Q&A with a corporate researcher

Editor's note: If you're an end-client researcher and interested in participating in a Q&A with Quirk's, please e-mail me at emilyk@quirks.com.

What question is at the center of your job as a category and revenue growth manager?

At BIC, we bring simplicity and joy to everyday life as a leading national value brand. As category and revenue growth manager for our Canadian business at BIC, I help our team better understand what value means to consumers and how that has changed in recent years. As consumer spending becomes more constrained, and ultimately pivots to another “new normal,” it is critical that we deliver the right product, in the right channel, at the right time and at the right price point.  

Consumers are perceiving, backed up by report after report in the media, that their dollars are getting them less. The Dollar channel shopper, which has been growing by leaps and bounds during COVID, often comes to the store with a limited basket. At the same time, some consumers find value by shifting to the club channel and bulking up with large pack items. For our e-commerce shoppers, value often means never having to leave their home to make the trip.  

Does your experience working in B2B sales influence your current role at BIC? 

Early in my career, one of my sales leaders gave me the advice that I need to be at “D” while I was leading the customer through “B” and “C.” I find myself using very similar approaches to storytelling today that I developed back then, supported now by more data points and hard numbers. 

After spending 15 years in B2B sales, BIC is my first CPG/client role.  

BIC offered me an amazing opportunity to use my sales experience to support our commercial team. Over the past three years, I’ve been fortunate enough to help support all three of our categories in both the U.S. and, most recently, in Canada. Hands down, moving to BIC and supporting our category development team was the best professional decision of my life.  

The platinum rule in sales, as opposed to the golden rule in life, is to sell onto others as they want to be sold. When I worked in sales, I consistently put myself into the shoes of my customers, market research and brand managers alike. That mind-set gave me a set of experiences and a background that I didn’t even realize I had until I stepped into my current role. 

How do you see category management changing in the next five years?  

For over two years, the predictable behavior has been unpredictability with uncertainty being certain. Brands launched products with activation plans that were interrupted by store closures, while others launched brands that had artificial boosts in sales that were nearly impossible to lap in year two. Category leaders will need to find new baselines and stop worrying about what happened in 2019. The average consumer has changed how they shop and, for the most part, those behaviors have stuck. 

One area that will need particular focus over the next five years will be a better understanding of the omnichannel shopper. Retailers that developed or implemented a frictionless way to reach their consumers, regardless of the touch point, were the retailers that won during the pandemic. 

E-commerce is no longer a niche channel, it’s a major part of nearly every CPG’s business. The artificial growth over the past two years has begun to level off and an online strategy of listing a product on the usual websites and throwing advertising dollars against it isn’t enough. 

The same approach that has been central to category management over the past 30 years should not disappear just because the letter “e” is stuck in front of it.

On a more personal note, your family volunteers with the Humane Society and fosters animals too young to be adopted. I’d love to hear more!  

During the pandemic, my family of four bunkered down in a two-bedroom apartment in New Rochelle, N.Y. We were the first city to shut down and ended our shutdown long after most did. For two years our plan had been to move into a house for our kids, who were just a little too old to share a room together. 

Fostering kittens was originally a way to take care of a pet for a couple of weeks to make the kids happy, without having to worry about a long-term commitment when we were in the process of moving. Plans didn’t pan out that way. We didn’t move for six months and ended up with over a dozen cats – one of which we adopted ourselves.

The whole family feels in love with the process. What we didn’t know at the time was how great of a feeling it is to see a scared animal turn into a loving lap cat. If anyone is able to work with the Humane Society to give a home to an animal that is in need of a little extra TLC for a couple of weeks, I highly recommend it!