7 Consumer Shopping Insights From Hershey

Brett Dworski, Associate Editor

hershey power of search

HERSHEY, Pa. -- Shoppers spend six times more when they use every commercial platform a retailer offers—mobile, online and in-store—despite 50% of all U.S. retail sales being digitally influenced, according to The Hershey Co.’s new retail report The Power of Search in a Shopper’s World.

The report, released May 17, addresses the challenges of engaging consumers on both the physical and digital spectrums. Hershey uses various shopper scenarios at Medley, a fictitious store-of-the-future concept, to illustrate the current state of snack shopping and what lies ahead.

The company detailed four key components of building a total commerce approach for making the snack-shopping experience as efficient and effective as possible: connections (pull consumers in), content (draw consumers closer), conversation (close the deal) and community (bond with consumers). Using these components to build a search and engagement strategy is crucial when creating a shopping experience that puts consumers at the forefront, the report said.

“Our report outlines Hershey’s commitment to putting the shopper first,” said Douglas C. Straton, chief digital commerce officer for Hershey. “As we deepen our understanding of when, where and how people search for snacks, we’re building a stronger muscle for advising our retail partners in an environment where shoppers seamlessly move between digital and physical retail.”

Here are seven insights from Hershey’s report …

1. Mobile apps are key

medley mobile app

Consumers expect online content, creative merchandising and immersive experiences to blend when shopping via traditional and digital platforms, the report said. One way this is achieved is through mobile apps. Hershey uses the example of a consumer seeing a TV ad for a Reese’s bar, then quickly adding the item to his shopping list via Medley's mobile app. This is highly effective because 80% of all online orders are sourced from “favorites” lists, according to the report. This also engages the customer from point A to point B—from the TV to the smartphone.

“Effectively engaging consumers across their entire journey requires us to think and act holistically using the deep understanding we have of our brands and the context in which people reach for snacks,” said Brian Kavanagh, senior director of retail evolution for Hershey.

2. Personalize the content

personalized content medley app

Giving consumers the power to customize their shopping experience is key for garnering their attention. Hershey uses the example of the Medley app offering several variations for a woman looking to make Reese’s Spiders desserts, including an alert to switch the pretzels in the recipe to a gluten-free option for her son, who has celiac disease.

“Using data efficiently means you’re not sending promotional content about beef to a vegan,” Straton said.

3. Queue lines are effective

hershey queueing

Last year, Hershey tested queue lines—a method that allows customers to shop while holding their spot in the checkout line—and determined that it’s the most effective merchandising strategy for impulse purchases. The organized lines reduce consumers’ anxiety associated with selecting a lane and knowing when it’s their turn, the report said.

“Without the ‘gentle push’ of an active queue, shoppers bypass the queue altogether resulting in a free-for-all that frustrates them and lowers retail sales potential,” said Joey Hendrix, team lead of insights-driven performance everyday strategy for Hershey.

4. Aisle reinvention

hershey aisle renovation

Hershey has spent the past year reinventing candy aisles to enhance customer visits. Primarily, the company has added new components to aisles, such as digital features. So far, in the 20 stores being tested, candy aisle traffic has increased by 4 points and product search time has dropped 50%. The company said it foresees this reinvention improing prospects for candy aisles and center store down the line.

“Our aisle reinvention brings fun to an aisle that has too long been difficult to navigate and uninspiring,” said Dan Freney, senior manager of retail evolution special projects for Hershey.

5. Section off snacking

hershey snack zone

Through its Snack Zone, a single-serve snack section in tested stores, Hershey looked to offer a convenient solution at the front of the store and help retailers increase grab-and-go snacking occasions. And the test results have been positive: Snack sales increased 20% by moving the products to the front of the store, and 81% of shoppers said the area created a positive impression of the retailer.

Jen Wing, senior manager of insights driven performance for Hershey, said the company expects the Snack Zone to become commonplace down the road.

6. Delivery is vital

hershey mobile app

Delivery and takeout options may boost a brand’s snack sales. Seven percent to 9% of the U.S. population uses click-and-collect services—nearly the size of U.S. drug-channel traffic—and 60% of shoppers enter the store when picking up their order, according to the report.

“Delivering easy snack access, be it through online subscriptions or in-store services like click-and-collect, is critical for retailers,” said Tony Mardegain, director of shopper insights for Hershey.

7. Form a community

hershey community

Community results when a brand allows shoppers to create shareable moments that support their narratives, said Suzanne Jones, vice president of the Hershey Experience. Hershey’s example of community in its report displays a family making s’mores at Medley’s mock campsite. The brand suggests moments like these make lasting memories and form a community for the brand.