A Hershey's exec explains how the brand is going all-in on Amazon to help it drive sales online
- The Hershey Company is heavily focusing on digital development within multiple areas of the business, including across consumer and retail channels as well as internally.
- E-commerce is a big focus for Hershey's - especially on Amazon.
- Hershey's director of digital Andrea Steele explained how Hershey's dominates top search results on Amazon and avoids the dreaded second page of search results.
- She also explained how the company is using methods like partnerships and cart intercepts to make the online space more similar to how people shop for candy in stores.
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The Hershey Company is in the midst of a digital transformation.
The 126-year-old firm is looking to maintain its status as a leader in the snacking category. And do this, it needs to evolve to keep up with changing shopping habits.
Hershey's director of digital Andrea Steele gave Business Insider an inside look into the company's digital transformation, which is focused on three key areas of the business: consumers who eat the products, retailers who sell the products, and the internal business structure within The Hershey Company itself.
"We're looking for those connections that run across those three pillars," said Steele, who explained that none of these entities can exist in their own silos. Ensuring employees have enough data and insights to drive work forward will ultimately impact retailer partnerships and how the product arrives at consumers, she continued.
Hershey is focusing on e-commerce
When it comes to e-commerce, Hershey could appear to have a disadvantage like other snacking companies, which rely on impulsivity and in-store purchases for a large portion of sales.
"We have 99% household penetration offline for candy as a category," Steele said. "But online people aren't thinking, "Hey, I'm going to go online and buy my candy there.' So discoverability as a category is so much different and we have to get creative around how we're getting in front of those consumers."
One way the company has gotten creative is through different partnerships online. For example, Steele said the company noticed that in physical stores around Halloween, people's shopping carts were often filled with costumes and candy together. Leveraging this knowledge, Hershey's proposed and executed a partnership with Rubie's Costumes on Amazon.
This was just one example of how the snacking company got a leg up online by partnering with a higher penetrated category within e-commerce - in this case, costumes.
How Hershey makes the front page on Amazon
Steele explained how Hershey's dominates top search results on Amazon and stays above falling to the dreaded second page of search results.
"Not every brand can win on chocolate," Steele explained. She said that the key is understanding the various subcategories within chocolate - chocolate and peanut butter, chocolate and caramel - and then optimizing lead brands within Hershey to stand out in search within that category.
Hershey's chooses category leaders based on consumer data and then prepares each sub-brand to be positioned to essentially "win" search in that category on Amazon and end up as the first result.
Pushing impulsivity online
When it comes to impulsivity, Steele said she believes there is room for the "impulse buy" online as well. Hershey's has implemented tactics like "cart intercepts," which offer the customer a chance to add in some snacks as the last step in their online shopping trip, mimicking the way someone might browse for candy during the checkout in a physical store.
Hershey's is tackling other challenges as well. The company built a new capability for cold shipping in the last two years, which allows for shipping out merchandise in the warm months without risking the candy melting. It's also working to integrate the user experience on all of the brand's websites - from Chocolate World to its basic candy store - to streamline and take advantage of traffic on all sites.
Hershey's would not provide detailed figures on the company's web versus in-store sales, but Steele said that the efforts of the company's digital transformation have exceeded expectations.
"We are growing ahead of the category growth rate online and we are tracking just above what we understand to be the penetration of Food-related categories overall," Steele said.
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