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RETAIL/F&B Last modified on December 8, 2011

Candy man

With 70% of airport purchases made on impulse, confectionary is the sweetest revenue opportunity in travel retail, argues Jack Tabbers of Mars International Travel Retail.

What’s your favourite confectionery brand? M&M’s, Toblerone, Snickers, Lindt? Chances are 90% people reading this article love chocolate, find it irresistible and are often driven by impulse to buy it.

Fragrances, spirits, tobacco and luxury goods dominate airport retailing, but the fact of the matter is that the most popular product among all consumers is confectionery! 

Confectionery’s capacity to engage with travellers and drive sales is not simply about satisfying their sweet tooth; it provokes more impulse purchasing than any other category, and research at Mars International Travel Retail suggests that although around 70% of confectionery purchases are made on impulse, only 16% shoppers actually buy it.

The dominance of the bigger categories such as spirits and fragrances can often overshadow the scale of the opportunity for confectionery to sell.  Enjoyed by 90% of the world’s population and 90% of travellers, that opportunity is clearly huge.

Remarkably, this impulsiveness actually supports other categories right across the whole travel retail offer. Mars research shows that confectionery shoppers are the most likely to shop in other categories too, and they are also more inclined to make multiple purchases, thus driving a higher average basket value across the categories. 

In addition, shoppers often go into a shop to buy a specific item and end up buying confectionery too. No other category provokes such a strong and positive mindset in the shopper and none can claim such powerful appeal to the impulse shopper.

The challenge for travel retail is to ensure that it fully exploits the unique characteristics of the confectionery category. At Mars, our consumer insight programme acts as a platform on which we are rolling out a powerful new initiative to drive footfall and conversion. Our strategy begins and ends with the shopper.

Traditionally, confectionery is merchandised as a category presentation – a mix of brands all shouting their own messages while competing for the same space and the same traveller’s attention. All too often, the result is confusing for the target shopper and the sale is lost. 

The category has a distinct opportunity in the proportion of browsers who are yet to be converted. Certainly, there’s a lot of confectionery being sold, but it’s mostly to shoppers making pre-planned purchases; we aren’t fully exploiting the uniquely high impulse factor and we’re not optimising the opportunity in presenting purchase solutions to would-be shoppers. 

We understand that consumers are looking for gifts; for snacks; something to share with their family on their journey, and when confectionery is merchandised in this way, the results are significantly bigger basket spends and double-digit increases in sales. 

Playing to the power of a $3bn brand

Modern shoppers don’t always want a simple transaction – they want stores that provide amazing experiences and services. Retailers must invest in store design and layout, creating amazing in-store theatre, but the engine that powers the sales machine is the appeal of the major brands.

At Mars, with a group history stretching back over 100 years, we have some of the most powerful confectionery brands in the world, including M&M’s and Snickers, the world’s two top selling brands in the category.

As recognised, trusted, global favourites, they spark the power of impulse into action in the shopper. The world’s No.1 brand, M&M’s, with a retail sales value of $3 billlion, has unique power to drive engagement and impulse and we are utilising this through a new merchandising strategy to exploit that strength.

Brand recognition engages the browser to investigate the offer and impulse shopping is most strongly prompted in-store by brand recognition. By harnessing brand power as part of a clear, convenient and enjoyable shopping experience, we can convince far more travellers to become shoppers. 

The brand experience is vital

Working with forward-thinking retailers at airports across the world, Mars is now developing a radical new approach that delivers a stronger shopping experience and drives higher footfall, conversion and basket size – and we’re already seeing double-digit growth in locations with this new strategy.

In-store presentation focuses on 2-3 ‘hero’ brands, creating an ‘unmissable’ and engaging sense of in-store theatre, and it features clearly defined calls to action: gifting, snacking and sharing. 

It also maximises second-hit opportunities with these beacon brands to interrupt shoppers and play to the power of impulse.

We have invested in developing M&M’s merchandising programmes, and adapted to the specific needs of each location, thus maximising their cost effectiveness and sales impact. This programme ranges from a core presentation for smaller locations right through to a stunning tailored store-in-store experience for major airports emphasising the cues of the location.

The word ‘experience’ is vital. Today’s sophisticated travelling consumers don’t want a dull transactional encounter in an airport store; they want an engaging, captivating and satisfying experience. 

Some short-sighted operators in Travel Retail regard the traveller as a captive audience; this is a huge mistake. 

The traveller may be physically ‘captive’ for two to three hours as they wait for their flight, but their minds are free to wander worldwide. They can spend those hours surfing the web; emailing; updating their Facebook page; watching a movie on their laptop; playing a game console. The list is endless.

They might step into the store and scan a product’s barcode and check online for comparison prices elsewhere in the world. Or, perhaps send a tweet to say how exciting they find the airport’s stores.

What we want them to do is be 100% engaged by the brand experience, explore the offer, and make a purchase (of course we’d then love it if they tweeted about their experience or maybe sent a photo to their friends!). 

My key point is that the store experience is not only competing with other retail opportunities but also with the myriad of activities and time-fillers that the traveller can utilise through mobile technology. 

The store experience has to not only beat the high street but also everything from Facebook and Twitter, to laptops, MP3s, mobile phones and a thousand and one apps.

Of course, additional factors such as convenience and service remain essential elements of the retail experience, but the real driver of impulse shopping is the quality of that experience. 

At Mars, we take cues from our learnings at our M&M’s world stores in New York, Las Vegas, Orlando and, most recently, London. 

With floorspace of up to 35,000sqft (on 4 floors) these stores provide a stunning brand experience that shifts shopper behaviour by offering them something they can’t find in the grocery store. The power of the experience is such that the strategy delivers remarkably high returns – up to 300% higher than on a supermarket shelf.

That brand power can be exploited in Travel Retail too. The engagement, excitement and trust instantly engendered by powerful brands such as M&M’s draws the shopper into the category and creates the opportunity for us to drive interaction and impulse purchases right across the store. 

Within this, we are also developing better strategies to maximise sales, including the remarkable opportunities available to drive impulse purchases at the checkouts.  

Gum – 88% impulse purchase opportunity at till-points

Chocolate and gum are the two most impulsive categories in travel retail and our latest range of till end solutions seizes this seriously under-exploited opportunity. 

At this point in the journey, shoppers have already been engaged and convinced by the offer; they literally have their hands in their pockets ready to spend, and we can further drive their impulse purchases through smarter design at till end displays. 

Brand power is equally important here too and we have developed a product range from Wrigley (part of Mars), the world’s leading gum brand, specifically for the travel retail market. 

Of course, the quality of the whole checkout experience is integral to success; a slow or confusing checkout process could lose us the impulse opportunity, and could even result in the shopper abandoning their whole basket.

Impulse is an incredibly powerful way to drive retail revenue, and it’s vital that travel retailers and their brand partners share the approach in influencing the shopper. 

The airport has a role too, not least in that the whole airport experience influences the traveller’s mood and their inclination to enter the stores.

However, the key responsibility in the battle for sales is for the retailer and brands to engage and convert the shopper.

At Mars, not only do we have a unique portfolio of leading brands, we’re also confident that our new strategies will drive significant new levels of engagement, conversion and spend, and make the confectionery experience a memorable element of their airport experience, which has to be a win-win-win for brand-retailer-airport alike.

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