What does a category manager do?
A question no doubt many companies have asked when trying to justify a budget to hire one…
Simply put the category manager is ultimately responsible for what the shopper sees at the fixture and I’m not just talking about the planogram (shelf layout) its everything that the shoppers sees at the fixture and even some of the things on the way to the fixture. This could include prompted signage, category markers, category usage tips etc. But this doesn’t happen by chance, a large quantity of detailed work takes place in the background before you arrive at the optimum display and perfect planogram. This is where the term ‘The right range, the right products in the right place with the right space’ comes from.
The Category manager must first weigh through endless quantities of detailed information (research based or market data/epos) shopper behaviour, shopper needs/wants and from this information he/she will identify category & shopper insights, these insights will form the basis of a strategy to drive growth for the category and in turn for the retailer or supplier. The strategy will be part of a process (the eight steps) and will result in a number of possible changes to range, display, space and communications to the trade, company and shopper.
What do category managers do on an average day?
A category managers day is very diverse and may include many different things from analysing data to gain insights, meeting suppliers/retailers to discuss plans, briefing market research companies, updating category reports, inputting into NPD or promotions, reviewing planograms or retailers PGR’s (planogram reviews).. well you get the message their busy people.
Who do category managers work with?
The category manager is the glue of any good company that sells goods to the public or sells goods to the retailers, they work with marketing, research companies, trade marketing, supply chain and commercial departments to ensure a common category message and strategy is understood and implemented. This may include what motivates the shopper, what trends there are in the category, what our competitors are up to, what strategies are the retailers implementing etc. etc. this information is vital in the decision making for where companies need to focus on who they need to focus on and what they need to focus i.e. category, range or product.
What skills make a great category manager?
Category managers require a range of skills and capabilities, analytical to understand what the data is telling you to turn into insights, commercial awareness to understand what’s happening in the trade, persuasiveness to sell the idea both internal and external, communication to ensure the message is heard!, drive and passion to inspire and project management to ensure all the bits of the process are managed, implemented and communicated.
What is the goal of a category manager?
The ultimate goal of any good category manager is to drive customer/shopper satisfaction and in doing so increase category sales or profit, note the two most important words ‘Category’ and ‘Shopper’ not brand or product. A great category manager will always ask the question
“what needs or behaviours are driving category sales?”
which results in
“by implementing this change we can improve customer/shopper satisfaction and in turn drive category growth”.
By remaining focused on the shopper and continuing to strive for more ways to make the shopping experience better, chances are you will continue to grow.
What the category manager is not
A brand manager, a marketing manager, a space planner or a key accountant. Sometimes especially in smaller companies the category management function is diluted or is mis-understood, the category manager could find themselves producing weekly/monthly sales reports and nothing else or find themselves only working on planograms and range. These functions may indeed sit under the control of the category manager but should not be their sole purpose, their purpose as outlined above is to be the glue in a companies overall understanding of who the customer is, what the customer is doing and how do we satisfy and exceed our customers expectations.
Anyway that’s my view hope you agree…..
Dear all I agree with you , regarding what should do a category manager and what shouldn’t do. The small companies who don’t have enough resources to pay all the positions under category manager , they will spent more time and more money , in order to achieve the final goals : increased category turnover and profit . That’s why they are not confident and not invest enough in this process. How we can help them ? I have been working as Category manager and Purchasing manager in pharmaceutical market , for more than 10 years. I worked for small companies and also for big companies. I t was a terrible struggle for me in the small companies. Best regards , Elena Apostu
Gerry Byrne says
Hi Elena, thank you for your comments and insight into the challenges many Category Managers face in small to medium companies. You’re absolutely correct many companies don’t fully understand how category management can deliver more profit/sales etc. and misunderstand its real function. This is why you must always keep focusing on your shoppers/customers and what they need from your business, this in turn will drive more sales/profit and a better understanding of what you need to do with the individual categories to achieve this goal. As long as you stay true to the principles of category management your business will always succeed 🙂