Career Development

What Does a Category Manager Do?

Find out what a category manager does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a category manager.

Category managers are responsible for overseeing the success of a particular product or group of products. They work with vendors, suppliers and other stakeholders to determine which products will be included in their category, as well as how they should be presented to consumers.

Category managers also play an important role in determining which products will be promoted by retailers or distributors. This may include everything from shelf placement to advertising campaigns to special sales events.

Category Manager Job Duties

A category manager typically has a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Creating marketing plans that help reach company objectives such as increased brand awareness or increased customer retention rates
  • Coordinating with other departments such as IT, finance, legal, human resources, or operations to ensure that new products are aligned with existing policies and procedures
  • Coordinating with external partners such as vendors, suppliers, distributors, retailers, and advertising agencies
  • Analyzing market data trends to identify opportunities for growth in new markets or new product categories within existing markets
  • Developing marketing strategies and campaigns to promote products or services to specific target markets using all available channels, including online, print, broadcast, and direct mail
  • Reviewing market research reports to identify new opportunities and threats to existing products or brands
  • Meeting regularly with managers in other departments to discuss progress on projects or initiatives and address any issues that may arise
  • Conduct market research to identify potential customers and develop strategies to reach them
  • Communicating with suppliers, vendors, and distributors to negotiate pricing, delivery terms, and other contractual details

Category Manager Salary & Outlook

Category managers’ salaries vary depending on their level of education, years of experience, and the size and industry of the company. They may also earn additional compensation in the form of bonuses.

  • Median Annual Salary: $92,500 ($44.47/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $163,000 ($78.37/hour)

The employment of category managers is expected to grow faster than average over the next decade.

Demand for these workers is expected to increase as e-commerce continues to grow and online retailers hire more category managers to oversee their product lines. Category managers will be needed to ensure that online retailers have a wide variety of products available to customers.

Related: Category Manager Interview Questions and Answers

Category Manager Job Requirements

A category manager typically needs the following qualifications:

Education: A bachelor’s degree is often a minimum requirement to become a category manager. Some companies may prefer or require a master’s degree. Relevant coursework that may be helpful in this role includes marketing, business, finance, statistics and economics.

Training & Experience: Most of a product manager’s training will take place while obtaining their education. Students can gain experience by working in a retail setting, in a warehouse or in a factory. Students can also gain experience by working in a sales or marketing position.

Product managers can also receive on-the-job training to learn more about the products they will be managing. They may receive instruction on the company’s specific software or computer programs they will be using. They may also receive instruction on the company’s specific processes and procedures.

Certifications & Licenses: Certifications can prove an individual’s qualifications to current and prospective employers. Category managers can earn certifications to gain more practical knowledge of their responsibilities, test their professional skills and further advance their career.

Category Manager Skills

Category managers need the following skills in order to be successful:

Marketing skills: Marketing skills can help you understand the goals of a marketing campaign and how category managers can support those goals. For example, if a marketing team is trying to increase sales for a specific product, a category manager with marketing skills can help create a strategy to sell more of that product.

Product knowledge: As a category manager, you should have a thorough understanding of the products you manage. This can help you make informed decisions about how to market the products and what strategies to use. You can also use your product knowledge to help your team members understand the products and how to sell them.

Communication skills: As a category manager, you communicate with many people on a daily basis. You may be communicating with other managers, sales representatives, suppliers and other members of your team. Effective communication is an essential skill for a category manager. You need to be able to communicate clearly and concisely to ensure everyone understands your message. You also need to be able to listen to others and respond appropriately.

Analytical skills: Analytical skills are the ability to process information and make decisions based on the information you have. As a category manager, you may be responsible for creating a marketing strategy for a new product or service. Having strong analytical skills can help you make informed decisions that can help your company grow.

Decision-making skills: As a category manager, you need to make decisions about which products to promote and how to promote them. Your decision-making skills can help you make the best choices for your company. You may also need to make decisions about which marketing channels to use and how to allocate your budget.

Category Manager Work Environment

Category managers work in a variety of settings, including retail stores, wholesale clubs, and manufacturing plants. They may also work in corporate offices, where they may spend most of their time analyzing data and developing marketing plans. Some category managers travel to visit stores or attend trade shows. Most category managers work full time and some work more than 40 hours per week.

