Using Data to Become a Category Captain

by | Feb 3, 2021


The “category captain” is a coveted position in retail. Historically, the massive suppliers with overwhelming market share secured these positions uncontested.

The dawn of the digital age created an opportunity for the little man (or even the moderately-sized man who never had an opportunity to get skin in the game) to leverage data as a weapon for success.

With the right data and actionable insights, your company can secure its position as category captain, or at least a valuable contributor or “co-captain.”

What is a Category Captain?

A “category” is a collection of products with similar characteristics that are generally interchangeable for the consumer. For example, Crest toothpaste and Colgate toothpaste fit into the same product category; while some consumers may prefer Crest to Colgate, the products largely perform the same function.

Category grouping is important to retailers. Effective category grouping allows retailers to execute collective retail marketing efforts including merchandising and promotions; without category grouping, retailers would have to isolate retail marketing efforts to individual products. What a nightmare!

The category captain is generally the highest performing vendor, supplier or manufacturer in a particular category. This category captain works alongside the retailer(s) to provide relevant consumer data, improve performance in their category and increase overall profit and growth.

A successful category captain brings loads of knowledge to the retailer and, as a result, has influence over the category as a whole including owned and competitive brands. The category captain can advise the retailer on planograms for their category, inventory management and tracking, category strategy, marketplace analysis and more.

Though the category captain is generally a larger supplier, this is certainly not a rule. In fact, business size matters far less than the quality of data provided to the retailer. Often, retailers will gather data from various suppliers to get a larger, unbiased picture of the category as a whole.

You can and should endeavor to be a captain of your category. High quality, relevant and real-time data is crucial to positioning yourself as a category leader.

Key Data Sets for Category Captains

If your brand presently holds the position of category captain with your current retailer… Great job. If you are a secondary supplier or vendor with the desire to influence your category… We applaud your efforts. Regardless of your current position, it is imperative to “act as if” you are the category captain.

Market data, shopper data and retail audit data are key data sets to monitor for effective reporting to your retailer(s). With the right data and analytics strategy, your brand can contribute key information to your retailers and establish your brand as a heavy hitter in your respective category.

Market Data

On a macro level, market data and analysis is important to determine how your retailer performs in the marketplace. Effective market data and analysis can help you answer many vital retailer questions. 

Some of these questions may include:

  • Is your retailer gaining market share or losing market share?
  • Why is your retailer gaining/losing market share?
  • How does product pricing align with the competition?
  • How does your retailer’s in-store assortment line up with the competition?

Shopper Data

While market data provides key details for your retailer within the marketplace as a whole, shopper data provides a more granular lens from which to assess retailer success.

Quality shopper data results in a comprehensive understanding of the motivation behind shopper preferences, existing shopper trends, and potential shifts in shopping behavior as a result of shopping trends.

Both qualitative (focus groups, interviews, etc.) and quantitative (surveys) shopper data are important for data analysis and can provide more tangible insights for your retailer.

Retail Audit Data

Last but certainly not least in your data arsenal should be retail audit data including OOS, merchandising, planogram compliance and more.

Leveraging retail audit data for retailer reporting should include an assessment of existing product clustering and recommendations for adjustments to product groupings. You should also assess existing planograms and stock and answer the following questions:

  • Do existing planograms align with shopper flow?
  • Are planograms in compliance?
  • Are current product clusters maximizing stock?
  • How is OOS in your category?
  • Are current product clusters efficient for inventory management?

Conducting regularly scheduled retail audits will help your retailer stay on top of in-store conditions and ensure your category performs at the highest possible level.

How to Become a Category Captain

Staying on top of market data, gathering shopper insights, and conducting regular retail audits can help your business gain the momentum you need to win your category.

While this is fine and dandy, it certainly is a lot of data. Traditional data collection methods are slow and inefficient. You need data and you need it as fast as the click of a button. Crowdsourcing your data will ensure your brand has real-time data from a diverse set of contributors. 

Interested in learning more about how Premise can help you to become a well-respected, knowledgeable captain in your category? Visit us at or email [email protected].