Progressive Grocer

2017 Category Management Handbook

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Progressive Grocer: How important is efficiency in the retail industry today, compared to even five years ago? Why? Mark Hardy: The world we live in today is an incredibly fast-paced, constantly changing, and super connected place where information moves at the speed of thought. Or at least, at the speed of thumbs typing on a touchscreen. Technology now is exponentially superior to the technology of just a few years ago. Ever heard of Moore's Law, from Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, which accurately predicted that "the number of transistors incorporated in a chip will approximately double every 24 months"? That has held true for more than 50 years. Or maybe you're familiar with Kurzweil's Law of Accelerating Returns, which states that "fundamental measures of information technology follow predictable and exponential trajectories." Because of how quickly technology can change the way we live, it can be hard to keep up. Nowhere is this more prevalent that in the retail and CPG industries. Formerly small, online startup companies like Dollar Shave Club and Casper have disrupted the way the industry operates, creating anxiety for traditional brick and mortar stores that haven't made many changes when it comes to the shopper experience. Retailers and manufacturers are now scrambling to figure out how to work smarter and save money in order to stay afloat in this ever- changing space. Efficiency is becoming a huge discussion point and necessity for retail executives. How can we streamline our entire process, from category management to merchandising to marketing to sales? PG: What are some methods or technologies that category managers should be employing to help mitigate some of those costs and streamline efficiency? MH: Category managers don't have an easy job. They are tasked with ensuring the category as a whole performs well, which includes driving the pricing, assortment, arrangement, marketing and promotions for that category. They must have excellent relationships with vendors and retailers and a keen focus on consumer trends. Speaking with... Mark Hardy Chief Executive Officer, InCOntExt SOlutIOnS Since this is a complicated process, there are technologies that are helping streamline the role of a category manager. They should be looking at loyalty data and social media data to stay in tune with shopper needs and get a read on local vs. state or nationwide trends. They should advocate for omni- channel integration, which makes it easier to learn what customers are buying online, in-store, and on the go, and making changes as necessary. Category managers should also make sure there is an efficient POS system in place, helping to determine SKU count and manage accordingly. Lastly, we know that virtual reality simulations are dramatically helping category mangers save time and money, with the ability to get quick, accurate reads on how a new shelf arrangement, SKU count, or new product introduction will fair with customers. PG: What traits of virtual reality, specifically, make it an efficient technology for category management solutions vs. traditional methods? MH: VR technology is inherently risk-free. This is simply because virtual reality is just that—taking a real-life environment and creating it within a virtual space. This allows users to quickly and easily view a new concept, make changes to it, test it, and communicate its value to outside teams and partners, all before creating anything in the real world. So, for category management professionals, it offers a way to learn how changes, say during a yearly category review, will fair in the market before those changes are ever implemented. This eliminates the need for mock store build-outs, travel expenses, and unnecessary labor costs and diminishes the time it takes to go to market. The only hesitation is simply the fear of the unknown—for many category managers, business has traditionally been run a certain way, and to change is a big step for the industry. However, in a time where the retail landscape is changing in leaps and bounds—and in which virtual reality is becoming mainstream and growing and unprecedented rates— category managers need to break away from the status quo, and learn how technology, like virtual reality, is allowing the retail industry to keep up with changing consumer needs. Q A & How VR can make category management more efficient S P O N S O R E D C O N T E N T

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