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How The Hershey Company sweetened the digital experience with Algolia Search

The bulk of our website traffic — about 70 - 80 percent of consumer traffic — comes from inspirational content. We didn’t have a good experience for people to search for recipes and crafts. The way Algolia works has really made a difference for people to find what they are looking for on our sites.

Jamie Weaver

Digital Experience Lead @ The Hershey Company

Summary

One of the world’s largest and most famous confectionary companies, The Hershey Company has a reputation for quality. Part of maintaining that means providing consumers with the inspirational digital content they are looking for quickly and easily. When its existing search platform was retiring, the chocolate company looked for a way to better help consumers find what they were looking for. Find out how implementing Algolia helped do that while making it easier for business and technology teams to improve digital experiences.

Hershey
Use case

B2C Ecommerce

Headquarters

Hershey, Pa., USA

Customer since

since 2021

Feature usage

Algolia API, Recommend, Insights API, Rules, Visual Editor, Query Suggestions, A/B Testing, Facets & Filters

Key results
  • Improved engagement and stickiness

  • Better customer experience

  • Less time on deployment and maintenance

Key numbers
  • Fast search (results in > 50 ms)

The challenges

  • 1.

    Cumbersome, end-of-life search platform

  • 2.

    Unable to support rich content

  • 3.

    Hard to make updates and changes

The solution

  • 1.

    Quick implementation

  • 2.

    Out-of-the-box features

  • 3.

    Highly scalable across global sites

  • 4.

    Easy to use for business and IT teams

The result

  • 1.

    Requests returned in < 50 ms

  • 2.

    Improved engagement and stickiness

  • 3.

    Better customer experience

  • 4.

    Less time on deployment and maintenance

One of the largest chocolate manufacturers in the world, The Hershey Company is the renowned home to some of the most iconic confectionary brands such as Kit Kat, Jolly Rancher, Reese’s, and, of course, Hershey’s. 

Founded in 1894 by chocolatier, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Milton S. Hershey, the company has approximately 17,000 employees globally, supporting more than 90 brands that drive more than $8 million in annual revenues. The company is headquartered in Hershey, Pa., the company town its eponymous founder built in the early 1900s to house its employees. 

Known for “bringing goodness to the world,” for its more than 125 years of operations, The Hershey Company has been committed to fair, ethical, and sustainable business. The company, like its founder, has a focus on quality products but also on educating youth and helping children succeed. 

Each of the company’s many brands retains its own personality, something that the confectionary giant’s digital experience teams strive to maintain from their offices in the company’s original chocolate factory.

Its relatively small Digital Experience Solutions team provides IT marketing solutions in close collaboration with the broader Digital Experience team responsible to The Hershey Company’s various brands and marketing stakeholders. 

“Hershey has a long-standing tradition of business and IT teams operating separately but coming together to achieve desired outcomes,” says Geoff Lyman, The Hershey Company’s Digital Experience Solutions Manager, of the company’s unique approach to cross-collaboration. 

As part of that unified focus, any solutions developed are designed to scale across all brand and corporate sites. The Digital Experience team, says its lead Jamie Weaver, sits on the crossroads where business, technology, and the consumer meet.

“Our whole role is to make sure we keep the consumer focus — keep them at the center of what we work on. But we must also work with the business to achieve their goals and work with the technology to bring it all together,” Weaver says.

Hershey image

A timely need to improve search

In 2021, when the company’s existing search solution Adobe Search & Promote was reaching the end of its lifecycle, the company recognized it needed a new solution. 

With the previous search platform, the company was unable to support online merchandising. “The management piece was really lacking with Search & Promote,” Lyman says. “The UI and admin panel was crazy. You might as well have been looking at a Linux database.” 

Even small changes, such as a few words would require heavy manual configuration by the solutions team and take an entire deployment schedule to implement. “Everything was hard-coded, so we couldn’t modify anything on the site to change the experience,” Lyman adds.

