COVID vs Online Category Management

As shoppers do more of their shopping online, the online channel needs to keep up with the changing demands of shoppers and evolving channel capabilities.

A suppliers role

Many suppliers have become very adept at delivering category management initiatives for bricks and mortar stores. Unfortunately, when it comes to online, this can be an afterthought. The good news is that online retailers are looking for suppliers to help them grow.

A supplier’s role is to provide insight and guidance on how to deliver for shoppers, fulfilling their needs and expectations. The principles of category management implemented in-store need to be adapted for online.

When you are designing your category strategies ensure that online is part of the consideration set with specific opportunities, strategies and tactics identified. Build-in an understanding of your shoppers’ needs and expectations at the heart of your strategy and tactics. Buy the right data, conduct research and lead your categories.

A proposed approach

CPG companies should create a data-driven approach. Buying relevant online data, and when running shopper research, add online as a critical channel.  In these COVID times, we are beginning to see the break-up of the traditional channel mix that allows physical and online to sit side by side. Today online is the channel of choice, and as we enter the fourth week of state-mandated lockdown in the UK there will be little change in shopping behaviour

Understanding the role that your category plays in the online channel is a good starting point. Confirming how important is your product is to the overall basket is essential in determining which channel will elect to be the preferred point of purchase? Is your category the same online as instore? Do shoppers expect to find a different set of products in your category to those that they plan to see in-store?

A good starting point is to audit all online stores thoroughly. What is the store doing overall to the category? How is the category being promoted? What is the category range?

Review performance. How is each platform performing v each other? How is my category performing? How is the sku performing? Look outside your category within your optimum retailers, but also look more broadly to other retailers who wouldn’t historically sell your category. What can you learn? What can you copy?

Set KPIs, know what is expected and what good looks like. Don’t be put off by a lack of data. Choose the correct metrics and try to source data to support these.

Having an evolving approach, investigating and understanding shopper and channel trends, and creating suitable strategies and tactics will make you a leading supplier. This approach will allow you to sit at a retailers table.

How can Big River Solutions help

With over 20 years of experience in category management, Big River Solutions are ideally placed to assist in the development of practices, tools, and processes that help to put online at the heart of your category management approach.