Non-existent strategies

Once again, the demise of category management has been trumpeted in the pages of Marketing Week.

Category management will inevitably fail if it is installed in isolation from a total retail strategy which creates sustainable differentiation. Out of context, it will amount to little more than re-arranging deckchairs on the Titanic. This error has been compounded by adopting labour-intensive analysis.

The mission of category management is to provide customers with an experience which meets their needs, is pleasurable rather than a chore and is time-efficient.

Meeting shoppers’ needs is exactly what marketing is, and should be, about. Different retailers have customers with different needs and desires, and this provides a vital opportunity for meaningful differentiation. However, at the centre of category management must be implementation, as stated in the article. Without effective implementation, it remains an intellectual exercise in data dissection.

Another benefit of category management is that it has reduced many of the counter-productive barriers which existed between retailers and manufacturers. There is a more open relationship in place, which enables business solutions to be identified.

Category management will continue to evolve from the overweight template-based systems, to form an active part of core retail strategy. The quick wins have been realised: the harder challenge is to make further gains to surprise and delight shoppers. I look forward to the next obituary

Philip Harlow

Hogarth Marketing Specialists

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