Here’s How to Boost the Category Management Process During a Crisis

Here’s How to Boost the Category Management Process During a Crisis 150 150 Scorpion Planogram

As 2019 rolled into 2020, the arrival of Covid-19 capped off what had been a very difficult two decades in retail. Since around 2000, digital sales have eroded brick-and-mortar transactions. Brexit upset pillars of the UK economy. And now coronavirus has upended global markets.

Some experts say Covid-19 has set in motion a market correction. Put another way, we are in the midst of a “culling” of retailers who aren’t “resilient,” as though resilience is part of a company’s DNA. At Scorpion, we see this concept differently. Resilience is a muscle that can be flexed, exercised and developed. And many businesses have adopted innovative solutions, such as curbside pickup, to adapt to our current evolving economy.

Aside from the illness itself, surviving and emerging from Covid-19 means adopting the right solution. And that’s going to take a bit of careful planning. Get started by revisiting the category management process while weighing factors related to Covid-19. Here’s how to do it.

Back to Basics: the Category Management Process

While there are a few definitions of “category management process,” they aim at the same concept: organizing a retail space into units to drive sales. 

Grocery stores are classic examples. Most spaces tend to be broken up into sections, such as Meat & Seafood Department, Produce Department, Dairy, Bakery and so on. Products are sorted by type – such as poultry, pork and beef – on displays. And items can be further sorted at the shelf level as well. At each tier, data is tracked and used later to optimize units for sales.  

Buying During Coronavirus

During ordinary times, there are a number of ways to fine-tune a category management process. (Check out this blog post.) So much so, years of lived experience and data can allow retailers to confidently anticipate fluctuations in demand for certain products. But today’s crisis is unprecedented. There is little to suggest how consumers may react. Who could have predicted demand for toilet paper would sky rocket? 

Time recently published a graph demonstrating how sales of certain items has soared in the US in response to coronavirus. These include: 

  • Aerosol disinfectants
  • Thermometers
  • Oat milk
  • Fresh meat alternatives
  • Rubbing alcohol

Keep Your Distance, Please

As we’d written in a previous blog post, evidence suggests how we respond to Covid-19 is likely to reshape our social norms, even after businesses reopen. Customers are likely to adopt frequent handwashing, wearing masks and gloves, and practicing social distancing. With that in mind, shoppers may prefer – and regularly frequent – stores that:

  • Offer complimentary gloves, disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer.
  • Are designed to allow six-feet of distance between shoppers
  • Admit customers in smaller numbers
  • Have staff visibly cleaning and sanitizing grocery carts and touch points, such as self-checkout

Categories, Covid-19 & Customers

Gone are the days of a “casual” outing. Trips to grocery stores or pharmacies are essential, and we’ve heard customers want to arrive, shop and exit as quickly as possible, minimizing exposure. When you think about category management, it pays to optimize for efficiency. Consider creating a special section of Covid-19 related items, such as disposable PPE and travel-sized hand sanitizers, near the store entrance. This has the potential to reduce time spent shopping and helps limit patrons walking through the store.  

Next, when many Covid-19 related products are aimed at protecting health, the category management process becomes less about sales and more about getting these essential items in front of customers. Using publicly available data, such as the graph in Time, and in-store metrics, retailers can confidently stock up on in demand goods. On top of that, merchandisers can prioritize these items by displaying them in highly visible locations, making sure shoppers find them.  

Where Do We Go From Here?

Data is crucial to good category management. And sales receipts only tell half the story. We suggest retailers get powerful planogram software to get a more complete picture. Unlike other tools, planograms track sales, foot traffic and space usage – all of which enhance the category management process. Give Scorpion a call today to learn more about our planogram software.


“Americans Bought More Beans, Disinfectants and Oat Milk to Prepare for the Coronavirus Pandemic”