The Evolution of Category Leadership

Posted by Jason Smith on November 17, 2016

Are You a Category Leader?
(Check out the infographic below)

Recently there has been a lot of dialog around CatMan2.0 and how the category management process needs to evolve. Largely driven by technology and the evolving demands of consumers, category management has experienced a transformational shift. Category leadership [infographic] is a proactive way to increase sales and use available data to drastically change the way we market and sell. It involves becoming a true partner and bringing forward new ideas that will benefit the retailer as well as your brand.

Traditional Methods Just Don’t Cut It Anymore

Traditional category management methods typically rely on combing through massive amounts of data all focused on what has already happened in the marketplace.  Many times this data is National or Regional in focus and can frequently be extremely dated.  I can often remember trying to leverage Decision Trees or Gold Standard Planograms from HQ that were years old and which were not relevant or transferable to my account.  The art and the science of it all is taking this directional information and trying to determine what we “think” will happen in the future at our retailer.

Unfortunately the accuracy of these predictions tend to be based more off luck vs real insight.  Even if the recommendations are well thought out and pragmatic, shoppers and retailers are changing faster than we can manage. Strictly looking in the rear view mirror makes it very difficult to understand the impact that your ideas will have. Too often people in category management hide behind opportunity gaps, based on historical data, as a way of predicting what their new ideas will do.  In my 15 years in the industry, I have yet to see an opportunity gap that has been fully realized!

Although this strategy can  yield valuable findings, more and more people in category management are running into the same problem that makes it nearly impossible to predict performance – What happens if I am introducing a new concept, product, arrangement, etc. that has never been tried before.  How can I predict the performance if there is no data to tell me what to do?  Far too often we recommend what feels like the right idea and then when it is implemented we cross our fingers hoping that we were in the ballpark.

So how can someone in category management improve the accuracy of their recommendations and become a category leader?  The answer might be simpler than you might think. 

1st – Don’t stop doing what you are already doing, dig deeper.

Historical data is still extremely important in identifying “dig sites” or areas of opportunity. The best barometer of future performance is still evaluating the past.  The data is there for the analyzing so why not start with what you have, to figure out what ideas to begin to evaluate. 

2nd – Focus more attention on understanding current category and shopper behaviors

Proactively testing and gauging real-time shopper preferences, along with using the most relevant data available, can provide you with a competitive advantage. Historic perception has been that capturing this information can be either extremely expensive or very difficult to obtain but thanks to advances in technology you can get at this for a lot less time and effort.

3rd – Take advantage of technology advancements. 

In the old days (pre 2009), if you wanted to test out a new concept you had only a couple of options; a) conduct an in-store test with your retailer or b) develop a central location test or focus group and evaluate shopper feedback.  Unfortunately these tactics are typically either very time consuming, very expensive or they expose your ideas to your competition. Now thanks to virtual reality, instead of waiting anywhere from 6-12 months to test your concept, you can quickly create and validate your new concept with real world performance in a couple weeks.

VR can help close the gap and help you evolve from category management to category leadership [infographic]. Rather than looking to the past for answers, VR uses current shopper data to drive future-forward decisions. In a fraction of the time, numerous concepts can be visualized in hyper-realistic virtual stores and tested, with real shoppers, without manually constructing expensive displays or mock-ups. Concepts can be easily shared with a wide audience, providing the feedback needed to know if the decisions being considered will result in the desired outcome.

Vitamin Shelf-158107-edited.png

Lead, don’t follow. If category management is important to your company, evolving into a category leader should be a priority, and VR can lead that evolution.

Learn more about how our VR solutions drive faster, smarter, and more profitable decisions at retail.

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 Evolution of Category Leadership

Jason Smith

Jason is the VP of Customer Success.

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