Digital Insider: Hershey finds sweet spot with segmentation

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Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Company improved its marketing strategy and discovered new ways to target its customer segments by using all of the digital customer data at its fingertips.

The travel and leisure company that oversees golf resorts, chocolate spas and the well known Hersheypark amusement park in Pennsylvania, went from mailing a standard, catchall brochure to its guests in early 2007 to segmenting its audience and centralizing all of its data across a variety of sources.

“We realized that we had not been doing enough with our data,” said Tjibbe Lambers, director of marketing analytics at Hershey Entertainment & Resorts. The company began working with direct marketing firm Air Marketing in 2007 in order to consolidate data across its customer relationship channels, sales, accounting and finance departments.

The theme park now has four audiences it targets with unique messaging: its family customers, couples segment, spa visitors and golfers. Hershey's uses a combination of mailings, customer micro-sites and e-mail to connect with customers. A general brochure is still sent to all of the customer segments. After that, customers receive a follow-up postcard that is aligned with the recipient's interest category, such as golf. The post card directs the recipient to a PURL, or personalized URL, that provides original content aligned with their interest. For example, golfers might find an “insider's tip sheet” and spa-goers will see a health and wellness-related article.

“Consumers are tired of the old way of direct marketing,” Elaine Ralls, president of Air Marketing, told DMNews.

There are many companies that are looking to capture and then analyze marketing and customer data across their organizations. However, Ralls believes her company has hit a “sweet spot” by tying in financial and accounting information as well. In the case of Hershey's, Air Marketing is able to predict how much revenue various customers within each segment will bring in.

“We're really speaking to each customer specifically,” Lambers explained. “The offers on the page would be based on who already spends more with the park.”

Lambers recognized the importance of using both direct mail and e-mail to engage consumers. He explained that guests could opt in to an e-mail program that would also personalize content and alert them to deals within their segment audience. The PURL microsite is attached to the regular Hersheypark site so that users can explore additional options after being served their customized ads. Lambers said that the approach has been successful enough that his company plans to continue to use new segmented data in order to promote holiday specials during Christmas and New Year's 2009.

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