We take a look back at how the CMA and SIMA have grown and evolved in the last year.

by Mike McMahon, Association President

What an extraordinary and difficult year 2020 was. Never in our recent experience have we seen an impact on society or the economy like the pandemic delivered. For our industry, the level and pace of change was unprecedented. For a complex year like 2020, the trial that Retailers, Manufacturers and Solution Providers went through will pay dividends going forward.

Last year was also a time of significant change for the CMA and SIMA, almost all of it to the positive.  Moving to a “Member First” focus has been rapid and productive. We now have a well-honed training approach which saw record enrollment.

Our new Content Team – focused on what members are looking for, ensuring that we deliver relevant and useful content – has started to hit its stride.

Our 2020 Conference, the last live event many of us attended last year, was our most successful ever.

And finally, we had a record number of new members join the association, with over 40% growth, and we retained over 90% of existing members—all during a pandemic. There is much to share, but the good news is we are focused on delivering value to our members on their most important needs.


Some of our biggest steps forward in 2020 concerned our training and certification. We upped our offerings to over 70 online training courses, with five different assessments available for Category Management, Marketing, Sales and Shopper Insights. Many of our members found it easier to complete training from the comfort of their own homes.

2020 saw the number of active users in the Learning Portal increase by over 250%, versus the prior year. We currently have 3,800 active users and growing! On top of this, certifications are now up 40% and our pass rates are going up. The Certified Professional Category Analyst Exam Pass Rate and the Certified Professional Category Manager Exam Pass Rate both improved by 14 points in 2020, up to 84% and 87%, respectively. When our members make the most of their training, this inevitably turns learning into action, and our entire industry thrives.


In 2020, we stepped up our game in offering private networking and share groups for our members. We hosted four private networking groups that now meet quarterly, focused on private label, retailer challenges, small and midsize companies, shopper insights and best practices. And because of requests from members, we added two more in early 2021: eCommerce and Shopper Insights.

One other area that grew significantly was companies looking to connect with other members around initiatives or issues they are facing. Some of the subjects included reorganizing retailer CatMan departments, looking for input on new data and tools, and how to build a category advisor process. The sum is always greater than its parts, and our groups are living proof of that.


A crucial part of our job is recognizing the contributions that our members make to the industry. In 2020, we started a series highlighting CMA and SIMA board members on our blog. Throughout the year, we shared the experiences and stories of 20 board members, letting them explain in their own words how they got to where they are today and expound upon some of the greater challenges facing the industry.

We also added a number of webinars to our weekly rotation, giving members the chance to share their insights and thoughts about the present and future of shoppers and retail. We hosted over 50 weekly webinars in 2020, covering key category management and shopper insights trends as they developed during the pandemic. Our webinar registration and attendance jumped astronomically in the spring and summer as members like Kantar, Nielsen and GfK delivered content on agile category management and dramatic changes occurring in retail shopper behavior.

And we listened to your collective voices. In 2020, we surveyed over 400 members on team benchmarking, the CMA + SIMA member experience and key topical areas heading into 2021. The feedback we gathered, and results and the conclusions we can draw from it, ensure that we will better tailor our content to you moving forward.


In early 2020, we made a change in the role that the two Executive Boards play in setting the direction for the associations. They collectively identify industry issues and we proactively build content to address those issues. For both associations, the evolution of Category Management in an omnichannel world was priority number one.

We launched a new approach to how we tackle these issues by bringing together multiple members into work groups. Our first group, consisting of 14 member companies across Retailers, Manufacturers and Solution Providers, developed an Omnichannel Shopper Framework. This groundbreaking work was delivered in January 2021 and a new team has formed to work on Omnichannel CatMan 3.0.

We invested in building a Content Team led by Jackie Lewis. This team’s role is to listen to our members, understand their needs, and deliver relevant and useful content to help drive better results. Now, more than ever, we feel that the CMA is delivering the content its members need to thrive in today’s new reality. Among some of our more notable pieces are:

  • Category Management and Shopper Insights Team Benchmark Survey
  • Omnichannel Shopper Framework
  • Shopper Insights Core Competencies for the Foundational Level

And there is much more on the horizon. Keep your eyes peeled for our upcoming Remote Work Survey, which will shed light on how CatMan & Shopper Insights professionals have adapted to working away from the office, and CatMan 3.0, which is set to be released this summer.

In addition to building our content team, we brought on Suzi Wirtz as our Director of Member Services. She and her team are focused 100% on driving engagement, helping our members maximize the value of the association. This focus on member needs helped deliver our 90%+ retention.

As 2021 kicks into high gear, we are excited about the direction the members are taking us and will continue to be “Member First” in everything we do.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss anything about what, and how, we’re doing, please don’t hesitate to contact myself, Suzi Wirtz or Jackie Lewis.