The Hershey Company needed a search solution that provided them with scalability and allowed for fast and easy updating. It also needed to better support inspirational content, not simply product information.

"The bulk of our traffic — somewhere between 70 and 80 percent of consumer traffic — comes from inspirational content. We didn’t have a good experience for people to search for recipes and crafts.” Jamie Weaver, Digital Experience Lead, The Hershey Company.

Out-of-the-box features with Algolia

Lyman was familiar with Algolia, having tracked the platform’s growth and successes for several years. He saw an opportunity to implement an out-of-the-box solution that would improve their search capabilities. 

The Hershey Company implemented a wide range of the platform’s features, including Search, Recommend, Insights, Rules, Visual Editor, Query Suggestions, A/B Testing, and Facets & Filters. 

The company developed a custom instant search implementation to integrate with its Adobe Commerce (Magento) e-commerce platform. It’s using Algolia’s crawler to scrape content from its CMS, Adobe Experience Cloud, and set up indices.

Hershey image

The company engaged with Algolia’s Jumpstart program to aid in the planning and development of its implementation. It launched its first Algolia-powered site in February of 2022 and has since rolled its remaining 11 customer-facing sites to the platform. 

“I think we’ve grown leaps and bounds with Algolia. There's a lot of features that we still can tap into, which is great because I feel like we've gotten a ton out of it already.” 

From a support perspective, Algolia is always available and responsive, during and after the Jumpstart program. The program itself proved especially beneficial in that it helped investigate both the business team and solution team’s goals and built towards meeting them. 

“We had a really custom, unique use case, and we were able to rebuild it with the help of that program,” Lyman says. “It was really good.”

Hershey image

Better Engagement with Recommend and Insights

Having used the Recommend feature briefly, Lyman says that — given the inspirational content the company tries to surface for its visitors — he expects it to become a popular feature in the future. 

Using A/B Testing around the customer journey with Recommend, Lyman found that its websites saw “stickiness rates increase dramatically; engagement rates were up, bounce rates were down.” “So, when we can add that to all of our products and recipe pages, and have it going automatically, it will provide scale and efficiency — helping us achieve our business goals.” 

Weaver says that insights provided by Algolia are helping The Hershey Company’s Digital Experience team to close any gaps between the content the company’s websites offer and what visitors are searching for.

“Continuous optimization is really a big piece for us now,” she says. Her team constantly uses the analytics provided through Algolia to see what can be improved around the customer experience. 

Meanwhile, Lyman’s solution team’s focus has shifted from configuring search and fixing problems to iterating, maintaining, and improving the websites. 

He praised how easy Algolia Visual Editor and Rules make merchandising. While on a recent paternity leave, he was able to set up rules to promote upcoming holidays and events so they would be in place while he was away.

Little things. Big difference.

“The way Algolia works has really made a difference for people to find what they are looking for on our sites,” Weaver says. 

One capability has had a particularly huge impact. “It was a giant step forward for us with our consumers that we can use images in search results,” she says. “The little things that we didn’t have before, even just the fact that it’s faster.” 

She points to how easy Algolia is to use for both her business team and Lyman’s solutions team, and the access to Algolia Academy for online training when needed. In addition, Lyman calls the technical documentation “really robust.” 

With so many confectionary products across so many countries, AI Synonyms functionality has proved helpful for the famous candy manufacturer. “For example, we had an implementation in Canada, where it automatically recognized biscuits and cookies as synonyms and made recommendations based on that.

Hershey image

The Hershey Company has seen some sweet results against key performance metrics since implementing Algolia, including a dramatic reduction in ‘no results’ rate, and speed of search consistently around 50 milliseconds. 

The speed experienced by consumers isn’t the only thing fast. The ease that the digital experience teams now have around updates and implementation means less time is spent deploying iterative improvements to the customer experience and more time is spent improving them based on the insights they can now glean.

Hershey image

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