'Tis the Season for Prospecting at Hershey's Direct

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It's prospecting season at Hershey's Direct, as the kisses and candy merchant prepares to drop its first fall book to reach homes of "choc-aholics" on Sept. 8.


The chocolate merchant mails variations of three core books per year. The first book covers Halloween, Thanksgiving and the winter holidays and is mailed September through December; the second book mails in January and February for Valentine's Day; and the third book mails in March or April for Easter.


The catalog, which is designed by Triple Strength Graphics, Palmyra, PA, is mailed to more than 5 million customers and prospects each year. The company uses The Lake Group, Rye, NY, Clark.Mackain, New York, and Mokrynski & Associates, Hackensack, NJ, for list brokerage.


Fall also will be a busy season for the chocolate marketer because it is trying to grow its catalog business.


Along those lines, Hershey's plans to include a catalog source code feature on its site by January so it can track which customers are shopping via catalog.


"It takes a lot of hours and dollars to make that change," said Chris Kerkendall, direct marketing manager at Hershey's Direct, Hershey, PA. "We're trying to grow the business and we just can't [make] a huge investment without making sure that we're getting return on our investment. So, we're just putting our toes in the water and going slowly."


The reason it would be such a considerable investment for the merchant is that Hershey's still has two different customer databases -- one of catalog buyers and one of Internet buyers. "They're not speaking together," Kerkendall said, "so we've been matching them back on the back end, a customer name, address, to see if they were a previous customer, who they are."


Mike Wychocki, executive vice president at direct marketing services firm HagginGroup, San Francisco, thinks that seizing source codes is a crucial ingredient for catalogers to learn about their customers.


"Without capturing the source code, you may have reduced your order cost, but you've also reduced the value of that information," Wychocki said.


"When we do test-sell analysis -- whether it's house file, new lists, demographic or psychographic cuts within a list -- and/or then we overlay it with different promotional offers, we can create a whole test-sell for a cataloger because they spend all this money testing and [if] they capture 60 percent of the test sells, [they] have to then do some statistical modeling to figure out the other 40 percent," Wychocki said.


The Hershey's catalog debuted in the late 1970s but was only mailed to customers in the Hershey, PA, area. It's only in the past few years that the company has focused its efforts on growing the catalog business, Kerkendall said. The Hershey's Web site, www.hersheysgifts.com, which has been e-commerce enabled since 1986, was revamped last year.


Arandell Corp., Menomonee Falls, WI, handles printing for the Hershey's book. Hershey's handles order fulfillment inhouse.
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