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Thought Leadership - Sharing insights

August 6, 2018

World-class category development at the heart of your business

At Big River Solutions we help brands grow, we help categories flourish and we help clients reach their potential. We like developing world-class category development. That’s what we do. Our objectivity and integrity is a currency we don’t spend rashly.

World-class category development is complex and there are times when the project brief may need to be refined to meet client output KPI’s.  If we can do it we will, if we can’t we’ll recommend those who can. Why? Our brand has been built on trust and delivery.

We’re old school. We believe that shopper marketing is the activation plan of category development initiatives. All that stuff that takes place in-store, that’s shopper marketing. Some of it may have a tactical objective but most should be strategic, delivering against a long-term shopper behaviour changing plan.

Companies who appoint a team to develop a world-class category development project only to recognise the shopper activation element will be disappointed, there’s a lot more to it than that.

Category development starts with a category vision, includes category developing NPD and efficient use of the instore resource – the shelf. Recognising only the in-store activation as signifying success, devalues the longer term ROI.

Recently we have been working with brands who can see the potential but can’t quite make the difference needed to get noticed. Some of these brands believe that activation is the key to success and they are right to an extent.

This is where we step in. We help brands engage retailers in their story.  New brands reach out to us when they need help in gaining a deeper understanding of the market. We shine a light on that market for new or existing brands. We provide a detailed understanding of the category in question. We can help you quickly identify the opportunities, threats and development areas required across process, practice, performance and identify the size of the prize. We help the client highlight the budget requirements to support the plan.

Activation is quite rightly an important part of the shopper marketing, but not the whole exercise. World class category development is the sum of all the parts. Missteps in these areas and the results can become skewed.

It always surprises me where we find our inspiration. In 2004 I was in Orlando waiting in line for the Aerosmith ride. Back then it was a world-class ride hence the queue. I wanted to have a go. I wanted to say to my friends I had done that ride. It was personal to me. I had a 90 minutes wait, a notebook and a pen. By the time I stepped onto the ride I had mapped out our new methodology for clients who were prepared to wait but where shoppers had more exacting needs.

‘Adding world class category development to the heart of your business’. It has 5 steps:

  • What’s the opportunity? Driven by consumer/shopper/customer/category insights
  • Who and where to target – understand the 5 W’s and H
  • Develop the proposition and identify what’s the opportunity? Consumer/shopper/customer/category value
  • How to activate
  • Right measures – setting KPI’s.

This process has been used regularly to help brands develop opportunities.

World-class category development at the heart of your business
World-class category development at the heart of your business

Using this stepped process ensures we start by understanding what we are are trying to do, who is the target, the size of the opportunity and what success looks like.

This encourages collaborative working, creating agile solutions and delivering the optimum outcome. Not only do we design the ‘strategic plane’ but we help you land the plane as well, using our operational expertise. At each stage, we roll up our sleeves and deliver the agreed ROI.

Here is our nod to technology. We love it. We encourage it. It’s a key fundamental in any category development process. But technology is not the holy grail for sleeping brands who want to get fit. It’s not the answer to the new ‘disruptors’ who dream of world domination. Like everything in life, technology is part of a blended mix.  The algorithm can process data quickly, and right now,  it can provide a transactional decision for any shopper. But our contention is that technology will never replace human intuition. Or when it does, we humans would have evolved again. We’ve been doing that for centuries.

Today technology, AI, the algorithm, data, (call it whatever you want) is freeing up our quality decision time. How? We no longer think when we put the shopping powder into our basket or the flour, toilet paper, and beans, do we? The machine allows us to buy these online and get it delivered to our pick up point of choice when we want if we choose.

But the machine plays no part in managing my budget, my decision to trade up own label for branded goods or vice versa. The algorithm can’t appeal to my indulgent senses allowing me to swap my usual jam for something more aspirational. Transactional goods are bought out of necessity. The choices we make here are centred around price, product, place and promotion and habit, aren’t they? Yep, that’s correct if your an algorithm. But don’t ignore personalisation. That’s equally compelling in the shopper’s decision tree.

This is all about the brand’s story. The engagement the brand has with me in store, is how I interact with the brand’s attributes including (but not exclusively) trust, integrity and desirability. These are the emotional factors that change what I buy. How that story plays in-store determines what I buy and how often.

That is intuition, insights and experience. That’s the human factor. Like the tip of an iceberg, activation is the bit everyone sees. Just ask the captain of the Titanic… we should never forget the scale of construction below the water line.

In the coming months, we will be publishing case studies that demonstrate this part of world-class category development process in more detail. So bookmark this site and let’s keep in touch.