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The four questions you should ask to check you’ve got your category management basics in place

With all the media hype around shopper marketing, technological advances and digital, brands need to make sure they remember to invest adequate time and effort in ensuring that the Category Management basics are kept in focus.
The changes in today’s retail environment show no sign of slowing. It is vital that the decisions made across categories, products and merchandising are shopper-driven. You need to know who your shoppers are and to understand how their changing behaviour impacts your category and sales of your product. Intelligent use of basic Category Management skills will enable you to know where to invest to support sales of your products.

Four simple questions you should be asking on a regular basis are:
Q1 Are the right products in-store?
It sounds obvious but a product needs to meet shoppers’ and consumer’s needs. Delving into the data that exists looking at your own and your competitors’ products can provide insight on how shoppers respond to different product concepts and what sorts of trends are emerging.

Q2 Is the price right?
Knowing what price will optimise sales of your product is key to brand success. Too high and you will alienate shoppers; too low and you are wasting potential profit.

Q3 Is your product in the right place?
Understanding shoppers’ missions when they come into the store means you can ensure your product is available where it is expected. This is not just in terms of location in store but also position on-shelf and number of facings. Shoppers do not want to work hard to find what they need and they want their movement around the store to be efficient in terms of purchasing related or complementary products that will fulfil their shopping mission.

Q4 Do you have the right promotional plan?
A promotional plan needs to involve not just promotions but also display, communication and digital. To deliver long-term gain, your activation plan should be tailored to deliver growth for the category – to grow the ‘size of the pie’ rather than just taking greater share.

Using a data-led approach to answering these questions will:
• Enable you to identify the value of the various categories where your product is available and so target investment where it will be the most effective.
• Allow you to collaborate with retailers to optimise the opportunities in-store, from the implementation of initiatives through to post-event performance tracking.
• Improve your ability to match products available to the shoppers’ needs and missions.
• Optimise your category layout while also meeting shopper needs – blocking together the products that shoppers expect to see in the way that they anticipate finding them.
• Improve on-shelf availability through better demand forecasting and analysis of which products are going out of stock and why.

There are reasons why Category Management has been valued by retailers and brands since the 80’s when it was developed by Dr Brian Harris – it works! It is a straightforward data-driven practice that harnesses collaboration between manufacturers and retailers to optimise the shopper’s experience in-store. Making sure the basics are in line with shoppers’ expectations and market conditions should be an everyday exercise.

Where we believe real opportunity exists is by taking the learnings of the past – Category Management – and adapting the solution to reflect future trends and anticipated changes in shopper and consumer demands. We term this new philosophy Category Development – a process where Big River Solutions’ expertise can make an tangible difference in future-proofing a brand by employing a forward-looking perspective.

We believe that Category Management/Development doesn’t have to be the huge unwieldy job that larger manufacturers invest in. Smaller brands particularly benefit from our style of support, where we select the Category Management steps that deliver the biggest wins for the product. Our bespoke service allows us to be a cost-effective and agile solution that becomes part of the dynamic marketing process with review activity that enables learning to be incorporated into future plans.
Category Management has stood the test of time in delivering a measurable effect on the success of a brand. If your product isn’t where the shopper expects it to be either in store or on shelf; if the packaging is off-key; if the price is wrong then your sales will suffer. Neglect it at your peril!

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