to both online and offline.”
“Confectionery is an emotionally-charged category,” Lalani said. “The question is how to drive consumers’ impulse nature [online] and fulfill their digital needs.”
Menyhart added Mars has invested in research on how to merchandize not only confectionery, but all impulse categories in a world that is heavily enabled by technology, and a world where consumers walk out without stopping, such as Amazon Go.
Mars predicted there would be two types of retailers in the future: seamless and semi-seamless.
“Seamless is truly walking out, like Amazon Go. We want to be able to ensure those important basket-building items are not dropped off because they are not merchandized,” she said.
“Semi-seamless would be a low touch: maybe you’re scanning your phone, or interacting with a person at the same time.”
Either way, Menyhart concluded, the role of confectionery in the future retail environment will remain important because shoppers want them to be there.