Hershey Figures Out What Prompts Impulse Purchases in Stores   

By Pat Lenius


Everybody knows that impulse sales happen every day in supermarkets. But marketers may not know what makes a consumer to pick up an item that was not on the shopping list.

To find out, The Hershey Company researched the evolution of impulse purchases. The iconic candy maker came up with “eight human truths” that it is using as a platform to help retail partners execute in-store promotions.

Renee Balliet, Senior Manager, Shopper Insights, for Hershey discussed these human truths in a workshop at the Shopper Insights & Retail Activation Conference recently in Chicago. The event was hosted by KNect 365, an Informa company.

Here are the eight human truths and some questions she invited attendees of her workshop to consider:

  • INDULGE.  Shoppers seek permission to “give in” to the guilt. They know they can’t be good all of the time and really don’t want to be. Where can retailers and CPG companies capture consumers inside the store to make them stop and savor?

  • DELIGHT. Sometimes shopping becomes mundane. There is too much noise. There are no surprises. What can retailers and CPG companies do to make consumers feel a sense of happiness? What can they do to reach and delight online shoppers? New flavors? New packaging? An exciting retail display? “Find something that breaks the rules,” Balliet suggested.

  • SCORE. Help shoppers feel they are sticking it to the Man and beating the system. Give them a sense that they have won or that they found a great deal. Make it fun to follow an impulse.

  • RECHARGE. Shopping is a task and it can be hard work. Sometimes the consumer needs a break to boost energy or improve his or her mood. As an example, Balliet suggested selling Cliff bars at the front end.

  • REMIND. Many consumers write a shopping list before going to the store. But what happens when they forget something on the list or even forget to put something on it? This is where retailers, CPG companies and category managers can come to the rescue, suggesting impulse items. “But when you can’t fall on the safety net of the front end, how can you remind customers about what they forgot?” Balliet asked.

  • INSPIRE. Savvy merchandisers can make consumers stop short during their shopping trip. They may try to cause customers to stop in front of a product or category that they might not normally visit. How do they do this? By inspiring shoppers with a mental picture of what they could do with this product. “It's about what you want rather than what you need,” Balliet noted. “Amplify that want.”

  • GESTURE. Even when parents take an authoritarian approach toward their children while shopping, there can be times when they have to sweeten the deal by compromising or finding a distraction. When a parent sees a meltdown about to happen, the primary goal is to prevent a tantrum and the accompanying stress. A retailer who can suggest a smart way for parents to manage a challenging situation with their kids will win their gratitude.

  • INCENT. Hershey’s consumer research revealed that shoppers appreciate ideas that suggest simple, easy ways to express kindness and caring. They want to feel like a hero to their family and friends. Customers appreciate the opportunity for an impulse purchase that offers a small yet touching way to connect with their loved ones. “We need to come up with different conceptual plans for what happens when the front end goes away,” Balliet said.

Some of this information has been quantified by Hershey. The company’s extensive research included shop-alongs and expert interviews. There are some differences among shoppers, she admitted.

What surprised Balliet from the shopper research was the honesty of their answers. For example, she was impressed by those parents who spoke about needing help dealing with a child’s unruly behavior in a store. It’s not unusual for the child to be soothed with an impulse item from the front end.

Asked about how Hershey prioritizes the eight behaviors or human truths, Balliet said, “As an organization, Hershey looks at this holistically. Priorities might be different with different retailers.” For example, a shopper at Walmart may respond differently than someone at Target or the Dollar Store, she explained.



                                                                              July 2018
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