The pace of implementation of the new beyond-category-management business model, Shopper-Centric Retailing, and its core Shopper Solutions Planning process, is evolving more slowly than desired, and yet similar to the pace of change when we introduced category management in the United States in 1990, with our final retailer client adopting that model a full 16 years later. The magnitude of change was quite significant then, as it is now.
Similar to the results of the recent Winston Weber & Associates, Deloitte and Food Marketing Institute survey that revealed that 100% of those surveyed believe the retail industry must move beyond category management for clearly defined reasons, reaction from 100% of the retailers and CPG manufacturers we’ve talked to since the survey agree with the fact that the Shopper-Centric Retailing business model, with its core Shopper Solutions Planning process, aligns perfectly with the importance of focusing on shopper solutions and enhancement of the shopping experience. Everyone has told us our thinking is spot-on.
That being said, on a day-to-day basis, there’s simply too much focus on categories in the current category management approach and what we’ve seen from the work being done by several third-party analytic providers. Almost everyone continues to be focused on the narrowness of categories, when today, traditional definitions of categories no longer dictate the shopping journey, with shoppers wanting solutions tailored to their lifestyles.
The lack of a solutions focus is difficult to comprehend, and should be addressed by every retailer as soon as possible. Perhaps it’s so different from how the industry has traditionally approached the topic that it’s more difficult for it to gain traction. A solutions-planning focus should be a priority.
Why has the pace of change to the new Shopper-Centric Retailing business model not been faster? Simply put, the retail industry is in one of its most disruptive periods in history. We’re caught in a mass of retailer priorities. Whether it’s the implementation of new AI disruptive technologies, omnichannel initiatives, store remodels, click-and-collect, or curbside pickup, we’re being told that Shopper-Centric Retailing, which itself is a major change, “cannot fit into our priorities at this time.” For example, one major multibanner retailer told us early in the year: “You are two years ahead of us. We will not be able to consider implementation until late 2020 or 2021.”
Despite the aforementioned barriers, retailers that have implemented or are at stages of implementation represent approximately $20 billion in sales revenue. The level of retailer satisfaction is extremely high.
Learnings to Date
What have we learned to date? On average, implementation takes a minimum of 24 months. This takes into consideration that retailers must manage their businesses while changing their businesses. We find that it has been necessary to upgrade organization structures and re-engineer business processes before designing and implementing the Shopper Solutions Planning process. Each retailer has changed titles of category managers to customer solutions managers, consolidated consumer/shopper insights and category analytic capabilities into one consolidated analytic group, and realigned merchandising to focus on solutions and the shopping experience.
One retailer implemented the new senior position that better aligns merchandising and shopper-centric priorities; this has been so successful that the retailer has added a second such position. The proposed restructuring of the store is viewed as longer-term by these retailers.
CPG manufacturers have given Shopper Solutions Planning an overwhelmingly favorable response.
The Situational Assessment Model has proved to be an essential first step, as it guides a retailer’s thinking relative to its future state, the pace at which change should be made and how change can be successfully implemented. This focuses on those areas of the organization that align with the future-state shopper-centric benchmarks as defined in the Shopper-Centric Retailing business model. There are 67 assessment benchmarks that accurately define the roadmap to the future.
Looking ahead, we expect more retailers to move beyond category management to Shopper-Centric Retailing and its Shopper Solutions Planning process in 2020 and beyond. Several have already committed to initial meetings in early 2020. We expect the pace of change to improve as retailers work through their many priority initiatives. Whatever the case, the fact that all retailers must focus on the solutions that shoppers are seeking and enhancement of the shopping experience bodes well for the future of the new Shopper-Centric Retailing business model. There’s no question that it’s the future.