What Does a Category Manager Do? (Plus How to Become One)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 25 October 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you're interested in pursuing a career that involves a mix of marketing, retail and sales, and one that utilises analytical concepts to promote products and services, category management may be a good career choice for you. Category managers oversee the overall functioning of a particular category of products and services. Having a good understanding of the duties and responsibilities of a category manager can help you decide if it's a suitable career choice. In this article, we explore what does a category manager do, how to become a category manager and what skills they require to be successful in the role.

What does a category manager do?

If you're interested in this career, you may wonder, 'What does a category manager do each day?' A category manager develops the overall strategies of a product category, including activities related to visual merchandising, sales and management and pricing of the products. They also research product ideas within their category to improve sales and achieve their targets. In addition, category managers also work with teams that provide insights about particular products and their related product categories. These retail professionals are highly skilled in marketing, sales, product display, customer engagement and promotion and analysis.

Successful category managers contribute to the growth and profitability of a business by increasing the sale of products and by improving the pace of inventory turnover in their category. They often support activities that involve ordering, pricing and organising product. Sometimes category managers handle multiple categories of products, or they may specialise in a few specific items within a category.

Read more: What Does a Digital Marketing Manager Do? (Plus How to Become One)

Category manager duties and responsibilities

Category managers perform a broad range of duties aimed at increasing the profits and sales of a business. With their extensive experience in managing various product categories, they play a critical role in developing and implementing strategies to improve product design and development. Some of their typical duties and responsibilities include:

  • collaborating with buyers and merchandisers to expand product categories

  • working together with sales and analytics teams to understand sales trends, identify new sales opportunities, analyse competitor products and identify ways to increase sales and revenue

  • making critical decisions regarding product development and categorisation

  • actively liaisoning with various internal and external teams for different company's activities

  • providing training to sales and marketing teams about successful sales strategies that engage and retain customers

  • developing marketing plans that promote the latest products in the categories

  • identifying appropriate exit strategies for unsuccessful products

  • managing and overseeing a team of staff, including customer service personals and other analysts

  • developing relationships with key vendors and suppliers to improve product pricing and quality of services

  • creating forecasts to ensure product supply meets the demand

  • managing the revenue and budget development for the category

  • setting competitive price ranges for product categories and adjusting prices to improve sales

  • maintaining a healthy stock level of the products in their category by good promotion plan and stock management

Read more: What Does a Marketing Analyst Do? (Role and Responsibilities)

Average salary earned by the category manager

A category manager's salary depends on their job location, the company they work for and the number of years of work experience in their particular field. Since category managers belong to the management team, they're also eligible to earn performance bonuses, profit sharing and sales commissions. Their benefits also include health insurance and discounts on store merchandise. On average, a category manager can earn around $33,578 per month.

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Skills and competencies required for a category manager

Some specific skills and qualities can help you succeed as a category manager. Here are the top skills category managers can develop on the job:

  • Strategic skills: Strategic thinking skills are essential for category managers to analyse various approaches and implement the right solutions to achieve the best results for their companies. They also have to constantly develop new plans, streamline marketing processes, improve product development and achieve sales targets.

  • Management skills: Category managers work in management positions, requiring strong leadership and management skills to lead and motivate their team members. They delegate tasks, plan and schedule activities, influence others and share constructive feedback.

  • Interpersonal skills: A successful category manager has strong interpersonal skills. It helps them build lasting relationships, foster trust within their team members and understand others' thoughts and perceptions.

  • Problem-solving capability: Category managers can manage multiple tasks simultaneously and have good problem-solving abilities to overcome the multiple challenges they face in various stages of the retail process.

  • Communication skills: Category managers require excellent communication skills, both verbal and written, to manage the day-to-day operations of their work effectively. They also possess good listening skills, as they work together with their team members and utilise their inputs to drive innovation and generate more sales.

  • Negotiation skills: Category managers also possess strong negotiation skills that they utilise during discussions with multiple internal and external stakeholders. It helps them to build rapport and negotiate with suppliers and vendors and suppliers to benefit their company.

  • Attention to detail: Category managers also possess exceptional organisational skills and great attention to detail that help them succeed in this role.

  • Technical skills: Category managers use several tools and software, such as digital marketing tools, collaboration tools, analytics software, online communication and promotion tools to manage their work effectively. Knowledge and expertise in brand advocacy and social media management are also essential to succeed as a category manager.

Read more: 20 Marketing Skills to Highlight on Your Application

How to become a category manager

For those interested in learning how to become a category manager, here's a step-by-step guide to help you understand the process:

1. Earn suitable education

The first step in becoming a category manager involves earning at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. Several companies prefer to hire candidates with at least a bachelor's degree in marketing, retailing, business administration or related fields. Though not mandatory, completing a post-graduation program such as a Master's of Business Administration (MBA) degree can help you gain an advantage over the other candidates. Irrespective of your degree, some important topics to focus on during your education include business analysis, marketing strategy, consumer behaviour, finance and accounting, promotions and advertising.

2. Undertake marketing or related internship

Completing a marketing or sales internship can help you gain helpful exposure in the industry. During your internship, you may get the opportunity to observe experienced category managers while they work, which can help you identify the skills they use to perform their job successfully. In addition, it can help you develop essential skills, such as employing various sales techniques, conducting market analysis and understanding product development and promotion. Having such exposure and knowledge, along with your educational program, can give you a competitive edge over other candidates.

3. Gain management experience

Once you complete your education, you can look for entry-level jobs based on your interests and skills. While working in this position, you can familiarise yourself with standard marketing and sales procedures, which can help you advance into a management role. Gaining management experience in marketing, sales and retail can also help you boost your employability as a category manager in the later years. Working knowledge of the products, sales goals, consumer needs and the retail ecosystem related to the merchandise category is beneficial.

4. Obtain certifications

As you gain experience in your industry, consider pursuing a professional certification in your related field. Though it may not be a mandatory requirement for most employers, having a professional certification can increase your credibility and help you stand out from your competition. Standard certifications include Certified Convenience Category Manager Course (CCCM) and Certified Professional Category Manager (CPCM).

5. Advance your career

Often, category managers advance to senior category managers' positions as you gain experience. You can also advance to executive level roles as you gain experience and prove yourself. You can apply for an internal promotion at the same company you work for if they're hiring for a category manager or you may apply to different companies. Create a compelling resume that highlights your knowledge of marketing, sales, retail, promotional tactics and techniques, along with your strong management and leadership skills.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location. Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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