Another memorable CMA conference is in the record books! In fact, we had a record number of attendees this year which included a diverse mix of retailers, solution providers and manufacturers from a wide variety of industries.

The theme of this year’s conference was Bridging Traditional & Digital: Creating New Paths to Success.  Presenters from many industries provided unique insights and real world solution examples. The overall strategy was to integrate the sessions with the theme and each new presentation would build upon the last. Based on attendee feedback, the strategy was a success!

Day One featured Kevin Hartman from Google who explained just how vast the amount of data is being produced and how we need to embrace machine technology to help understand the data and transform it into action. Art Sebastian from Meijer then added to that by discussing the technology changes in the retail landscape and how his company is evolving to address these changes in a digital and e-commerce focused world.

Breakout Sessions on the first day provided insights into building a platform and different tactics and tools to utilize to supplement lackluster data to develop more complete analyses.  Discussions also included leveraging store audits and advanced technology to identify opportunities that lead to actionable insights and drive category growth.

Day two started off with Wayne Duan from Walgreens who provided insightful and enlightening discussion about their omni-channel strategy to meet customer needs. Later, Mike Gervasio from PepsiCo took center stage and showed the benefits of focusing on people management and development while leveraging current technology.

Diana Sheehan from Kantar Retail talked about the evolution of health and wellness and how category managers need to make it easier for people to lead a healthy lifestyle. Later in the conference, this conversation went full circle with a breakout session touching on how to target the growing ‘organic shopper’ market.

How many times have you run into issues with shoppers saying one thing and doing another? How often do you struggle to truly understand what makes shoppers pick up your product (and from where)? Day Two breakout sessions addressed these and other issues by examining both explicit (conscious) and implicit (less-conscious) influences along the path-to-purchase.

Day two was highlighted by the inspiring and entertaining keynote presentation by author, comedian and world-class guitarist Mike Rayburn. With guitar in hand, Mike played and explained how asking ‘What if?’ and ‘Why not?’ opened possibilities and overcame obstacles that elevated his musical career. See just a taste of what his performance at our conference was like here!

By focusing 80% of his time on the solution and just 20% on the problem, he was able to ask what if I played at Carnegie Hall? In fact, why not headline at Carnegie Hall?  Starting with a simply question, What if?, anything is possible which opens up your thinking to any possible solution.

Day three started off with Larry Levin from IRi, speaking about the Connected Consumer and addressing how to be ready for the rapid pace of diversity and technology (75% of shopping trips start digitally!).

Dan Doerflein from Jet.com shared his perspective on the evolution of retail and how to integrate a seamless omni-channel experience while driving value in the process. David Nies and Jim Wells from CSM Bakery then discussed the ‘data desert’ and how to bring structure and discipline across the entire store – always putting the customer first.

Day three breakout sessions were decorated with presentations on cross-functional and cross-company collaboration and partnerships, to more deeply connect with their core customer base showing their results of increased category sales & whole company benefits.

Additionally, the Conference featured multiple receptions for networking and even a late-night party at the fabulous Omnia Terrace Nightclub at Caesar’s Palace. Those who stayed late got to enjoy world famous DJ, Steve Aoki!

Suffice it to say, we believe the 2017 Category Management & Shopper Insights Conference was the best to date. But don’t take our word for it. Listen to what some of this year’s attendees had to say:

“You all should be proud! Awesome conference and it just keeps getting better!”  – Mike O’Hare, VP Category Management, Dr Pepper Snapple Group

“The CMA event was outstanding and congratulations on a job well done. I am happy that ECRM is now a member to your organization. I definitely learned a lot and it was great to see some old friends and make new contacts!”Wayne Bennett, Sr VP Retail, ECRM

“Just a note of thanks for the hospitality shown at our first CMA event.  We were very impressed by the content and professional execution of an event this size.  I think most meaningful for me was the “real world” content which is clearly applicable to all of our businesses.”Janet Fallon, Director of Sales & Marketing, White Castle Food Products

 “As a new CMA member and first convention visitor I have to say how impressed I am by the high quality of the organization, attendees, and speakers. Totally surpassed my expectations and I have made valuable contacts!” -Robert Sansos, Marketing Director Europe, Middle East & Africa, Klöckner Pentaplast

From all of us at the Category Management Association, thank you for attending. We hope to see you next year in Nashville May 7th-9th at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel.

In the meantime, remember Mike Rayburn’s advice and reach farther than you ever thought possible by asking ‘What if’ and ‘Why not”? It worked for Mike. He headlined at Carnegie Hall three times.