Category Manager Trends

Here are three trends influencing how category managers work. Category managers will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Need for a More Strategic Role

The role of the category manager is evolving, as businesses are increasingly looking to them for strategic guidance. In order to be successful in this new role, category managers will need to be able to think outside the box and come up with innovative ideas that will help their company stand out from the competition.

In addition, category managers will need to be able to work well with other departments, such as marketing and sales, in order to create a cohesive product strategy. This will require strong communication skills and the ability to collaborate effectively.

More Collaboration Between Marketing and Sales

As the lines between marketing and sales continue to blur, category managers will need to be more collaborative in their approach.

Category managers can utilize this trend by developing a deeper understanding of the needs of both departments. This will allow them to better align products with customer demands and improve overall sales performance. Additionally, category managers will need to be able to communicate effectively with both teams in order to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

A Greater Focus on Data-Driven Decision Making

As data becomes an increasingly important part of business decision making, category managers will need to become experts at using data to make informed decisions.

This means that category managers will need to be able to collect and analyze data in order to determine what products are selling well and which ones should be discontinued. They will also need to be able to use data to identify trends in the market and predict where it is headed.

How to Become a Category Manager

A successful career as a category manager can be rewarding both personally and professionally. It’s important to consider the many different aspects of this role before starting down the path toward becoming a category manager.

First, it’s important to understand what a category manager does. As the name suggests, a category manager is responsible for managing all aspects of a product or service category. This includes overseeing the development of new products, ensuring that existing products are meeting customer needs, and developing marketing campaigns to promote products in the category.

Second, it’s important to consider where you want to work. There are many different industries that employ category managers, so it’s important to find an industry that interests you and matches your skillset. Additionally, some companies have more rigid hiring processes than others, so it’s important to do your research before applying for a job.

Finally, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest trends in your industry. The best way to do this is by attending industry conferences and networking with other professionals in your field.

Advancement Prospects

Category managers typically advance to positions of greater responsibility within their company, such as brand manager, marketing manager, or product manager. Some category managers eventually become vice presidents of marketing or other executive-level positions.

Many category managers start their careers in entry-level marketing or product management positions and are promoted to category manager after they have gained experience and proven themselves in their jobs. Some category managers may have previous experience working in retail as assistant buyers, buyers, or merchandisers.

Category Manager Job Description Example

At [CompanyX], we are looking for an experienced Category Manager to join our team. The Category Manager is responsible for the development and execution of the category strategy, as well as the management of day-to-day category operations. This role requires a strategic thinker who can identify opportunities and develop plans to grow the category, while also being able to execute on those plans with precision. The Category Manager will work closely with cross-functional teams, including Marketing, Sales, Finance, and Operations, to develop and implement category plans that drive growth.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Develop and execute category plans that deliver on business objectives while maximizing customer satisfaction
  • Conduct regular analysis of category performance, share insights with key stakeholders, and make recommendations for improvements
  • Monitor and report on trends within assigned categories, keeping abreast of new products, services, and technologies
  • Research and develop relationships with new vendors to expand product offerings and drive cost savings
  • Negotiate pricing and terms with vendors, ensuring the best possible value for the company
  • Manage inventory levels for assigned categories, placing orders as needed to maintain stock levels while minimizing excess and obsolescence
  • Develop promotional plans and strategies in collaboration with marketing, sales, and other key stakeholders
  • Create and maintain accurate category documentation, including product descriptions, pricing, and photos
  • Train and support employees on assigned categories, providing expert knowledge and guidance as needed
  • Serve as the primary point of contact for vendor inquiries and issues related to assigned categories
  • Handle customer complaints and concerns related to products and services in assigned categories
  • Perform regular audits of physical inventory to ensure accuracy

Required Skills and Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s degree in business, marketing, or related field
  • 5+ years experience in category management, product management, or similar role
  • Proven track record of successful product launches and go-to-market strategies
  • Strong analytical skills, with experience using data to drive decision making
  • Excellent project management skills, with ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously
  • Outstanding communication, presentation, and interpersonal skills

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

  • MBA or other advanced degree
  • Experience working in the retail industry
  • Experience with ecommerce
  • Familiarity with web analytics tools, such as Google Analytics
  • Knowledge of SEO/SEM principles


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