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Why Hershey Co. chose SMS – not beacons – for in-store engagement

Despite the buzz surrounding beacons, The Hershey Co. is opting to leverage SMS text messaging to activate in-store shoppers and deliver a coupon.

Heading into 2015, a big focus for retailers and brands is how best to engage in-store shoppers via the smartphones in their hands with the goal of driving sales. While beacons are often pointed to as a way to accomplish this goal, they do have a few shortcomings – including limited reach – which is why marketers such as The Hershey Co. are taking another look at SMS, which can reach a broad audience on mobile.

“The SMS campaign provides us with a unique opportunity to engage with the consumer beyond just an initial interaction with the point of sale,” said Anna Lingeris, senior manager of public relations and consumer engagement at The Hershey Co.

“Additionally, the SMS call-to-action provides us with the ability to reward our consumer for the extra interaction,” she said.

“Certainly, clipping coupons via more traditional vehicles (FSIs, etc.) is still very much present but in a world of increased digital technology and capabilities, the digital coupon that’s given to the user via SMS campaign provides them with an

increased and convenient user experience.”

Casting a wide net
The Reese’s in-store activation enables shoppers to opt-in to receive entertainment tips, known as Reese’s Rules, via SMS text messages.

Participants will also receive a coupon for future Reese’s purchases.

In-store shoppers are encouraged to text REESES to a short code. They then receive a message with a tip or snacking idea and are asked to input their email address so they can get a coupon.

Customers then receive a message informing them that their coupon will be in their email inbox soon. The coupon is sent from

The campaign is an example of how marketers who are looking to reach the widest possible audience on mobile are taking a wait-and-see approach to beacons and betting on tried-and-true tactics such as SMS.

However, the role of SMS going forward could shrink as beacons gain wider acceptance.

“Until beacons hit mass adoption, CPGs will attempt to reach the largest audience possible by using the lowest common denominator, which in this case is SMS,” said Maya Mikhailov, executive vice president and co-founder of GPShopper, New York.

“In 2015, SMS will diminish in importance as we’ll see more solid beacon rollouts and can expect CPGs such as Reese’s to use BLE, geo-targeted push notifications, and other more engaging and dynamic technology to capture consumer attention,” she said.

Playoff Pandemonium
The in-store program is part of a bigger campaign, Reese’s Playoff Pandemonium, designed to help football fans celebrate and entertain during the playoff season. The effort features comedian Jeff Foxworthy playing the part of Ref Foxworthy, who will be providing tips in-store, via social media and on a mobile-optimized campaign site.

The tips will be featured in short, humorous videos on the brand’s social media platforms. The rules include “Tackling is permitted when someone grabs the last Reese’s Miniature” and “Pass interference may be called for not sharing your Reese’s Minis.”

Football fans will also be able to share their own entertaining rules or images using the hashtag #ReesesGameday.

Complementary tactics
With consumers leveraging mobile during all the phases of the shopping journey, there are numerous opportunities for in-store engagements, some of which may be better suited for SMS and some for beacons.

For example, to engage a consumer in-store via beacons, the consumer would have to have an app or a wallet pass/object installed on their device.

In the end, both may continue to exist side by side.

“Marketers shouldn’t think of SMS and Beacons as an either/or choice,” said Jack Philbin, CEO of Vibes, Chicago. “It should be both, as Beacons and SMS are both fantastic channels via which to deliver personalized, location-relevant experiences to consumers.

“SMS is the easiest way to begin a conversation with a consumer,” he said.  “Everyone knows how to text and every phone can text.

“Reese’s can use SMS messages to send links driving consumers to other mobile experiences (sites/apps) they are looking to promote.  SMS works as a fantastic jump-off point to other mobile experiences.  Once you use SMS to get them to install the Pass in Passbook or the App for iPhone for example, then you can trigger engagement via beacons in-store.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York