How Retail Tech is changing Category Captainship

Not so long ago, Category Captainship (the opportunity for a manufacturer to drive a retailer’s category) was a costly activity reserved to the happy few. Because of the resources it required on both sides, very few manufacturers were able to undertake them, and even few retailers were able to manage them.

Today, progress in Big Data is setting up a new deal.

What Resources Category Captainship requires

In the first stage of a Category Captainship project, the main resources required to kick off the project and give it a meaningful direction were Data, Skills and of course People. Data are used to understand the category performances and the shopper behaviors that drive these performances. The skills are the analytical talents required to make some sense out of the collected data to extract the opportunities each category contains. People, of course, include the retailer’s Category Manager, its Data Team, as well as the Manufacturer’s Category Development Team, Insights Team and Key Account Team, who jointly drive the Project.

In the 2nd stage of the Captainship, even more talents were required to translate these opportunities into Activity Plans (range, distribution, price, promotion, displays)  that will positively impact Shoppers Behaviors on the whole category.

In the 3rd stage, just before the execution and monitoring of the Category Plan, it is also not rare – though not always necessary – that the retailer and manufacturer agree on specific new assets.

Then the 4th stage requires constant monitoring, iterations between retailer and manufacturer to adjust and fine tune the Category Plan.

What are the Challenges

Beyond the potential costs of assets, the main challenge of a Category Captainship – for both retailer and supplier – are time and skills. Both are often lacking –  or assigned to other projects – on both sides.

Some of these challenges are:

  • Retail analytics
  • Category & Shopper analytics
  • Data crunching & Management
  • Data management

Consequently, only major players have been able so far to run such projects.

And this is a shame in the sense that a Category Captainship is maybe the best collaboration opportunity there is! Manufacturers can share about their deep understanding and expertise in a category, its consumers, trends, as well as its industrial and R&D know-how. And of course, present their brand strategy, new items, communication planning and brand messages they want to communicate to shoppers.

What changes make Category Captainship much easier?

Technology has not solved all the challenges, but it eased quite a few:

  • It has never been easier to get and crunch data: Sales & Shoppers insights are now automatically built
  • Data are accessible from anywhere, making monitoring a breeze, from Category Global Performances down to each branch and Channel
  • Assortment, Promotion and New Items planning and forecasting models enable easy scenarios and planning
  • Range modeling tools enable suppliers to build several optimal assortment and their impact on sales and inventory not only for their Brands, but also for the competition
  • Space Planning Tools are able to translate assortment selection in optimized displays Collaborative project management tools enable Teams on each side to drive the project efficiently

It is an important paradigm shift: the whole crunching and analytical  part of Category Captainship projects can now be easily managed and automated!

What Opportunities?

Category Captain Ships can now be viewed under a completely new light. Such projects still require planning and communication abilities – and definitely some vibrant Merchant Spirit !  – but with less resources.

Here are some of the ingredients that will make your next Category Captainship a success:

  • Clear and quantified objectives and KPI
  • Clear and quantified guidelines from the Retailer (boundaries the manufacturer cannot overstep)
  • Simple and precise Timeline with stages and alignment points• Continuous access to Data
  • Operational Category & Shopper Management platform shared between retailer and supplier
  • Agreed Reporting Templates (that is then automated)


When we help Clients on Category Captainship projects, we like these tools

Collaborative Project Management: Trello
Space Planning: We like IWD and OpenCatman for their simplicity and very affordable price
Category & Shopper Management: Ariane from Hypertrade Of Course!

Happy future Captainships !

Do you need help or advice on how to plan and execute your future Category Captainship Projects?

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