In the realm of experiential marketing, The Hershey Co.’s new Mobile Customer Insights Center is a stroke of sweet and savory genius.
The 53-foot roving showroom/learning lab/excitement-generator—which kicked off a national tour this week in the company's central Pennsylvania hometown, to be followed by more than 25 planned visits to customers before year’s end—functions as a stealth chamber of insights, innovation and snacks for Hershey to literally drive shopper insights and snack category expertise directly to its retail partners across the country.
While I haven’t been privy to a personal tour, the expandable Mobile Customer Insights Center (MCIC) semitrailer sounds like a bona fide thing of beauty, beginning with the outside, which was designed to resemble a rolling Hershey's bar, punctuated with packages of Kit Kat, S’mores, Reese’s, Kisses and Twizzlers. The inside, meanwhile, is said to house a faux convenience store, stocked generously with shelves of candy, mints, gum, chips and a checkout area. The trailer also features four expandable panels and opens into a 22- by 53-foot collaborative work space for seating up to 15 people.
After making its Sept. 19 debut, Hershey’s MCIC took off from Chocolate World for a cross-country journey to visit retailers of all sizes through 2018. Another national roadshow will commence in 2019, for customer sojourns in Washington, D.C., Chicago, San Francisco and smaller cities and towns in between. During each stop, Hershey executives will share shopper insights and category solutions, which by default accentuates another important attribute of many of Hershey’s lines, which is convenience.
Although the mobile experience is a New Age way for Hershey to deliver insights to customers, it’s familiar territory for the company, which has hosted retail partners at its headquarters' Global Customer Insights Center (GCIC) since 2006. But since the two-day time commitment was sometimes tough for some customers to attend on-site, the MCIC has been established as the chosen vehicle for the company’s team to hand-deliver insights directly to retail and c-store leaders’ front doors.
With the retail landscape shifting at an unprecedented rate, it’s imperative for retailers to up their games with “a new playbook, and that’s exactly what we’re bringing to their front door,” Phil Stanley, The Hershey Co.’s chief sales officer, said in a statement.
Dale Clark, senior director of category management for small and large format, is also pumped about the prospects to “share knowledge, far and wide, with retail store leaders big and small” during the whistle-stop tour. “The biggest thing for us is bringing our insights and solutions to [our] customer[s],” said Clark. And it doesn’t get much easier than doing so directly in its retail partners’ parking lots, which he noted will make it “incredibly easy to collaborate with key decision-makers ... who can benefit most from what the MCIC has to offer.”
During the stops, retail category leaders will have an opportunity to discuss strategies and tactics with members of Hershey’s team to explore “shelf and product layouts, pay-point tactics, store reinvention, merchandising queue lines, insights-driven sales and more,” according to Clark, such as “when customers like to purchase salty vs. sweet snacks, which demographics purchase the most candy, and how to drive higher sales by simply rearranging a few key items.”
Another bonus: As opposed to solely revolving around Hershey products, Clark said insights unlocked from the MCIC truck pertain to the entire consumables category “to bring solutions that drive business.”
In turn, retailers who get a golden ticket to visit the truck can expect to walk away with turnkey solutions that can be directly applied to their stores’ merchandising optimization and layouts, queues, checkouts and shopper marketing, as well as strategies that Clark said can be applied across all shopping channels “from bricks to clicks and everywhere in between.”
Given the pace of change, it’s often easy to take for granted the many cool advances that are unfolding in the industry. As such, I tip my hat to The Hershey Co. for designing an inventive, immersive, novel way to mobilize and engage its base.