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Embracing New Looks & Goals

22 Jun 2023

As part of their ongoing mission to help clients stay ahead of the competition in a fast-paced, constantly evolving marketplace, The Mars Agency’s Customer Development teams closely monitor the strategic activity taking place across all key retailers and channels.

Each month, the teams compile Marketplace Assessment reports on the retailers (Walmart, Target, Kroger, Best Buy) and channels (Regional Grocery, Small Format, Pet, Beauty) that are most important to the business success of our clients. The following report outlines 10 noteworthy events across the retail landscape from the team’s most recent round of assessments. (To receive copies of the full reports, contact Group SVP Kandi Arrington at [email protected].)


Target App Makes Comparison Easier

The Story: Target continues to improve the digital shopping experience, upgrading their app in mid-May with a new “compare” function to showcase the product details of two items side by side.

Relevance: Similar functionality is available on many large shopping websites but isn’t as common on retailer apps. Given the importance of online shopping and the increase in mobile-based orders, new in-app capabilities like this one will keep Target competitive.

Opportunity: With side-by-side comparisons now easily accessible, brands must ensure that their item details are complete. It would be beneficial to audit your items against owned brands and other competitors to identify places where you can stand out. Target Circle offers and temporary price cuts are prominently featured throughout the app, so a strategic cadence of promotions can help brands win key moments.


7-Eleven, Stripes ‘Power Up’ for Gaming

The Story: 7-Eleven is tapping into shopper nostalgia with a “Power Up” marketing campaign featuring the classic PAC-MAN video game. Shoppers who buy participating products at the retailer’s flagship and Stripes-brand stores using their 7REWARDS account are entered to win various PAC-MAN-inspired prizes.

Relevance: 7-Eleven runs several tentpole marketing events each year, giving suppliers an opportunity to have their brands featured on point-of-sale materials and corresponding digital assets. This year, 7-Eleven is connecting the tentpoles to key shopper interests — gaming, music, etc. — to be more relevant with the customer base.

Opportunity: By turning to these key shopper interests, the c-store chain is driving relevance while encouraging registrations for 7REWARDS. Opportunities for brands to be spotlighted in-store are limited, making these tentpoles a great opportunity to enhance their presence.


Walmart Opens Mini-General Stores

The Story: Walmart has opened mini-stores geared toward travelers in parts of the U.S. Called “The General Store by Walmart,” the unique format is operated in partnership with Getaway, a hospitality company specializing in tiny cabin rentals that has outposts in vacation spots like Big Bear Lake and the Catskill Mountains.

Relevance: This mini-retail experience caters to vacationers who need travel essentials like snacks and sunscreen, or hiking gear and outdoor blankets. The General Store by Walmart will also offer some items from small local businesses.

Walmart is open to testing new formats and forging relevant partnerships to bring them to life. The more creative the formats that Walmart can develop, the more diverse types of shoppers and shopping occasions they can cover, thereby expanding reach and loyalty.

Opportunity: Assess whether your brands and products will be a good fit for The General Store opportunity. If not, keep your finger on the pulse of Walmart’s new-format tests to see what upcoming partnerships might be a better fit for your brands.


Best Buy Creates New Membership Tier

The Story: Best Buy unveiled new membership tiers for their loyalty program that give customers more freedom to choose an option that fits their own technology needs, lifestyles and budgets.

The My Best Buy Memberships collection now spans My Best Buy, My Best Buy Plus, and My Best Buy Total. Each level delivers different options, benefits and price points. My Best Buy Plus and My Best Buy Total are priced at $49.99/year and $179.99/year, respectively, while the basic My Best Buy level is free. In addition, My Best Buy credit cardholders, who are automatically enrolled in the basic level, get other exclusive benefits, including 5% back on purchases (in rewards) and flexible financing options.

Relevance: By expanding their loyalty program to include multiple levels, Best Buy is addressing the various nuances and needs of their customer base and paving the way for more relevant, personalized shopping experiences.

Opportunity: As Best Buy continues to find new ways to reach customers and drive loyalty, brands should work with their retailer partners to determine how each membership level can be leveraged. By offering exclusive access to events and highly anticipated products, the Plus and Total tiers give brands an engaged customer base to target.


Ulta Joins Metaverse Beauty Week

The Story: Ulta Beauty was among the first retailers and national brands announced as participants in Metaverse Beauty Week, a virtual event staged across the Decentraland, Roblox and Spatial platforms from June 12-16 that was marketed as “Reality Gets a Makeover.”

Relevance: Brands and retailers taking part in Metaverse Beauty Week were looking to give existing customers an engaging, immersive space while also connecting with social gaming fans already active in Web3 environments. For their activations, brands reimagined their products as AR filters, digital wearables, gamified tools and other digital alternatives.

