Mastering Joint Business Planning: An Insider’s Guide

When it comes to joint business planning (JBP), Category Advisors bring a source of truth to the table, fostering credibility and trust in the JBP, yet oftentimes they take a backseat in the planning process. Join us for a panel discussion with guests and former sales and merchandising leaders from Walmart and Coca-Cola, as they share their perspectives on how Category Advisory can lead JBP to improve outcomes. Gain a deeper understanding of retailers’ data challenges and find out how you can become their go-to partner by bringing the right data and insights to the table.

Key topics addressed in the webinar:

  • Understand the pivotal role of category advisory in Joint Business Planning.
  • Discover how to establish credibility and trust as an objective third-party advisor.
  • Empower sales growth through actionable and clear insights.
  • Employ emerging technologies to stay ahead of the competition.

Don’t miss this opportunity to elevate your advisory skills and drive mutual success.


  • Kristine Joji, Executive Vice President, Strategy Consulting, Insite AI
  • Capri Brixey, Executive Vice President, Strategy Consulting, Insite AI.

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Be the Smartest CPG in the Room During Joint Business Planning (Featured on Consumer Goods Technology)

Guest article originally featured on Consumer Goods Technology. See full article.

Joint business planning is the lifeblood of a brand’s success at a retailer.  During these meetings, retailers are looking to CPGs to bring them deep insights and category stories.

Brands should come to retailers with truly powerful insights that more accurately predict how categories will perform in the future, assist retailer partners to make intelligent decisions and advance the outcomes of joint business planning meetings. Machine learning, AI and predictive analytics can help CPGs ultimately create advantage for themselves and the retailer.

About the Author: 
Brooke Hodierne currently serves as an EVP – strategy consulting at Insite AI, an AI and strategy partner for larger consumer brands. She joined the company following her time as SVP of merchandising for 7-Eleven. In the role, she drove category management teams that developed, implemented and communicated merchandising strategies for vault, packaged goods, tobacco and services.

Before joining 7-Eleven, Brooke held multiple positions at Giant Eagle, serving as VP of own brands, senior director of strategic sourcing and own brands, and director of prepared foods merchandising. She supported brand marketing at Del Monte Foods and held analytical roles with financial investment firms Wilshire Associates, Federated Investors and the Vanguard Group.

One of the Largest Consumer Brands Achieves Category Leadership at Walmart

Became category leader at the world’s largest retailer

What we did

One of the world’s largest brands in the consumables area wanted to elevate its
category advisement at Walmart. Applying powerful predictive and AI components
across multiple data sources, we enriched and accelerated the brand’s planning
and decision-making processes to present Walmart with the best assortments at a
planogram level for all 4,600 stores.

Reduced planning cycle time from months to days


We deployed assortment capabilities in the brand’s cloud environment to ensure
data never left. Merging multiple data sources, our platform delivered insights on
demand transference so the team could understand the incrementality associated
with product additions, deletions, and resulting effects on demand.

5-15% sales improvement


With Insite AI, this major consumer brand developed very clear forecasts on how
their category—and others in the category—are performing at a planogram level
within Walmart. The brand can now create multiple assortments within seconds and
recommend the best one.
As a result of their adoption of AI, they have delivered a better shopping experi-
ence for their consumers, growing their joint profit pool, and achieving category
leadership. They are now expanding into other retailers.

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CPGs & Joint Business Planning: A Retailer’s POV

A former executive at 7-Eleven and Giant Eagle, Brooke Hodierne, EVP – Strategy Consulting, discusses where CPGs can evolve joint business planning and take more control

Joint business planning (JBP) is mission critical for retailers and their consumer goods partners. It’s a months-long process that runs from the starting line, through various checkpoints and past the checkered flag. JBP is when retailers address goals, category strategies and marketing initiatives, and CPGs bring insights, innovation and investment in the pursuit of growth.

After going through various stages of the process to see where the parties’ strategies align, they then settle on product assortment, pricing, promotions, shelf space, marketing and e-commerce decisions. The process is deliberate, but generally powered by old data and slide presentations. It needs a boost.

