On October 20, we re-opened the Global Customer Insights Center (GCIC), inviting retail partners to return, in-person, for the first time since March of 2020 to collaborate, develop strategic plans and devise growth initiatives built from our consumer insights. GCIC is a part of Hershey Insights Centers, which also includes the Hershey Insights Network and the Mobile Customer Insights Center, or MCIC, which will re-launch in January.
The re-opening of the GCIC brought with it a welcomed sense of excitement as we continue to navigate the changing world of commerce together with our retail partners. But that’s not to say we haven’t been in close contact with those retail partners all along. In fact, in response to Covid-19, we pivoted and found ways to meet virtually with our customers via the Hershey Insights Network, inviting them into the GCIC in new ways leading up to the re-opening.
I’m incredibly proud of the changes we’ve made, which reflect the most current shopper insights, trends and technology. The expansion and update has allowed us to be there for our customers in a turbulent time, helping them to understand shopper behavior even as it shifted in real time. Let me introduce you to the new GCIC and share some of the features I’m most excited about:
The Hershey Insights Network. In 2020, we launched the Hershey Insights Network (HIN), a newsroom-style set-up where we use Microsoft Teams to bring customers into the GCIC virtually. Through HIN, Hershey subject matter experts can lead virtual tours through the GCIC in a dynamic and engaging way. During a recent meeting, for example, a Hershey subject matter expert led a customer through an active queue discussing navigation principles customers experience as they make their way towards the checkout lane.
More seasonal solutions. We have a 16-foot seasonal aisle where we talk about the ways customers can shop the seasons, including what we call “micro” or “occasion” seasons, such as family movie nights. We’ve seen increased interest in these activities through the pandemic, and this area allows us to collaborate with our retail partners on ways to make these displays more impactful in store. And trust me, it's really remarkable to showcase S'mores in a backyard setting complete with a firepit.
Alternative fulfillment experiences. As shoppers continue adopting different ways to get their groceries, whether it be click-and-collect, delivery or curbside pickup, we're continuing to showcase strategies for adding unplanned purchases at our fictitious retailer called Milton’s. Milton’s has adopted all the different fulfillment methods—curbside paths, curbside lockers, self-checkout, scan-and-go, drive-through, mobile cart and more. This allows us to talk about the digital path-to-purchase, the pros and cons of each method of shopping, and the ways retailers can adapt and still capture that share of the wallet they would have had if this were a traditional shopping trip.
Small format and convenience store insights. We’ve got a lot of customers in the c-store class of trade that expressed interest in talking more about the ways shopping behavior changed during the pandemic. Guests to the new GCIC will find content specifically for those channels, complete with a full, 12-foot-long candy aisle where we talk about our “strike zone” optimization and merchandising strategies Customers can browse a full queue line and self-checkout to explore our insights on consumers' path to purchase in small format stores. We also share our insights around foodservice bundling designed to help our retailer partners build baskets off of their trip driver items.
Food service options within our dining atrium and chocolate bar. I’m especially excited about this area, which we’ve greatly expanded. Guests can explore foodservice and food licensing partnerships and meet with our corporate chefs. These are items that aren’t sold through the same channel as our Hershey candy items, but they do have Hershey items included within them, and include cookies, brownies, cakes, cheesecakes, slushy drinks, coffee and espresso creamers.
I’m excited for what the new and improved GCIC will mean for the future. In the past, a meeting at the GCIC would often involve at least two to three days of travel, in order to schedule collaborative meetings as well as time to explore what the town of Hershey has to offer. Now, we’re able to make time with even more members of our customers’ teams virtually, with or without travel. That means deeper relationships, and more opportunities to share our insights and collaborate on solutions that could benefit the entire confection category.
At Hershey, our business has always been guided by our purpose to make more moments of goodness. By meeting our retail partners where they are—literally—and helping them better understand and reach consumers, we’re carrying out that mission every time we get together, whether in person or virtually.