It took approximately two months for Hershey to rework the GCIC experience into the HIN and, over the past six months, the system capabilities have been constantly refined and expanded. The company developed a system for HIN that allows it to project its category management insights in a manner similar to a television news production. This improves the quality of the presentations, while also allowing live interaction with presenters and demonstrations of physical examples of shopper insight-developed solutions throughout its merchandising lab areas, Thomas explained.
"Telling a story combined with the ability to show live examples of solutions has shown our virtual meeting capability to be at the tip of the spear," he remarked. "By improving the experience, we have been able to interact with higher-level customer decisionmakers throughout the COVID-19 period."
In addition to everyday brick-and-mortar business-building solutions, channel players are trying to figure out what the new retail landscape is going to look like. Through HIN, Hershey is able to share its expertise across category management and e-commerce/digital/omnichannel in a unique and powerful way.
Over the course of 24 meetings using the HIN platform, Hershey and its retail partners have unlocked nearly $12 million in incremental category growth by leveraging insights to develop test-and-learn trials, according to the company.
HIN has proven itself to be a valuable tool during the current COVID-19 period, and will provide the company with the ability to engage a broader breadth of customers in the future. Thomas pointed out that the new virtual platform has allowed Hershey to expand the number of customers it deeply engages with each year, and involve a greater number of retailers’ team members as well.
"We see the HIN still having a role even when we are able to start having in-person meetings again at the GCIC; to be able to share our shopper insight-based category growth initiatives and solutions to those who can’t make the trip to Hershey," he said.
The Hershey Co. has more than 80 brands globally that drive upwards of $8 billion in annual revenues, including such iconic brand names as Hershey's, Reese's, Kit Kat, Jolly Rancher, Ice Breakers, SkinnyPop, and Pirate's Booty.