Mars Wrigley's Voice AI Investments Get Louder

Lisa Johnston
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mars wrigley skittles
Consumers could schedule a Skittles-branded voice alarm to prank their friends during Halloween 2021.

Mars Wrigley is increasingly investing in AI-enabled voice commerce experiences after a series of pilots during Halloween 2021 successfully grew brand engagement.  

Last year, the company tested a voice-activated shopping list using Amazon Alexa, an AllRecipes voice skill, and a Skittles-branded voice alarm where consumers could prank their family and friends. It also effectively reached consumers who were new to the brand via voice-activated ads placed on the Amazon Advertising Network, Mars Wrigley’s social media channels, and elsewhere.  

As part of this test-and-learn, Mars Wrigley conducted a custom research study that focused on entertainment, productivity, and commerce to understand the voice usage journey and inform its voice AI strategy, AiCi Li, global director of Mars’ Commerce Lab, told CGT.

“We know that brands who cement themselves with growing new rituals and new shopping habits win, which is why it is critical to understand what people are looking for from the category,” said Li.  

[See also: How Mars' Digital Engine Is Shifting It to a Value-Focused Mindset]

By creating conversational experiences that increase brand engagement, voice can effectively tie Mars Wrigley’s brands to various seasons and viral moments, Li noted, as well as provides direct access to online shopping carts and reach new consumers.

And as voice becomes embedded in more areas of consumers’ lives — including in homes and cars — its role as an omnichannel tool is growing, added Betsy Fitzgibbons, Mars Wrigley customer and shopper insights lead for digital commerce and new transactions.

“Just like the mobile phone did, this new technology is shifting consumer behavior, evolving how brands show up, and making shopping easier than ever,” Fitzgibbons said. “While voice commerce is still in an infancy stage, it can inform and educate shoppers, capture shopper loyalty, and even grow sales.”

Given the range of potential voice applications for voice, the confectionary company isn’t interested in a one-size-fits-all approach.

“Brands and retailers need to understand that voice is not just the device sitting on a counter — it is fully embedded in all areas of consumers’ lives,” Fitzgibbons said. “To leverage the technology effectively, categories that are planned purchases need to seize the opportunity that voice offers to simplify the purchase step for consumers.”

[See also: Mars Commits to Global Diversity, Refreshes M&M'S Brand Strategy]

As a result, unplanned categories have more work to do on ways to help and assist discovery and exploration, she said, noting that the brands and retailers thinking about this now are better set up for long-term success.

Li compared the evolving channel to the early days of e-commerce, and suggested brands and retailers use that time period as a playbook to ease voice commerce growing pains.  

“While use cases are growing, and there are opportunities for it to simplify shopping, there are still areas that need to be navigated,” she said. “For example, knowing how to talk to a voice assistant is hard — it can be like learning a new language.”

Though she didn’t provide details, Fitzgibbons said they’ll continue exploring new use cases for voice technology and have plans for it this year.

Watch: Mars Wrigley’s Candy Robot Roams Shop-Rite

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