In my view as a former retailer, CPGs can light that fire and revamp JBP through new data and near real-time data and insights. CPGs can leverage more accurate and intelligent predictive analytics to chart a better course at the beginning of JBP, maintain their efforts throughout the year, collaboratively work to “gap close” and, frankly, drive more of the conversation. 

This is the type of intelligence that will keep CPGs at the top of a retailer’s list. 

Where CPGs Can Level Up During JBP

No matter the technology or industry advancements, a part of JBP will always be like playing three-dimensional chess. Both retailers and CPGs hold back just enough information for competitive reasons while being as transparent as necessary to drive win-win and mutual benefit.

It’s understandably complicated, but within that chess match, there are ways CPGs can help improve the process overall. Here are tips to gain a better standing in JBP: 

Be Insight Rich

You’ve heard the saying, “data rich but insight poor,” and this can pertain to many CPGs. The companies might be swimming in data but often they either don’t have access to it, can’t digest and harmonize it, or can’t synthesize it quickly enough to make it actionable. This often occurs during JBP and it can be obvious to a retailer when a CPG purchases data for the sake of saying yes but doesn’t shape it to a specific retailer’s customers or goals.

Honor the Deadline

A retailer’s internal planning deadlines need to be taken seriously. For years, retailers granted extensions to certain brands while negotiations continued, but in a world where teams are under-resourced or in the middle of reorganization, CPGs going into a JBP thinking there will be an exception will miss the boat. If a deadline isn’t met, the decision will be made for you. The retailer, with or without you, will make a final decision on the brand plan, space, pricing and promotional strategy. It can even come down to a retailer not including a brand’s new item introduction. Instead, they’ll choose the competitor’s new item because they followed the process.

Fair Share Isn’t Always Fair

Every category is different — especially when it relates to  allotted shelf space in stores. For CPGs entering a JBP with a retailer, they need to know their place in the category and be prepared to not always earn their “fair share” of space. From the retailer’s view, there always will need to be extra space reserved to make room for private brand introductions and innovations that excite a category from smaller, emergent, challenger brands. A CPG can’t merely expect to receive their fair share, so plan ahead and prioritize the brands and products that will deliver the most growth and differentiation.

Keep Stakeholders in the Know

Perhaps the single biggest issue to disrupt a JBP is when Sales teams don’t bring key decision makers along for the journey. In large, matrixed organizations, it’s especially important to expand discussions early and often with members of finance, revenue growth management and marketing.

CPGs that can improve processes around these tips can come to a JBP with better expectations and an understanding of a retailer’s priorities and constraints. But there are also ways CPGs can win over a JBP meeting.  

Where CPGs Can Shine During JBP

Lest we forget, retailers also have a lot of room to improve in how they handle JBP meetings. But, with technology like AI, CPGs are in a grand position to rewrite the game. They can change the tone of meetings with precise, accurate, forward-looking data. They can earn more control over how their products are received by bringing rich insights that help grow an overall category. Here’s where CPGs can win in JBP:

Bring Clear-Eyed Data

Retailers look to CPGs for data and insights. CPG organizations can leverage AI to run “what if” scenarios in real time that foster forward-thinking, collaborative conversations with retail buyers. The data accounts for all the ways retailers can play on their chessboard, which helps them develop rich category plans with more clarity. Using technology to detail the why, and share the explainability factor goes a long way with a buyer, and helps them also explain their decisions to their leadership teams.

Invest Toward Category Growth

Rich data that can present a predictive view of the entire category — not just how your brands sit within it — ultimately will win over a retailer. Data that highlights an investment in overall category growth and that arms a CPG to be the smartest person in the room when it comes to their product and the total category can be a massive game changer.

