September 22, 2021

Taking a Look Back.

The Category management discipline started in 1991, with the purpose of turning marketing basics into a process. It is the process by which retailers and manufacturers develop a comprehensive plan – based on facts, insights, sound strategies and proven tactical success models – to meet shopper needs in a superior manner, thereby producing superior business results. The process consisted of 8 steps: category definition, role, assessment, performance measures, strategies, tactics, plan implementation, and finally category review. The below foundational graphic was created, a fairly advanced graphic design for the time!

CatMan 1.0 Graphic steps


From 1991 to 2010, the process was supported by general retailer acceptance and the industry became dependent on the practice. Gordon Wade, CPG marketing consultant and one of the original authors of CatMan 1.0, puts it well, “One of the primary reasons it succeeded was that it demanded collaboration and the sharing of data between trading partners. This, in turn, required the creation of trust, which was sadly missing in the CPG industry at that time.”

As particularly the grocery industry consolidated (% of ACV in the top 10 chains increased) it provided a more acute need for common category management practices. During this time data availability and quality improved, new technology for space management and assortment was introduced, and thousands of new people were employed in the industry. The Category Management Association was formed in 2004 as a source for shared knowledge, communication, and establishment of an industry talent evaluation program.

The Introduction of CatMan 2.0

The category management process was then updated in 2016 (dubbed “CatMan 2.0”). This was driven by factors including the increase in data sources and availability, advancement in analytics capabilities, increased retail diversification, shopper diversification and empowerment, and more.

The era of Joint Business Planning had arrived, a new Category Decision Tree was introduced, and shopper insights were integrated more directly into the process with the additions of the “Assessment What” and “Why” steps. Wade states, “Shopper insights was inserted after the assessment step. The original version of CatMan 1.0 had been very behavior driven, by analysis of the syndicated data produced by Nielsen and IRI. The new step focused on understanding the attitudes that drove that behavior.”

Here we are 30 years later, and both manufacturers and retailers continue to organize their businesses around categories. The major syndicated data suppliers organize data by category. Category management is fundamentally oriented around the behavior of the shopper, as manifested in the category, and therefore very relevant in today’s retail environment, more so than ever.

But CatMan 2.0 largely defines the category management process for the brick-and-mortar environment, excluding the complexities of alternative fulfillment methods like click-and-collect and pureplay eCommerce. With the growing need for suppliers and retailers to provide a truly omnichannel offering, the boards of the Category Management Association and the Shopper Insights Management Association determined it is time to revisit the traditional CatMan process once again.

The increased importance of eCommerce and evolving the category management process for the omnichannel world was the impetus for the creation of CatMan 3.0.

CatMan 3.0: A New Process for an Omnichannel World

The level of omnichannel importance will vary by organization and retailer, but it is becoming a greater reality for all companies. The journey into omnichannel is no longer about ‘will it happen in my category’ but ‘how is it unfolding and how do I set myself up for success?’

CatMan 3.0 attempts to provide a playbook for executing wholistic category management across modes (brick-and-mortar, pureplay eCommerce, click-and-collect, 3rd party delivery, etc.), including tactical steps to be completed through an omnichannel lens.

Over the coming months, the CMA and SIMA, in combination with 15 member companies across retailers, brands, and solution providers, will release the new “CatMan 3.0” process to its members via our Member Resource Library. The comprehensive process has been refreshed to incorporate omnichannel complexities into each of the new and revised 7 steps:

  1. Insights Immersion
  2. Category Definition
  3. Internal & External Alignment
  4. Goal Setting & Scorecard
  5. Tactics
  6. Plan Implementation
  7. Measure Learn & Change

This easy-to-read document will be accompanied by a new representative graphic and webinar training, all culminating in an entire track of content at our 2022 CMA|SIMA Annual Conference, coming Feb 28 thru March 3rd in Orlando, FL.

“We couldn’t be more excited for the release of CatMan 3.0,” says CMA|SIMA President Mike McMahon. “This comes at a time of unprecedented change within the retail industry. The introduction of a complete omnichannel category management process will provide much-needed clarity and alignment for the industry going forward.”

Stay tuned for the release of CatMan 3.0 Chapter 1 next week!

Excited to learn more? Not yet a member and want to be on the forefront of this monumental industry change? Head over here to learn about the benefits of membership or contact member services to learn more.