Analytics, both basic and advanced, are at the heart of category management. As a road map to achieving your goals, they encompass all aspects of trade management, business planning, assortment analysis, and consumer awareness. When applied correctly, they provide invaluable business insights and actionable recommendations.

Analytics is a very broad term that encompasses a lot of different areas. To some companies, it simply means pulling canned topline reports while to other companies it means deep dive analysis of specific consumer trends. The important thing to remember is that it can provide answers to pressing business questions that will help you better support your retailer partners and grow your brand.

Analytics is typically a scary topic for most. The challenge is “where to begin”? A good place to start is to work backward from the questions you are trying to answer. What information do you need to answer your questions, what insights do you want from the data, do you want to see the results – graph, charts, etc.? Think of analytics as the facts needed to support business-making decisions.

A big challenge for everyone starting out in analytics is “analysis paralysis”. This term refers to trying to analyze too much data and getting lost in the minutia. This can result in a huge waste of time and frustration. Analytics become easier as you become more comfortable with the data, the measures, what the measures are telling you, your increased confidence, and your ability to discern actionable insights. Practice and repetition will make this a more impactful skill.

A great way to start is to become familiar with the more popular reports and reporting tools available. Work to understand the different measures used, how the reports are formatted, what the data is telling you, how the reports are used, additional uses for the reports, what insights can be derived from the reports, etc. As you begin to understand the canned reports, you will better be able to think out-of-the-box and identify questions that need to be answered that go beyond the topline reports. Analytics looks at historical data. As your skill grows, you will be able to identify future trends and opportunities.

An example of a popular topline report is a ranking report. It ranks the sales of different items in a category. It can include a variety of different measures that will help you understand what items are contributing to the growth of the category and which items are declining in sales. It can also tell you how key items are performing in the market (compared to your competition). Next, it can tell you if you are getting your fair share of sales of a top-selling item compared to your competition, how your pricing compares to your competition, and how the item is contributing to the growth of the category across other retailers.

The more comfortable you become with reading and understanding reports, the more valuable they become. Soon, you’ll be able to predict trends and identify opportunities for future success.

Analytics covers a broad area. The key takeaway is that analytics will help you understand “why what is happening happened” which will give you greater insights into how the decisions you make today will affect your future growth.

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