Forget the Rear View

For years, JBP relied on CPGs coming to the table with insights based on historical data. Brands looked backward, referencing what happened a year ago to predict what will happen in the year ahead. It’s simply not accurate. Do you behave the exact same you did last year? I know I don’t so why would we believe a customer would? There is so much change in shopper behavior and macroeconomic trends that it can’t be relied upon. The windshield is bigger than the rear view for a reason. Let’s all start looking down the road. 

AI Can Power Your JBP

Just as AI and machine learning can revolutionize how CPGs perform annual business planning, CPGs can leverage the technology to vastly improve how they meet with retailers and master JBP. 

To learn more about how AI can create smarter scenarios for an in-depth view of business planning, click here.

A harmonious tale: Strengthening the retailer-CPG relationship

First posted here:

Ryan Powell, SVP retail strategy and consulting at Insite AI, explains why the relationship between retailers and CPG brands goes beyond breaking silos of data and understanding each other’ strategies. Success is tied to collaborative planning processes as if they were a single entity.

For decades, the relationship between retailers and their CPG brands have been a critical, albeit complex one to navigate. Both share mirrored desires to remain competitive, capture consumer loyalty and spend, and drive greater market share.

At the same time, they both face very similar challenges from increasing cost pressures, defense against new entrants, the rise of direct to consumer marketing, and ever-evolving consumer demands.

But the two are often at odds with different business objectives and goals, especially when it comes to pricing, and they have historically remained distinct in their pricing strategies. According to a report by Bain & Company, relations between the two actually fell to their lowest level within the past five years in 2021, mainly driven by approaches that favored short-term sales.

The fact is, though, that there’s a huge opportunity for both parties to work more closely together, break down those detrimental silos, and ultimately increase profitability for all. With record numbers of new categories and brand extensions launched every week, pressures from online shopping, and ever-shrinking shelf space, making smarter choices for in-store together will be imperative for success moving forward.

Considering CPGs and retailers have monthly, quarterly, and annual revenue and profit targets to hit — plus shareholders and stakeholders to satisfy — it’s important to acknowledge that delivering a joint business plan wouldn’t necessarily be a simple, quick fix. It requires bold leaders from both sides prepared to invest time and energy in order to properly execute against this sort of strategy. For those willing to make this change though, the benefits could be significant. In fact, that same Bain report cited a more than 10% increase of incremental profit pool growth in just one year if retailers and CPGs build intelligent and well-devised, joint business plans.

So, where to start?

Establishing trust and transparency

The strongest relationships are built between people, and although written business plans and agreements are necessary, the most important investment is establishing the utmost trust, transparency, and rapport with all involved retail and CPG parties. This isn’t just limited to C-suite executives or VPs. In fact, it is even more important that the people who will actually deliver the day-to-day execution like category managers, buyers, and shopper marketing directors trust one another and recognize they are working collaboratively for a common business goal. This, in turn, requires conversations around, and deep understanding of, each other’s needs and goals: What does success look like? How are they being appraised? Aligning on these points up front is key to successful collaboration.

Another success factor is the use of data. Both retailers and CPGs have access to unique data sets that, if combined, could change course for their businesses. Retailers are typically armed with incredible intelligence and analyses around shopper behaviors and engagement through Electronic Point of Sale, loyalty card, and large amounts of consumer data.

On the flip side, CPGs have much more granular figures and expertise surrounding their specific brands and overall categories (i.e., factors like pricing, assortment, and space optimization). Many CPGs also have greater capabilities when it comes to AI, ML, and analytics that help improve forecasts, recommendations, and decision-making to provide enormous value for the retailers.

As part of this though, trusting CPGs data’s accuracy and value and demonstrating a willingness to use it will be the first step in driving paired success.

Those who plan together, stay together

Moving forward to satisfy the consumer goes beyond breaking siloes of data and understanding each other’s strategies, or even discussing mid- and long-term goals. For success it is critical for retailers and CPGs to actually conduct their planning processes together as if they were a single entity — particularly focused on category planning.

Sure, CPGs could very well grow specific brands and drive that short-term success for their retailers on their own, but true long-term success requires strategic initiatives and decision-making centered around entire category growth, building strategies that are right for the retailer’s DNA and for the consumers that shop there.

