Natalie Little explains how a category growth strategy can help demonstrate the value your brand brings to the people who use it, those who buy it, and those who stock it.
People often say to us, "As a brand-led business, I'm not sure a category growth strategy is for me." The truth is that a well-executed category growth strategy is even more important than ever for helping you think about the people that use your brand, the people that buy it and the people that stock it.
A strong category growth strategy can be the key to unlocking untapped potential and driving revenue growth. With careful planning and implementation, you can leverage category growth strategies to open opportunities for long-term success.
What is a category growth strategy
A category growth strategy is about building a deep understanding of consumers, shoppers and customers and using this to identify opportunities that grow the overall category and your brands within that.
Remember, you can’t get people to use your product unless you get people to buy it. And you can’t get people to buy a product unless retailers stock it.
The benefits of a category growth strategy
Meeting consumer needs
A successful category growth strategy will identify how consumer needs are changing, and therefore how the category’s offering needs to change to ensure it remains relevant and continues to recruit new shoppers on new occasions. This might mean new products, but it could also mean helping them to better understand the category and how and why different products can be used to meet different demands on different occasions.
Better shopping experience
Often a category growth strategy will identify the need to improve the point of purchase, creating a simple, intuitive but engaging place to shop that cuts through autopilot shopping and drives interest and category reassessment.
Collaborative customer relationships
Developing a deep understanding of how a category will grow, and sharing that with your customer to identify joint opportunities can help to foster a collaborative, trusting relationship.
And of course, having a category growth strategy as the cornerstone of your business helps to ensure everyone has an aligned view of the future and the opportunities for growth.
How is a category growth strategy different from a brand strategy?
A category growth strategy starts with a full category viewpoint. A brand strategy – or a brand-first approach – means you might miss elements that are impacting the category but not your brand directly.
This could be quietly emerging trends, shifting consumer behaviour away from you.
This could also be a new or small and growing channel that isn’t covered by the regular databases, where you’re not available.
It could also be a shopper insight that you haven’t uncovered because it doesn’t impact your brand – or so you think.
This is where a category viewpoint is critical.
By taking a step back and looking at the landscape more broadly, considering current performance, short and long term trends and evolving consumer and shopper behaviour, we can start to understand how things might change, and how both the category and our brands can be best placed to meet consumer, shopper and retailer needs in the future.
Then we can find opportunities that have that ‘triple win’ we strive for:
right for the consumer
right for your brand
and right for the total category
How to develop a category growth strategy
So, what is Oxford's approach to category growth? Well, first off, we believe category growth needs to be owned by everyone. It's a mindset that needs to exist across an organisation.
We always make sure we bring together a cross-functional team with different viewpoints and opinions to build a strategy that people from Sales, Marketing, Insight and beyond can all get behind.
There are three ways to grow a category
Engage more people to buy the category
Inspire them to buy it more often
Encourage them to spend more in the category
So we work with our clients to help them understand how and why people behave as they do and how that may change in the future.
Use data judiciously
Of course, understanding category dynamics is a key building block of an effective category growth strategy – and we work with clients to bring together the best of their data and insight. However, this is not about drowning in data. We also want to talk to people. We want to watch them, see how they behave, and understand why they do what they do. Getting under the skin of people in this way helps us identify the behaviour change that we need to inspire and excite more people and engage them with the category to buy more and spend more.
And we do this in a way that works for people and the planet to help to inform our growth drivers.
Define the plan
Then we need to define the actions that can drive this behaviour change, primarily for the whole category, but also for your brands. This could be about:
Activation at the point of purchase
The way in which we communicate with consumers, shoppers and customers
We pull this together into a beautifully simple plan on a page.
Turn it into a compelling story
But that simple plan for a category growth strategy is useless if nobody sees it.
Any successful category growth strategy needs a compelling story at its core to motivate and inspire action, internally and externally to help that growth opportunity actually happen for both the category and your brands.
Yes, you can be a brand-led business, but you’ll have a brand that reaches a lot further if you frame it through a category growth strategy.
How Oxford can help
At Oxford, we understand the importance of a comprehensive category growth strategy tailored to fit the unique needs and goals of each company that we partner with.
By combining category insights with consumer, shopper and customer understanding, you can craft a strategy that grows not just the category, but your brand as well. Do you have a growth challenge we can help you with? Get in touch.