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Greeting the Seasons at Retail

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 team closely monitors the strategic activity taking place across all key retailers and channels.

Each month, the teams compile Marketplace Assessment reports on retailers (Walmart, Target, Amazon, Kroger, Best Buy, Ulta Beauty) and channels (Regional Grocery, C-Store, Drug, Value, Pet, Club, Beauty, Home Improvement) that are most important to the business success of our clients. The following report outlines noteworthy events across seven key retailers from the team’s most recent round of assessments. (To receive copies of the full reports, contact Group SVP Kandi Arrington at [email protected].)

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CVS Launches a Holiday Shop

CVS.com has focused its seasonal activity around the “The Holiday Shop,” which gives digital shoppers four options to explore relevant products: holiday must-haves, photo gifts, gifts for him/her/kids, and stocking stuffers. With this variety of products available, CVS has positioned itself as a go-to shop this holiday season. 

Relevance: The holidays are a critical drive period for numerous brands, which leads to heavy advertising saturation across all media. Although it isn’t one of the more obvious destinations for holiday shopping, the drugstore channel has a unique role as a convenient option for seasonal necessities such as greeting cards, gift cards and wrapping paper. Understanding this, CVS has created an area that also showcases photos, beauty items and alternative delivery methods as a way to win more holiday trips.

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Petco Focuses on Fall

Petco.com’s “Fall Shop” contains most everything that pet parents need to get their pups ready for the season. The curated shopping experience features treats, food, supplements/mix-ins, toys, and apparel. The Fall Shop also links to other seasonal areas like Petco.com’s Halloween Shop.

Relevance: Research finds that over one-third of pet parents plan to include their pets in fall activities, from dressing them up in sweaters or costumes, to treating them to fall flavored snacks, or gifting new toys around the holiday season. Providing easy-to-use navigation relevant, timely product collections is creating an easier path to purchase for these shoppers.

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Ulta Beauty Hosts a Fall Haul

Ulta had its annual “Fall Haul Event,” which offered beauty shoppers savings of up to 40% off top brands across makeup, and all “care” categories —  skin, sun, hair, body and nails — both in-store and online from Sept. 22-30. The promotion was focused more on affordable items than mass prestige.

Relevance: Ulta Fall Haul inspired more than 20 million views on TikTok, with users sharing general shopping tips, specific advice on optimizing the event, product ratings, how-tos and other content. The deals are far reaching and deep on price cuts, so it’s a great way for brands to get visibility with the Ulta shopper.

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Walmart Debuts Pet Services Center

Walmart is piloting a Pet Services center in the same Dallas, GA, location that hosted the retailer’s first Walmart Health in 2019. The center provides veterinary care, grooming and other pet services at low, transparent pricing within a dedicated storefront.

Relevance: Nearly two-thirds of U.S. households own a pet, and many owners are currently struggling with rising prices in the category, which is growing at a higher rate than national inflation overall. Given the increasing costs, some pet owners are forgoing some necessary routine services. This puts Walmart in an ideal position to activate its EDLP values by offering lower-priced service options — in the same location where many pet owners are also shopping for their other pet-related needs, thereby delivering convenience as well.

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Costco Enters Telemedicine Space

Google-backed telehealth marketplace Sesame is offering “special discount pricing to Costco Members on a broad range of outpatient medical care” through a new partnership with the retailer. Through this service, members can access $29 virtual primary care appointments.

Relevance: Costco rivals Amazon, Walmart, Walgreens, and CVS are all made investments to expand their consumer healthcare offerings. This move indicates that Costco has similar intentions. (It has long offered in-store eyecare.)

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Wawa Debuts Yet Another Look

In addition to the drive-thru and all digital store concepts reported in August, Wawa recently debuted a “next generation” store design at its newest location in Henrico, Virginia. The updated design boasts a new aesthetic and more amenities catering to the various modes of ordering  — mobile, curbside pickup, home delivery, and online catering  — that are now available to shoppers. 

Relevance: To support the multiple ordering methods, this new location is fully equipped with a fresh food kitchen. In addition to offering its signature hoagies, the Sizzli (its hot breakfast sandwich), pizza, and coffee, customers can place custom orders, expanding the menu even further.

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Opportunities for Brands

As retailers continue seeking new ways to reach shoppers in unique ways that preempt the competition, it’s important for brands to regularly connect with their key partners to understand the opportunities that are available. 

With retailers increasingly kicking off their seasonal activity earlier in the calendar, brands should be factoring these longer windows into their strategic plans to ensure they’re generating awareness and driving trial at the right moments. Brands should consider advancing sell-in for seasonal items and start conversations with merchants even earlier to gain display online and off. 

And with more retailers consistently rolling out seasonally focused promotions and pages, it’s crucial to ensure your product display pages (PDPs) stay current and are included in the retailer’s shop. Learn how you can optimize your PDPs here.

Outside of holidays, brands should stay up to date with the new categories in which their retailer partners are expanding. As Walmart ventures into pet services and Costco into telehealth, for instance, brands should seek test & learn opportunities to showcase relevant products for a more convenient and efficient shopping trip.

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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 the 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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