The Category Manager of an online store is really the owner of a business within a business. The promotion and sales of a product category, and often the sales of the entire store depend on the decisions of the CM. The most widespread mistake that the stores make is a failure to understand the importance of the CM's role in the company, resulting in insufficient authority being given to the CM.
In this article, we will try to describe what characterizes an ideal CM. In our opinion, the Product Manager in every successful online store must match this description.
We came up with 5 key questions regarding effective category management, the answers to which will help you troubleshoot your business in no time.
1. Does the Category Manager impact tactical category promotion?
The CM's competence is managing demand, leftover products, and sales volumes; therefore a perfect manager knows all about categories, sales strategy, and trends. The CM also segments products, recommends and controls the desired marketing activity in his category, and can talk sense to the Promotion Department as their equal – by defending the CM's own view on filling and shaping the promotion strategy. A CM helps the marketing team. A good CM understands the basic principles of product promotion, so the CM can recommend both the marketing measures and SEO measures that need to be applied to each product. The CM should be involved in the process of each product’s promotion, because the CM is their seller.
2. Does the manager have the authority to make their own decisions?
Every CM's key objective is to reach the target turnover and margin, i.e. to spend X and to receive X + profit. The challenge here is that usually the CM lacks authority to make key decisions and impact all tactical objectives in real time. Buying and building assortment, selecting a the target market, shaping a pricing strategy, planning promotional events and sales, communicating with Marketing – all these are within the CM's realm and should be their responsibility. If the CM underperforms in managing the sales objectives, this affects the entire company's profit margin. In order to function efficiently, the CM needs to make quick decisions in the following areas: profitable product purchases, building category-based pricing strategies, timely sales, and planning advertising campaigns.
3. Does the CM have enough authority to develop a store?
The CM has sufficient knowledge of their category, which can help build a perfect search engine for the category on the website, because no one else knows the product category better. By properly placing the important parameters of the product, an online store allows customers to filter the products and choose the most interesting ones. For example - the smartphones in the Apple category do not have the Operating System filter option; there is the size of internal memory in its place. For industrial boilers, power consumption has more weight than heating rate. So it is important to post the information that highlights the product's advantages. A customer can quickly tell how professional a store is by assessing the information on its website and the means of navigating the key product characteristics. With most online stores, these processes are completely disconnected.
4. Does the CM understand or analyze the basic metrics of its customers?
A regular analysis of the audience composition on the product line level is one of the key factors in successful sales and promotion of a product group. Unfortunately, online stores rarely pay due attention to this – unlike conventional stores. By assuming that all customers are the same, these online stores only measure success in terms of the number of sales. A manager should understand how much time is spent by the visitors in their product group, what are the characteristics of their perfect customer, what is the minute count when the customers place most orders. By monitoring these indicators, a CM can identify and adjust both promotion strategy and pricing strategy. What is the reason that customers leave the flypage of a popular product quickly? Or the flypage of a best seller? How do you increase the time spent by customers on the product flypage? Are there issues with the product price? The product price is one of the crucial factors that can quickly impact the main indicators, and as a rule, it is a point of argument between the Marketing and the product managers. Meanwhile, it is important to keep in mind that a decrease in price may help resolve the issue of increase in conversion, but hurt gross income, or the other way around. These two values are not necessarily Yin and Yang to each other, and the CM's goal is to balance these two at all times while also following the corporate strategy. A good manager has their eyes wide open when looking at its product group, and understands the different reasons for failure to sell the product: either a poor audience, or poor price positioning, or a poor product flypage.
5. Does a CM use up-to-date analytical tools?
Usually a CM uses a proven group of information management tools, resulting in achieving the required sales level and a competitive advantage.
Successful online stores are based on a professional, motivated team, where the Category Manager plays a key role. So the more accomplished the manager, the more successful the store.
We are in close cooperation with a hundred various online store teams, so our experience has served as a basis for writing this article. The secret of dynamic online stores is a vibrant team with ambitious plans and the possibility of making them happen, with their company management creating minimum corporate hassle.