Inspiring impulse shopping online, offering mini meals and creating better search results are all crucial to confectionery success in 2019 — at least according to Hershey. 
The company recently released its year-end review of the biggest snacks retail trends and insights, titled Experience and Convenience in a Shopper’s World. And the company has offered eight insights to learn from as candymakers enter 2019. 
1. Mini meals for modern times 
On average, U.S. consumers snack 25 times each week, creating ample opportunity for all types of snacks — from treats to fuel — in their lives. 
Various factors determine snacking occasions, including time of day, a person’s mood and who they’re with. But typically, snackers seek either fuel or treats. Early in the day, snackers tend to seek fuel and satiation. They find it in nuts and seeds, trail mix, protein bars and meat snacks. As the day moves on, snacks are more often treats — small rewards that help people connect and unwind. This eating occasion may call for chocolate, sweet and salty snack mixes or ready-to-eat popcorn.
“Hershey’s research shows that people buy both treat and fuel snacks as they shop. They then make the choice based on snacking occasion at their pantry,” says Tony Mardegain, Hershey’s head of Shopper Insights. 
2. Candy, mints and gum lead the pack  
Consumers are snacking more than ever and the variety of snacks is increasing daily. 
Nevertheless, the candy, mint and gum (CMG) category remains the most frequently eaten and largest snack segment in the U.S. The old adage, “See candy, buy candy, eat candy,” remains relevant today. 
CMG has the second shortest purchase cycle of any type of snack at approximately 10 days. This speaks to the enduring power of top CMG brands. In fact, the top 10 confectionery brands have remained unchanged for the past six years. 
Brands are powerful. Consumers are loyal. And snacks that taste great will endure.
3. Seamless shopping anytime, anywhere 
With smartphone penetration hitting 87 percent of U.S. homes, nearly all consumers are carrying stores in their pockets. Those stores are open 24/7, which is creating unprecedented opportunities for retail innovation. 
While some still think about in-store shopping as separate from the store in the palm of our hands, consumers move seamlessly — and mostly subconsciously — between mobile, online and in-store shopping. They only really take notice when the experience is sub-par. Simplifying the way shoppers navigate this new ecosystem is essential to retail success. As a result, physical displays that complement the online look and feel and vice versa — particularly with seasonal displays — are successful.  
Consumers who shop all of a retailer’s commerce platforms — online, offline and mobile — spend up to 6 times more.
4. Digital visits are the first trip 
As people shop in-store, they are looking at their phones, price-checking or reading product reviews. In fact, digital is the new front door to your store. According to an IRI Consumer Connect Survey, 76 percent of all shopping trips begin online. 
Digital visits to retailer websites are preceding and exceeding physical visits. Meanwhile, once in-store, 58 percent of consumers are actually using a device to shop the digital shelf while in the physical environment.
5. Search is essential
Expertise on the physical shelf translates to the digital world. 
In the same way powerful brands, effective packaging and merchandising are foot-stopping in the aisle, successful content is thumb-stopping on the digital shelf. Most effective are visuals that communicate quickly and clearly, such as package designs that pop on a 5-inch screen and can grab attention from 30 feet away. 
With digital and physical visits overlapping, it’s important that the digital and physical experiences reflect each other.
Success in search also requires new thinking about how digital works. What new opportunities does it create? For instance, since online shoppers tend to buy in larger quantities, higher-quantity, e-commerce-optimized pack sizes convert on the digital shelf.
“Winning how the consumer searches — in-store and online — is the key to winning the sale,” says Phil Stanley, Hershey’s chief customer officer, in the Hershey Company Blog. 
6. Impulse is alive and well 
Today’s digital conveniences are allowing consumers to be more impulsive than ever before. Using data in a well-developed holistic shopping ecosystem provides the opportunity to capture consumers’ impulses in-store and online. 
One of those ways is to convert unplanned purchases in-store into planned purchases online. For instance, one week, a loyalty card carrying shopper buys a chocolate bar at checkout. The following week she goes online to order groceries for home delivery. At virtual checkout, the retailer may offer a chocolate bar multipack as a suggested purchase, discounted special or free sample. 
Once the shopper adds candy to the list, it stays on the list. Now, instead of satisfying impulses from the checkout lane one bar at a time, she will be satisfying her want for a sweet treat from a box or bag in the pantry.
7. Check out the choices 
The checkout is the final impression a shopper has of the store experience, and it has an outsized impact on satisfaction and loyalty. 
The way to impress is by offering convenience, as well as the right merchandising and assortment. In studying this area of the store, we’ve found that people want an array of snacking choices at checkout — from healthy fuel to treats. But their purchase decisions show that they vote with their wallets more often for indulgent snacks than satiating snacks. In fact, 53 percent of shoppers are looking for a treat at checkout. Striking the right balance of items in each lane is the best approach. 
8. Data gets bigger, knowledge gets deeper 
As the average U.S. consumer moves throughout their day, they leave behind a treasure-trove of data that indicates what they like — and in turn what they dislike. The volume of data can be overwhelming, but making sense of it and putting it into action leads to better decisions about how to orient shopping experiences, services and fulfillment models. 
When a retailer’s breadth of offline and online data is merged with a manufacturer’s depth of category and consumer knowledge, meaningful trends emerge regarding how products are found, purchased and fulfilled. This knowledge enables informed business decisions that can, for example, optimize product taxonomy online and brick-and-mortar store planograms, benefitting both the consumer and retailer. 
“Driving everything is data. By dovetailing the retailers’ broad storewide data with Hershey’s trove of category data, Hershey is finding new paths for growth,” says Phil Stanley, Hershey’s Chief Customer Officer. 
To stay up-to-date on Hershey’s snacks retail expertise, visit Hershey’s company blog.