How to Improve Category Management Efficiency

By Vladik Rikhter

Category Management

It seems that once we entered the 21st century, people in a variety of professions were expected to do more and know more with the use of technology. Technology leads to better communication, which in turn leads to improved oversight, greater efficiency and more responsibility on the employee level.

Nowadays, retail category managers are men and women who wear many hats. Their job is to oversee their categories from start to finish, from creating a strategy, determining merchandise assortment, developing planograms, pricing products and promoting them to market.

Category managers need technology to be effective communicators. Essentially, they’re bringing a corporate strategy into the real world, which has a direct impact on the customer experience.

How do they do it all? Most importantly, how do they do it well?

Global management and strategy consulting firm Kurt Salmon identifies seven facets of modern category management. Effective category managers should do the following:

1. Walk in their customers’ shoes because the modern retail environment is all about the customer experience.

2. Truly integrate with software platforms to bridge the gap between planning and execution.

3. Develop strong category strategies by using data to drive unique insights and linking them back to the category management process in an efficient way.

4. Use clean, accurate data because accuracy is key to the company’s ability to harness analytics that drive decision making which in turn improves the customer experience.

5. Translate data into actionable insights to drive smart decision-making. Kurt Salmon found that category management teams spent 80 percent of their time gathering and organizing data, and only 20 percent of their time developing actionable insights. The uneven time split indicates a missed opportunity for retailers.

6. Localize and personalize the customer experience, particularly in terms of merchandising and pricing. Retail companies can no longer afford to have a “one-size-fits-all” approach to retail execution; they must have flexibility at the store level.

7. Start planning for the future today. Retailers need a clear roadmap to manage and measure progress. They need to develop new processes that enable them to respond in real time to changing customer preferences and real-life scenarios, from changing weather that could affect sales to changes in vendor delivery schedules.

The Takeaway

Today, online competitors are knocking at the door of every brick-and-mortar retailer. Survival — and hopefully success — depend on efficiency in category management, the heart of the business.

Time will prove that the most successful retailers are nimble, self-sufficient in their processes, responsive to customers, and highly aware of the surrounding competitive environment.

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