Experiential retail isn't always easy to get right. Today's shoppers have seen way too many activations to get won over easily. So for the M&M's stores -- just seven in the world -- the recipe comes down to massive doses of color, personalization and inclusivity.
Danny Pooni, global retail operations director for the Mars Retail Group, tells Retail Insider how it's done.
Retail Insider: M&Ms just celebrated the 25th anniversary of its Las Vegas store, the first. And it's attracted over 100 million visitors so far. What's the draw?
Danny Pooni: The minute you walk in, there are immersive experiences. There's our M&M personalized printer -- in just a few minutes, you create a one-of-a-kind M&M. There's our Wall of Chocolate. It's a beautiful sight to behold -- there are 125 large tubes of M&Ms. It's just an instant photographic, take-a-selfie moment.
There are also numerous places throughout the store with 3D M&M characters. Red and Yellow are out front. And we've got our own version of the Rat Pack, called the Snack Pack, with characters in iconic Las Vegas garb. There's a photo station where you can change the background and make it Las Vegas-specific. And then, depending on the time of day, guests can sample new flavors and colors.
Retail Insider: I know each of the stores is a little different. What's the through-line?
Pooni: It's about driving M&M's brand purpose, which is to create a world where everyone feels that they belong. So we try and do that in many ways. Guests can connect in ways that feel unique to the brand. That can be photo moments or personalized candy. But we want them to feel M&Ms coming to life. And we want them to have a nostalgic feeling. M&Ms have been a part of their lives, and we want them to share that with their friends.
Retail Insider: Who is the target customer for the stores?
Pooni: Honestly, everyone. We're about being inclusive, so everyone belongs -- and it's multigenerational. People say, "I came here 10 years ago, and now I'm back with my grandchildren."
Those repeat visitors are part of the Las Vegas celebration, too. We're inviting guests to share their favorite M&M Las Vegas experiences on Twitter and offering some product giveaways.
Retail Insider: People can buy M&M's almost anywhere: supermarkets, gas stations, vending machines. What does the store add?
Pooni: We want to create a strong, fun, positive impression. And it drives future sales. So let's say someone comes into a store and buys personalized M&Ms for a baby shower. For that baby's first birthday, they're likely to go to our website and order personalized M&Ms again for that occasion.
Retail Insider: What's been the most surprising thing to you as you've traveled around to different stores?
Pooni: How well it connects internationally. Whether it's Las Vegas, New York, Orlando, Berlin, London, Minneapolis, or Shanghai, they're all in cities that draw people from multiple countries. It's just been fun to see how easily the brand translates, and that it means the same type of fun in multiple languages and cultures.