Blending the Physical and the Digital Worlds

The ShopRite Hershey Birthday Kiosk


Dan Bukowski
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Director of Insights Driven Performance Activation, The Hershey Company
Jess Stephens
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Associate Manager of E-Commerce, The Hershey Company

Today is our founder, Milton Hershey’s birthday and we’re in the spirit of celebrating. So, we interviewed Dan Bukowski and Jess Stephens to talk about an innovative new birthday kiosk that makes birthday shopping an engaging, one-stop-shop.

Mid-2015 – The development of the Kiss Machine concept

Dan: “Birthdays are a very special occasion. After all, you only turn four once, right?,” quips a mother I spoke with. Talking to more young moms, I am convinced that they are passionate about delivering a great birthday for their kids.

These days, birthdays are increasingly becoming craft-centric. More and more moms are making invites and decorations themselves. This sounded exciting at first. Pretty soon, I found out, Pinterest-inspired DIY birthdays can also be stressful for busy moms.

With these insights from moms, Hershey’s Retail Innovation team developed a prototype, The Kiss Machine, which would help busy moms look like Pinterest moms. The Kiss Machine prints custom stickers that you can stick under your Hershey’s Kisses and wow your birthday party guests. We tested this concept and it resonated very well, especially with moms. The next step for us was to find a retail partner and test this in the real world. 

Early 2016 – eCommerce & Birthdays

Jess: As part of Hershey’s eCommerce team, I support ShopRite’s eCommerce business. We define eCommerce as any transaction that occurs online. Traditionally most eCommerce occurred in shopper’s homes, but with the surge of mobile, we now see shoppers adding products to their online carts from anywhere – in their car, at the airport, on the bus.

Hershey and ShopRite have a great partnership, and we are always looking at new ways to meet shopper needs and make the shopping experience more engaging. As part of our joint business planning, we had identified birthdays as an important shopping opportunity. But was there a way to use eCommerce to amplify the store experience, and vice versa? In our drive to partner with the best retailers to build omnichannel brands, we thought so.

From Idea to Existence

Dan: Our goal was to design an experience that combined the best of brick and mortar and eCommerce. Shoppers like physical retail because they can touch and feel products, and get them instantly.

Jess: From a digital standpoint, they expect easy-to-use interfaces, the ability to personalize, and having access to an “endless” aisle of products at the click of a button.

Jess: The Birthday Kiosk sits in the bakery section at two ShopRite stores in New York and New Jersey. The bakery section is an ideal location for the kiosk as trips for the birthday occasion revolve around the cake. With a silver, iconic Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Kiss crowning the top, it’s hard to miss! The kiosk displays Hershey’s newest birthday candy assortment – a variety of party-theme-colored Kisses, large candy bags for a piñata, lay-down bags for birthday favors and goodie bags.

Dan: The kiosk has four sides; two with merchandised birthday product and two with digital solutions. The first digital side is an interface that provides shoppers the opportunity to create and instantly print customized stickers for the bottom of Hershey’s Kisses or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Miniatures – you can either choose from a design or create your own. Shoppers are looking for more personalized products and experiences, and we were able to bring that to the store with this kiosk.

Jess: The second digital side is a touch screen that allows the shopper to order her birthday cake (and personalize it!) and birthday confection, which is a new way of thinking of eCommerce (ordering online while in the store). The kiosk is a full service solution for the shopper - offering everything needed for the birthday occasion, including plates, utensils, catering trays and more all in one spot.

The Road Ahead

Jess: We are excited about this launch, and eager to learn how shoppers react to this test and learn solution. Hershey and Wakefern have a long-standing relationship and strategic partnership - not only on the category side but also with the digital and eCommere team, and so together we look for new ways to be at the forefront of retail evolution.

If you want more on the strategy behind our birthday occasion portfolio, check out our blog by Hershey marketer, Eric Bowers