talking shop at shoptalk part 3 mars candy omnichannel opportunities

Talking Shop at Shoptalk (part 3): Mars Candy: Omnichannel = Opportunities

Anita Temple headshot
Anita Temple
Corporate Journalist, commercetools
Published 31 May 2022

Talking Shop at Shoptalk

At Shoptalk 2022, commercetools focused on the power of modern technology and its ability to deliver limitless commerce possibilities. Our agenda included hosting fireside chats, where we sat down with clients to learn more about their journey and their vision for the future.

Mars Candy: Omnichannel = Opportunities

The 3rd installation in our series of four Shoptalk Fireside Chats, Kyle Barz, Global Direct to Consumer Product Owner at Mars, sat down with Matt Alberts, the VP of Global Solutions Consulting at commercetools. Kyle, who started working at the company 22 years ago — at the same time they launched their first eCommerce site — shared how online selling has helped shape the growth of the Mars-Wrigley division and offered insights on what’s next for the global CPG Powerhouse Brand.

talking shop at shoptalk part 3 mars candy omnichannel opportunities

Turns out candy and digital commerce make a great combination, at least for Mars, Inc., which owns brands including M&M, Skittles, Snickers and Orbit. As Kyle explains it, the company’s initial strategy was to use the eCommerce channel to “start up different brands, launch them online, test to see if they would work, and get customer feedback.” He says they continue to employ that strategy today, and points out it allows them to do a lot of R&D work online — which results in some products getting shut down, while others actually stick and “become what they are today.”

Kyle says Mars entered the online world with a site for Ethel M chocolates, a premium chocolate brand sold mainly through catalogs. (The Las Vegas-based brand has a thriving online business today). In 2004, The company launched the “My M&M’s” online store to give customers the ability to choose their own colors and create custom bags of candy as well as buy branded merchandise. As technology advanced, the site added new capabilities which allow customers to personalize m&ms with printed messages and even photographs. Since then the company has launched sites for a multitude of their candy brands.

Kyle told Matt the decision to explore new technology systems came about due to an “interesting confluence of a few different opportunities within Mars,” before providing specific details.

  1. Emerging B2B opportunities
    Currently, the company has a very large sales team that services their customers, which include many traditional outlets like bodegas. “We had to think about an eRoute to market and the way we interact with many of our customers…there is a big opportunity to digitize that whole process.”

  2. Brand launch opportunities
    The company is looking to start up and test a lot of new brands. “Every time we want to launch a new brand, we have to go out and source a new platform and go through all that process to get that platform tested and validated, which takes a lot of time. In an era of eCommerce — we don’t want to lose that precious time.”

  3. Omnichannel growth opportunities
    The company believes there is huge potential, particularly in the M&M’s space to “bring together our physical stores with our digital presence to create more of a cohesive ecosystem”.  

It was these drivers that led Mars to start evaluating the different platforms they had in place and to ultimately select commercetools to move forward. 

After pointing out how helpful it was to learn the business initiatives behind their replatforming initiative, Matt asked Kyle if he had any advice for others considering a MACH-based solution. Nodding his head multiple times in agreement, Kyle shared his thoughts. “We are very much still on the journey…It is definitely not easy. I wouldn’t expect to get it right on day number one.”

One of the nice things about this architecture approach is that you can go more modular, you don’t have to go kind of big bang all at once like we are used to in our previous platforms.
Kyle Barz

Global Direct to Consumer Product Owner, Mars, Inc.

Kyle reinforced that business leaders need to remember to “really think about how you can evolve and learn as you go and iterate and prototype,” pointing out that, “One of the nice things about this architecture approach is that you can go more modular, you don’t have to go kind of big bang all at once like we are used to in our previous platforms.”

He also stressed just how big of an opportunity this initiative presents for Mars. “As we think about the new approach, the new architecture, and the new platform, the biggest benefit for our future will be that we don’t necessarily need to replatform every 3 to 4 years…having the flexibility of being able to add to our digital ecosystem so that when consumers expectations are evolving and trends are changing, we can capitalize on that much more quickly.”

Alberts wrapped up the conversation, telling Kyle, “I think you’ve captured some of our core mission right there. We don’t know where the consumer is going to be next. We just want to make sure we have the opportunity to get there.That’s really the mark.”

Get the full story, view Omnichannel for a Global CPG Powerhouse Brand, the fireside chat video.

Anita Temple headshot
Anita Temple
Corporate Journalist, commercetools

Anita J. Temple is the Corporate Journalist at commercetools. She was a fashion editor at Women’s Wear Daily (WWD) and W Magazine before launching a career as a freelance writer and creative producer. She has written content and worked on a wide range of marketing projects for companies including Dreamworks, Walmart, Coca-Cola, Verizon, and Adidas.

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