Opportunity: Brands should evaluate the Metaverse Beauty Week event to see how well these activations succeed. Ulta’s participation signals the retailer’s willingness to test different spaces and reach new audiences. As the retailer continues its foray into Web3 environments, work with your retailer partner to determine how your brand can help elevate the experiences and reach new consumers.


Walmart Revamps Digital Look

The Story: Walmart recently made enhancements to their website and mobile app environments designed to improve the shopping experience. The upgrades included a social media-inspired scroll that lets shoppers browse product selections like they do on platforms like Instagram and TikTok.

Relevance: These enhancements were made to improve product discovery and provide a more frictionless purchase process for shoppers, who increasingly are taking advantage of the easy shopping experience provided by social media platforms.

Opportunity: Brand partners should explore how to bring top-of-mind relevance and excitement to any of their categories that currently may have lower visibility or consideration among shoppers. Work with Walmart to lean into this new look and determine where your products can be spotlighted on the page.


BJ’s Shares Social Commitment

The Story: BJ’s Wholesale Club has released its first Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) report, which explains how the company served members, team associates and communities in 2022 and pledges to communicate future efforts transparently. Among the initiatives covered in the report are energy efficiency improvements, including the replacement and upgrade of in-club equipment to reduce energy consumption.

Relevance: The issuance of their first official report signals an escalation of BJ’s efforts to help build a better, greener future — and to address the ongoing trend among consumers to seek out purpose-driven brands and retailers that align with their own values.

Opportunity: BJ’s is using this ESG report to create transparency and attract new members, and is encouraging CPG partners to work directly with them on these efforts. It will be crucial for brands to take the initiative to align with the retailer’s established goals and assist in developing new objectives for the future.


Target Homes In on Sustainability

The Story: Target recently announced that a supply chain plant in Mililani, Hawaii, just completed a two-year journey to become the retailer’s first true zero waste-certified facility. To earn certification, facilities must divert at least 90% of their operational waste from landfills by reusing, reducing, recycling or donating. Announced in April to coincide with Earth Month, the milestone let Target reiterate their broader Target Zero plan for both owned and national brands.

Relevance: Target has gone all-in on sustainability and wants to continue reminding guests — in authentic, meaningful ways — about the innovative initiatives through which they’re achieving various goals.

Opportunity: Continue to work with your Target partners to help the retailer achieve sustainability goals. Target has already pledged to make all own-brand products 100% “circular” by 2040, an effort to eliminate waste by keeping items in use as long as possible. National brands that want to be good partners should work to keep pace by opting into one or both of the Target Clean and Target Zero programs (outlined here.)


CVS Tackles Solutions for Healthy Aging

The Story: CVS recently published a series of articles and videos in the news section of their website that tackle the growing need to provide services for an aging population and covering everything from mental health to the role that retail should play.

Relevance: While there’s no shortage of discussion across the industry about how retailers and brands can reach Gen Z, it’s crucial to not leave out older adults and senior citizens, especially as their needs evolve. According to one of the articles, more than 20% of the U.S. population will be older than 65 by 2030, and 60% of them will be managing multiple chronic health conditions. To address this, CVS is calling for industry-wide innovation to meet the needs of this generation as they arise.

Opportunity: Brands should definitely consider how to optimize opportunities for capturing new, younger shoppers in the drug channel, but they must also address the many needs of an aging population that is more likely to use drugstore retailers as a go-to source for solutions.


Lowe’s Continues to Champion DIY

The Story: From digital tools to interactive in-store signage, Lowe’s Home Improvement is finding new ways to support the do-it-yourselfers in the customer base. And as part of their continued pursuit of Professional customers, the retailer has introduced Lowe’s MVPs Business Tools, which lets them get online quotes for supplies, reorder frequently purchased items, and track orders. And to support DIYers of all levels, Lowe’s has installed interactive store signage to explain how to start a project, get products delivered, and finance materials.

Relevance: By introducing these cross-channel tools, Lowe’s is working to reach both key shopper groups at multiple points along the path to purchase. Additionally, the MVPs Business Tools program has the potential to steal shoppers from rival chains by offering incentives such as expanded rewards, job site delivery, tool rentals and exclusive offers.

Opportunity: Brands should help Lowe’s lean into their MVP customers by working with partners to identify whites-space opportunities that will bring their products to the forefront through these new tools.


The Mars Agency’s Customer Development practice is an unrivaled team of in-market commerce experts who simplify the complexity of retail for our clients. Located in Bentonville, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Chicago, Tampa and the “backyards” of other key retailers, they provide deep knowledge of each retailer, expertise in key business areas (like strategy, media and creative), and door-opening personal relationships with key executives to deliver an unmatched level of business success for clients across accounts, channels and shopper engagement platforms. For more information, contact Group SVP Kandi Arrington at [email protected].

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