Did you hear about how Amazon recently beat the entire retail industry in market growth? Online shopping for consumer goods is becoming popular, especially among so-called millennials. Consequently, the consumer packaged goods industry is no doubt changing, making competition even fiercer for store real estate.
So if you want to keep your retail presence, start by thinking like a category manager. Category management is a primary component of a retailer’s success. The objectives are to
- build traffic
- increase transactions, otherwise known as “register rings”
- Improve profits for retailer…in other words, boost gross margin
Physical retailers put a lot of focus on category management, with good reason. If they can’t beat their competition at the shelf, they don’t have a great chance of surviving…especially with competition from ecommerce slowing foot traffic.
A retail category management strategy typically follows this 8 step process:
- Define the category and which products are included or excluded
- Define the role of the category within the store
- Assess the current performance
- Set objectives and targets for the category
- Devise an overall strategy
- Devise specific tactics
- Review results and progress
- I would add this step: evaluate and select partners who use technology that helps improve all other phases
Let’s talk about steps #7 and #8. A retailer can define, assess, set, and devise a category management plan, but if that plan is implemented poorly…and doesn’t rely on retail execution data to measure performance…you risk not being a part of your retailers’ future plans. The reason is that bad store-level execution can undermine even the strongest of category management plans.
So a successful CPG brand should support their retailers’ category management plan by making sure store-level execution is 100% PERFECT. Let’s look at a few key areas where you can help category managers succeed.
Productivity (or performance) management
You’ve got to know how the field team is doing at all times. Measuring performance through rep-level metrics gives you the information you need to ensure visits, projects, and tasks are completed as expected.
How to improve
Use a technology solution that allows field activities to be quickly submitted through mobile field management software as they are completed in-store. This reduces delays in reporting, and improves productivity by giving management the tools to orchestrate an EVERY STORE PERFECT strategy.
Real-time data collection allows you to be nimble and react quickly when an emergency occurs. Having this capability helps to reveal potentially larger problems that can derail a category’s plan. For instance, if a store has experienced a drop in novelty ice cream products, you can quickly determine if your field team may have contributed to the issue and make changes to your field service delivery.
Scheduling and routing
Managing your field service team has to include good scheduling and routing practices. How many reps do you need to make every store perfect? Who has the right skills? Which reps are closest to the store? Managing a field force is critical to supporting category management across all your retail partners.
How to improve
You've got to be able to update schedules, adjust routing, and communicate changes immediately to your field. So you need real-time activity views and geo-stamped images and files, along with store mapping capabilities, to provide hourly insights that can help keep the category management plan on course.
Time-tracking and geocoding each rep ensures you don’t miss a detail before, during, and after a visit. You should be able to view an entire workday in a single dashboard. Each visit, every location, all your field reps. You want to be able to optimize your team’s capabilities, and make the retail execution component of the implementation phase a non-issue.
Retail is an every-second-counts industry. Even when things are running smoothly, you've got to be nimble and responsive to help with category performance. You have to be able to report on
- Shelf/display status
- Damaged goods
- Store survey data
- Audit details and more
You shouldn’t have to worry about which shelves are sitting empty as time…and shoppers…pass by.
How to improve
Adopt a technology that provides shelf-level details. Reps using the right system can submit images with comments, instant messages, visit scripts, and other information before they leave the store. This updated information can be helpful in correcting product availability issues and other problems that can derail a category’s performance.
For example, your reps should know right away if they come across a distribution void. They should have the tools to guide them through an inventory search, place an order if necessary, and schedule a follow-up task automatically to confirm that the void has been filled or cut in.
A key thing to keep in mind: you want your mobile-enabled technology solution to be scalable, allowing you to add millions of SKUs, hundreds of reps, or thousands of stores without a problem.
Ultimately, the implementation of a category management plan is the retailer’s responsibility. But you earn respect and gratitude if your CPG field service team executes in a way that makes EVERY STORE PERFECT. With the right retail execution tools in place