April 27, 2021 at 09:00AM

In today’s connected economy, businesses have the opportunity to create digital entry points that grant consumers access to whole ecosystems of related services and capabilities, integrating themselves seamlessly into consumers’ daily routines.

Leading brands are leveraging their products to create a compelling commerce journey for the consumer, connecting formerly disparate products, activities and technologies, guiding consumers through the experience from beginning to end.

Mars (of confectionery fame), for instance, looks at consumer behavior before and after the purchase of their products to understand how its products fit into their lifestyle, identifying areas to engage with consumers and tailoring the product journey to these patterns.

“It used to be, if you had great practices and great marketing and a great product, you’re good to go,” Jason Thomstatter, head of Digital Commerce at Mars, told Karen Webster in an interview, as part of the ConnectedEconomy™ series. “And I think now it becomes much broader than that, right? You have to have that overall experience, and you have to be able to be tying that into the end-to-end way your consumer’s operating and interacting with the brand on a day-to-day basis.”

Creating Omnichannel Experiences

Even in the last year, during the most severe months of lockdown, Mars has never taken eCommerce for granted, Thomstatter said. Instead, the company makes a point to be crystal clear on the value proposition associated with each direct-to-consumer (D2C) initiative, with every online shop expected to justify its place in the eMarketplace.

“Getting into value props, initially, we’re looking at that around, ‘How do we deliver a unique experience for our consumers for our specific brands?’” Thomstatter explained.

As an example, he cited the M&M digital and brick-and-mortar experience. Online, consumers can order customized candies that would not be possible in a physical store environment. In stores, consumers can experience the M&M brand in a more immersive way, engaging more immediately with the products.

“We’re taking those experiences and really putting those together to really give consumers a unique omnichannel experience, whether you’re in the store or whether you’re online,” said Thomstatter. “And you’re able to actually experience the M&M brand in a very different way than if you went into a traditional retailer and just purchased a bag of M&M’s. It’s giving [consumers] a different way to connect with the brand and … a unique, more modern approach, or a more customized approach, to interacting with our brands.”

Leveraging Data To Understand The Consumer Journey

To provide an end-to-end consumer journey, you need to understand what is happening on each end, in addition to understanding consumers’ behavior at every intermediate stage. For Mars, its these D2C stores — the unique experience each provides, and consequently the unique behavior that each prompts — to learn more about its consumers’ needs and habits.

“What we’re able to do is actually leverage those different value props to deliver great experiences across all of those types of channels,” said Thomstatter. “And then from a data perspective, certainly you’re able to leverage that data in this type of ecosystem to really serve our consumers in the most efficient and best way possible.”

Additionally, he provided an example outside of Mars to show how a company leverage its online presence to collect insights on consumer behavior. Thomstatter pointed to Disney’s mobile experience, citing digital features like wait time tracking for ride lines, PhotoPass, and mobile click-and-collect options for the parks’ restaurants, as key ways that the company collects information about consumers’ in-park behavior.

He reflected, “What I saw happening there was really interesting because all of the data they’re able to collect, they’re able to then understand trends of what people are buying, and I’m sure they’re able to then predict what ultimately those consumers are going to be purchasing when they come in the park additional times.”

A Dog’s Eye View Of The Connected Economy

One way that Mars engages in the connected economy is through its Mars Petcare products and services. Through the entry point of brands that carry dog foods, such as Pedigree and Royal Canin, the company embeds itself in dog-owning consumers’ daily routines. From there, with Mars’ veterinary brands providing additional services, such as pet healthcare, tailored wellness plans, telehealth and even Wisdom Panel D2C dog DNA tests, the company offers a comprehensive pet care experience.

“I think what we’re doing across the board there is really delivering some unique experiences,” said Thomstatter, “…and then, you know, we’re digitizing the way you interact with those brands as we move forward.”

By creating this suite of connected products and services, Mars is able to forge deeper relationships with consumers, becoming an embedded part of their lives.

Thomstatter noted, “I think, the more you understand that [consumer journey] as a business and brand, the better your ability will be to serve your consumers better and really give them a great end-to-end experience, and ultimately if you do that really well, you can grow your business and drive a lot of value.”

Mars Serves Connected Experiences To Create Sweet Consumer Journeys …

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