5 Steps for Success at Your Category Review

5 Steps for Success at Your Category Review

Preparing for a category review meeting can be stressful – but it doesn’t have to be. 

Okay, it’s time for your category review meeting. The pressure is building as you prepare to express how your product has performed compared to your competition. You’ve got the NPDs, the market trends and business performance reports. You know your promotions, price increases and company goals…so you think you’re ready.

Then you read somewhere that executive buyers say ‘only 20% of the salespeople they meet with are successful in achieving their expectations and creating value’ [1]. That’s a discouraging statistic. So now what?

Here are 5 steps to help reduce the stress of category review meetings and produce the best results for your brand. 

1. Define your brand growth strategies

Defining your goals prior to the meeting is critical. Generate a list – it might look something like this:

  • Negotiate price
  • Shelf-space
  • Shelf location
  • Number of promotions
  • Store format
  • NPD launch

The retailer may have an agenda for you to follow. In that case, try to work all of your points into the framework they give you.

Be specific in each category and be prepared to answer questions, challenges, modifications and even rejection. 

Understand the buyer’s job is to maximize profits for his company. Make sure you know all of your numbers back to front – in case you need to renegotiate. And be sure to highlight the features of your product that are unique, innovative and commercially sound.

If you’ve just launched an NPD, you may wish to share the results, but again, be prepared to support your arguments with evidence. 

2. Align yourself with the retailer’s strategy

Understanding the buyer’s strategy for the future will help you align your presentation for maximum buyer appeal. Review the company’s annual report. The annual report is a formal report on the company’s activities in the preceding year. It’s intended for the shareholder, but it’s full of good information for your category review.

For example, Coles Financial Report 2018 and Woolworths Financial Report 2018 provide valuable information about their business strategy in Australia. Studying these reports will help you speak their language.

There are sections in the Annual Report where the strategy and achievements are highly detailed. Use this to identify whether your brand is contributing or losing relevance in the retailer’s priorities.

For instance, Woolworths has five priorities for 2019. The first two are ‘availability in-store’ and ‘stockouts’. Be sure these are your priorities as well when discussing your plans with them. On the other hand, Coles is moving towards ‘Everyday Low Prices’. Think about how you can align your strategy with theirs.

3. Visit stores to uncover the retailer’s strategy

Before your meeting with the buyer, visit as many of their retail outlets as possible. You’ll find a lot of information that will help you align the presentation with their strategy. For example, you may notice in the health aisle that both retailers are increasing their own organic products. Or you may see they’ve expanded their private label in your category.

Studying their end-cap displays or featured displays with their ad will give you insight into their marketing message. For example, Coles usually arranges 3 or 4 brands with 1 private label, while Woolworths arranges 5 or 6 brands with 1-2 private labels.

The more locations you visit, the more prepared you’ll be for your category review. 

Granola bar shelf at a Woolworths

Also, visiting independent stores could provide valuable insight into both competitive information and creative ideas for your brand.

4. Present data with a competitive advantage

Time is the commodity both you and the buyer value most, so producing the most current data will give you a competitive advantage. The competition is walking into the category review with at least data from Google and general assumptions about the buyers’ market and competitors. Or perhaps they have data from expensive research or retail sell-out data. But you want data that impacts the buyer’s interest from the moment you begin your presentation.

You begin by presenting photos of the buyer’s own retail outlets. The buyer won’t have to question the accuracy or source of your data, reducing some of their mental resistance against sales pitches.

By using shelf photos, you are in a position to understand the number of facings, prices, availability, shelf-location and stock-outs. Presenting a good collection of sample photos will go a long way in supporting your NPD, price increases and any other business matter you address in the review.

When presenting the images, keep the retailer’s shelf allocation principles in mind. Most retailers arrange groups of products based on how they believe customers shop the category, and they tend to position products together based on price and quality attributes.

Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words. When time is a factor, there’s nothing better for making your point.

Baby food shelf at a Woolworths

Your buyer may be more receptive to certain presentation styles. By using visual, numerical and verbal elements to tell your story, you will have a better chance of resonating with your buyer. Include pictures, numbers and anecdotes to ensure that all the bases are covered. 

5. Track competitors & your category for visual proof

As your review progresses, you’ll want to provide credible category information to the buyer. One of the best ways to do this is to track your competitors. By doing so, you will be able to provide key, objective insights for the buyer (and yourself). The larger your tracking sample is, the more reliable your data will be.

Be prepared to address your competitors’ strategies and strengths. Consider their share of shelf, recent innovations, NPDs and the depth and frequency of their promotions.

By discussing who the key players are and what they’re doing – with visual proof for each of your points – you will build your credibility and confidence during the category review. 

Chocolate candy shelf at a Woolworths


There are other ways for you to improve the results of a category review, but these 5 steps will have you well on your way to success. You’ll feel significantly more confident and prepared going into that meeting.

If you want help tracking your brand and your competitors, we have all the right resources for you at Aglo. Contact us if you want to learn more before your next category review. 


[1] Why Don’t Buyers Want To Meet With Your Salespeople?
Featured Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

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