Retail Marketing 101: An Interview with a Category Manager

While you’re hard at work trying to check people off of your holiday gift list, retailers are hard at work trying to engage you in-store. How do they do it?

We recently interviewed a category manager with over 40 years of experience in retail merchandising and promotions for some industry insights.

How to Motivate Consumer Purchase In-Store 

Beyond temporary price reductions, what avenues are used to entice customers into your stores and ultimately, to make a purchase? 

Customers want to shop with retailers who fill their needs, and make it EASY for them to get what they want when they want it. Print Ads, radio, television, direct mail, coupons, and digital media all serve to reach customers with your message; your brand.  You must use your marketing budget to spread your message across as many channels as possible because customers get their information and make their shopping decisions based on a wide variety of sources.

Once customers are in your store, you have got to deliver consistently on what you have promised them. It is critical to have your signage perfectly aligned with what you have told the customers in your marketing message.  Every offer has to have the participating items conveniently displayed with the appropriate point of sale (POS) material to make it easy for customers to purchase.

What are some examples of marketing promotions that have been successful and really resonated with customers? What about ones that have not?

Retailers across different channels find success with marketing promotions that are simple and give the customer immediate gratification.  An immediate discount given on a qualifying purchase, a FREE product earned on the spot, a FREE gift card issued, all are easy for customers to understand.

Promotions that do not resonate as well with customers are ones that make them jump through too many hoops to get the reward. Immediate gratification is a strong message for your customers.

What challenges do retailers face during the holidays vs. the rest of the year?

The holidays make every retailer “up their game” because their competition is doing the same thing.  Customers have a mindset of having to get all of their items, not forget anything, and get it all done by a specific deadline.  Your in-store experience and the customer service you deliver has to be consistent.  You don’t get a pass on service just because you have more traffic in your store.

How has your approach to the holiday season changed over time?

The holiday season has been extended over time, so now a retailer has to have the holiday items out earlier so they don’t risk missing sales opportunities.  This is due not only to your competition, but also to the changing expectations of your customers.

How has online shopping affected grocery retail?

Online shopping has been a challenge to traditional retailers but it has also given them an opportunity to showcase those areas where they excel.  The number one advantage that can be leveraged is the delivery of Outstanding Customer Service to every customer who visits your store.

Discover 5 ways to use digital marketing to support in-store sales 
What are other outside factors that influence shopper behavior (gas prices, weather, etc.) and what do you do to overcome them?

There have always been outside factors to contend with.  The best strategy to build sales is to be aware of the trends and make sure that you have sufficient inventory on hand of the items that are in demand.  You absolutely have to commit to eliminating holes on your shelves.  Nothing aggravates a customer more than not being able to get what they want when they want it.

What do you see trending in grocery retail and what do you think is in store for marketing promotions in the future? 

There is an ever increasing number of places to buy the products you need.  Successful retailers will continue to protect their turf by CONSISTENTLY delivering outstanding customer service!

Marketing promotions will continue to become more immediate, offering instant rewards in the most convenient means possible.

If you’re looking for creative ideas to engage consumers in 2023, get started with a brainstorming session.
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