Small Brands Using Software to Optimize Category Management

March 3, 2015


One of the strategies small businesses can use to acquire and retain retail partners is optimized category management; that is, the effective managing of the vendor side of a relationship. Marketing and Customer Management expert Toby Desforges says the once lost art of retailer-vendor collaboration is back in full swing. Here’s how small brands, armed with Field Activity Management software, can prove they are up to the challenge.

1. Vendor Alignment:

It is imperative for vendors to remember that when retailers take on brands, their goals are set with an entire category in mind. For instance , the retailer is concerned about selling snacks, not just Mike’s Granola Bars. In category management, that means the vendor needs to prove to the retailer that they are aligned with the store’s wider interests. It is important to show that your brand will not only sell on its own, but will encourage the overall sales of the category that envelopes it.

One way to prove to a prospective retail partner that a small brand aligns with their goals is by showing data on product sales. With a solution like Field Activity Management software, back-office managers can view sales data for each of their clients, and send it in real-time to the retailer. This information can show when and where your products perform well, allowing the retailer to better determine your alignment with their goals.

2. Category Relationships:

Once a small business has identified and acquired a retail location with aligned goals, managers will need to understand who they will be working with. In many cases, managers and their reps may not be working directly with the retailer’s staff, but with category captains or an outsourced merchandiser hired by the captains. These are individuals who have their own brand on the shelves and, in exchange for the prime location, are merchandising and promoting an entire category. Because they have an agreement with the retailer that they will run the category as a “business within a business,” it is crucial they choose brands who have reliable, proactive, and accountable reps.

Software solutions like Field Activity Management software institute a system of accountability for the reps merchandising your brand. Through features like digital retail audits and geo-tagged photos, small business managers can demonstrate to retailers that their team is reliable and will be an asset to the category. That way, it’s a win-win-win situation. The captains ensure an organized category; your brand gets a retail location; and the customer is served better overall, which is the ultimate goal of category management.

3. Real-Time Insight

Previously, category captains saw a divide between “consumer marketing,” that targeted the overall shopping experience in a retail store and “shopper marketing,” that targeted a specific shopper to buy a specific product. Desforges argues that because their is an unmistakable correlation between the two, separating them would create inconsistent category management. Therefore, a brand that can offer any aid to the convergence of the two to their retailer will be given more consideration than its competitors.

To gain more insight into customer wants on a real-time basis, small brands using a software solution like Field Activity Management software can conduct in-store surveys, asking about specific brands as well as the entire category. There are a number of Field Activity Management software tools that allow back-office managers to create custom forms, such as a survey. Those results can then be sent to your retail partner or category captains in real time through the Cloud. The retailer’s access to an aligned and accountable vendor who can consistently provide updated customer information will be a huge strategic advantage for the retailer, and make the brand a more attractive choice.

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