Highlights from the 2022 Category Management Conference

Trax Retail
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Highlights from the 2022 Category Management Conference

Trax was honored to be back with industry peers and experts at the 2022 CMA | SIMA Conference in Orlando, Florida. 

Held at the beautiful Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center Feb. 28 – Mar. 2, the event presented an opportunity for much-needed discussions on the business-critical issues facing today’s retail industry. 

An energetic and curious atmosphere pervaded throughout the convention center as conference-goers conferred on new ideas, technologies, and solutions to help solve the real-world challenges in the new normal.

And for many of the 500 industry professionals in attendance, the conference represented their first time for corporate travel since 2020. For the first time in two years, the CatMan and Shopper Insights community had the opportunity to discuss challenges, discover insights, share best practices, and network with peers.

This year, attendees reunited at the 2022 annual conference around an important theme: “leading in an omnichannel world.” The topic is salient among retailers, manufacturers, and solution providers alike as the industry focuses on navigating the new reality of shifting consumer shopping behaviors and supply chain complexity. 

As an event sponsor, Trax was honored to be among the leading solution providers showcasing emerging technology and innovative perspectives to help Category Managers rise to the challenge of navigating the new retail landscape.  For Trax, the conference was a chance to share industry expertise as well as an opportunity to learn firsthand about the unique challenges and intense pressures placed on today’s category managers. 

Here are three of our key conference takeaways that highlight the challenges facing category managers in 2022. 

  1.   Navigating Out of Stock Challenges

CatMans excel at arranging positions and planograms but getting products on the shelves remains an issue. With supply chain challenges forecasted to continue long-term, navigating shelf availability is a challenge plaguing many manufacturers.

Stacey Ring-Sanders, vice president of category management at Kellogg Company and the Category Management Association’s new Chairwoman of the Board, identified shelf availability as a significant area of focus for the association and the retail industry. She recognizes the need for strategic thought leadership in the industry, posing the question, “how do we make sure we are getting better in terms of understanding the problem, the root cause, and how do we fix it?”  

The Chairwoman believes close collaboration between leaders from both the retailer and manufacturing community is key to solving problems.

 “There’s so much money to be had with on shelf-availability and out of stocks,” she told audience-goers during a post-event interview

As the retail industry continues to rebound from the pandemic, Category Managers are leading their categories during the most harrowing era of change in modern retail. More than ever, preventing out of stocks and accurately forecasting demand variations is critical to maintaining shelf-holding power for each SKU at each store. 

  1.   Integrating Data for Actionable Information

In the age of big data, there is no shortage of information available to support in-store execution. However, the amount of available information is often overwhelming, and category managers feel overloaded by data from many different sources. Oversaturation of data is a significant pain point that is stalling operations at the organizational level and the day-to-day workflows of category managers.

It is time to enter into a new data era focused on integrating resources and delivering actionable results. The uncertain landscape with complex challenges requires category managers to think creatively and quickly pivot strategies to provide the best results despite unexpected inventory and staffing issues. The ability to aggregate and view real-time data in a simple dashboard is critical for CatMans to optimize operations, boost productivity, and ultimately empower success.

In the war for shelf space, data has the power to provide actionable insights to elevate store performance. Barbara Conners, vice president of commercial insights at 84.51° and a keynote speaker at this year’s conference, understands the challenges of integrating data. 

“The challenge for the industry is to leverage customer data effectively, quickly be nimble from a business perspective, and make those changes fast enough to meet customers where they’re at,” she shared in a recent interview with RETHINK Retail. Conners is optimistic about the power of data and the emergence of predictive analytics to optimize retail execution despite the challenging landscape. 

  1.   Space Planning in an Omnichannel Reality

The omnichannel habits consumers picked up during the pandemic are here to stay. In fact, more than two-thirds (68%) of consumers now purposely seek out omnichannel retailers, according to CI&T’s 2022 Connected Retail Report.This fundamental shift in behavior presents new challenges for CatMans, who are quickly rewriting the traditional approach to space planning.

CatMans are under pressure to identify new perspectives and disruptive approaches to space planning. A 360-degree view of the dynamics and trends within a category is vital to customize planograms and now requires an understanding of omnichannel behaviors. Consumers now want to buy some things online while they search for other products in-stores, which presents new opportunities to optimize floor space. 

CatMans are experimenting with new approaches to show SKUs most effectively and have opportunities to engage shoppers with new strategies to deliver unprecedented revenue growth. However, this makes in-store compliance even more challenging. 

Supermarket Guru founder and editor Phil Lempert  addressed the importance of compliance in his keynote speech, saying, “In times of uncertainty, shoppers expect more from their trusted brands,” serving as an important reminder that in-store compliance provides more than just a positive ROI, but a positive shopping experience and ultimately a loyal customer. 

Looking Ahead 

The 2022 CMA | SIMA Annual Conference marked a significant milestone for the category management sector. The in-person event allowed industry leaders and peers to share lessons learned during the pandemic and discuss ideas for moving forward in a new era of retail. Trax was honored to attend this year’s event and looks to support CatMans during this pivotal era of retail progress. 

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