Category optimizer: A dynamic-assortment, new-product-introduction, mix-optimization, and demand-planning system

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Journal Article
Marketing Science, 2013, 32 (2), pp. 221 - 228
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The purpose of this paper is to describe the implementation of a category management tool known as Category Optimizer™ at Foster's Wine Estates Americas for one of its brands, the Beringer California Collection. Foster's was facing a common management problem: harnessing its portfolio of Beringer California Collection wines to increase profitability, improve its competitive position, and defend against a disruptive new entrant in the U.S. wine market called Yellow Tail. Category Optimizer combines the parsimony of an internal market structure with the advances that have been made in assortment planning in operations research, assortment and stock-keeping-unit-level modeling, mixed logits, and the marketing literature on the perceptions of variety of assortment to develop and estimate a model on readily available store scanner data. The model subsequently uses these results to inform strategic and tactical decision making. This approach led to recommendations that initially seemed counterintuitive; the normal response would be for Foster's to consider lowering prices to maintain share and volume, a strategy not inconsistent with many of the recommendations of past models. However, considering the additional degrees of freedom that a product range offered for defense, we demonstrated that a combination of price increases together with the introduction of a volume-flanker product in a new channel would improve profits, increase revenue, and protect and enhance market share. These were successfully implemented in early 2008, earning rich dividends for the company; increasing profitability by 70%, revenue by 3%, and earnings before interest and taxes by 8.5%; and having a positive impact on its brand ranking. In fact, in 2008, it debuted as sixth among the international wine brands. It also managed to play an important role in deposing Yellow Tail, the market share leader, from its dominant position. We conclude the paper by providing examples of other companies where this approach has also been successfully implemented and by discussing some avenues for future research. ©2013 INFORMS.
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