Live From CMA: Strategic Collaboration for Shopper Satisfaction


The Category Management Association (CMA) celebrated its 10th anniversary at its annual conference with the theme “Strategic Collaboration for Shopper Satisfaction.” The event took place Sept. 29 – Oct. 2, 2014, in Orlando, Fla., and attracted more than 400 retailers, vendors and solution providers.

“We’re celebrating our 10 year anniversary and record conference attendance,” Blaine Ross, CMA’s new president, told Progressive Grocer.  He also unveiled the association’s new logo. “The conference focus was on collaboration between retailers and their supplier partners and highlighted the future trends in shopper marketing."

“Participants represented a variety of industry trade classes with an emphasis placed on consumer insights and total store optimization,” he said.

The Sum of the Parts: Collaboration, Digital, Best Practices

The event featured more than 50 individual sessions that touted best practices, case studies, talent development, and training sessions with credit toward certification. General sessions focused on collaboration, the impact of digital, and implementing category management practices.

Building Your Collaborative Business Planning: Aligning the Retailer and Manufacturer to "Win as One," featured David Ray, director, Strategic Category Planning & Analysis, Delhaize America and Chris Chromy, SVP East Retail Sales, ConAgra Foods. While industry conferences are packed with collaborative sessions between retailers and their trading partners and/or solution providers, Chromy and Ray were candid in sharing how they identified and worked on areas in need of improvement, particularly joint business planning. While the focus is and always should be on the customer, there are few mutual strategies or initiatives between the customer and supplier, which can be a hurdle in trying to approach the shopper from the same place. The companies conducted and shared a SWOT analysis of each other, a difficult, brutally honest task that continues to be something the companies work on and is modeled for other initiatives.

John Phillips, SVP Customer Supply Chain and Global GTM, PepsiCo, addressed the “Convergence of the Digital and Physical Worlds,” focusing on eight digital trends: Digital + Physical, Smart Devices, Hyper-connectivity, Social Media and Demand Shopping, Gamification, Personalization, Wearables, and Last Mile Logistics. Phillips demonstrated his comfort in this space by donning Google Glass wearable technology and operating a drone as a delivery vehicle. Phillips’ presentation started and ended with the convergence of Apple and PepsiCo in 1984 when Steve Jobs approached Pepsi’s then-CEO John Scully to run Apple. Scully’s philosophy, Phillips noted, was “making the experience the hero, not the product.” It’s a mantra that continues to serve both companies. For Pepsi, these trends may impact new product development, for example via Lay’s “Do Us a Flavor” campaign, but more encompassing, how the experience consumers have with PepsiCo products. Phillips also challenged attendees to be more like Steve Jobs, in that he was the consummate “disruptive thinker.”

Michael McGuire, senior director of Modular Development – General Merchandise, Walmart, spoke about the challenges of bringing category management best practices to non-consumable product categories. General merchandise sales are more sporadic than consumables and grocery, making it difficult to quickly review and rework assortments. Further, the insight and data that define traditional grocery categories are greatly lacking in the general merchandise arena. Walmart’s strategy, still in the early stages, addresses challenges by working through supplier partnerships, process mapping, acquiring talent, change management, and enabling the limited data availability.

The CMA conference also featured business card exchange meetings, 30-minute presentations, and 12-minute solution demonstrations.

Gordon Wade, chairman of the Best Practices Advisory Board of the CMA, and a pioneer of the category management discipline, summed up the goal of the conference. “[CMA is] here to make you a shopper satisfaction hero, because that will build your business.”

Progressive Grocer will be publishing its second annual Category Management Handbook in December. The special supplement will feature where category management is headed, benchmarking the category management maturity curve, listening to the voice of the shopper, tools for category management success, talent acquisition, category highlights, and more. 

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