One way to achieve this is for CPGs and retailers to work cohesively in the same platforms to co-develop the numbers, projects, predictions and co-manage the data. Through greater collaboration at the planning stage and increased transparency the two can more effectively and efficiently ensure true optimization of assortment, pricing, and shelf space, and make sure consumers get the value they need.

Knowing your work isn’t done

Above all, one of the most important things for CPGs and retailers to keep in mind once they’ve implemented this connected approach is to remain continuously innovative. Considering how volatile the retail industry is and every variable involved, remaining stagnant or complacent in tactics is a recipe for disaster. Being inquisitive and consistently asking questions, analyzing data through different lenses, introducing new data sets into ecosystems, and having a real-time understanding of customer sentiment and trends will be essential in staying agile, smart, and one step ahead against other industry players.

While this collaborative approach appears a daunting task, one that will require unprecedented levels of cooperation and even change management, the potential for market success makes the effort well worth it. By working in true partnership, retailers and CPGs have the greater potential to strengthen profit margins, shopper relationships, and overall success. As the pandemic rages on across the globe and disrupts previous operations, alters consumer behaviors, and challenges retail and CPG execution more than ever before — taking the leap of collaboration could prove more beneficial not only now, but in the many years to come.

Ryan Powell is SVP retail strategy and consulting at Insite AI

First posted here:

Is It Possible for CPGs and Retailers to Both See Profit Boosts?

Both CPGs and retailers are under immense pressures for different reasons, operating with different objectives. See how a well-built, joint business plan can deliver incremental profit pool growth for both sides.

It is if they work together.

Relations between CPGs and their retail partners have fallen to their lowest level in 5 years, according to a 2021 report by management consultants Bain & Company. According to the firm, the main cause has been a short-sighted approach on both sides that has favored short-term sales targets. CPGs and retailers alike face their share of challenges: CPGs are under immense cost pressure, especially with rising raw materials and logistics costs. Meanwhile, retailers have had to defend their market share against new entrants, such as deep discounters. In addition, the trend toward smaller store formats and the rapid growth of online commerce has further upset the balance. However, according to Bain, a well-devised, joint business plan can deliver more than 10% of incremental profit pool growth for both the brand and retailer in a single year providing they work together intelligently.

The report, which focused on CPGs and retailers in Europe, concluded that only one in four joint annual plans actually manages to create value for both parties, and that instead of building incremental value, 59% of trade promotions merely subsidize baseline sales. They suggest that the traditional, strategic moves from CPGs like launching a new, above-the-line television campaign or new brand extension, are running out of steam and losing effectiveness.

The growing friction between CPGs and retailers is real. In 2016, the UK’s largest grocery retailer, Tesco, delisted nearly all of Unilever’s products after the manufacturer asked for a 10% price increase across its iconic brand portfolio. The CPG’s price increase was blamed on the pound’s fall against the euro and the US dollar. In 2016, Unilever had a 32% share of all the UK’s ice cream and frozen dessert sales, 21% share of all table sauces, and 19% share of butter and margarine sales according to Euromonitor. The disagreement was rapidly resolved, but this example shows what can happen when negotiations fail

The only sustainable solution is to collaborate closely and grow profits together.

According to Bain & Company’s research that was published in 2021, the best CPGs are able to deliver a 10% increase in joint profit pool growth in a single year by doing 5 things differently:

  1. The best CPGs understand both their own and their retailers’ strategies
    Getting deep under the skin of the retailer’s P&L enables the CPG to appreciate their business strategy, their most important KPIs, and ultimately how value is delivered to the end consumer. By listening to the other side’s needs and being able to articulate how a CPG initiative will build value is much more likely to get retailers onside.
  2. Deliver up to 20% more incremental sales and profit for both parties through an assortment optimization program
    Legacy approaches to store assortment and clustering can lead to high levels of item cannibalization. Limited shelf space often means an ongoing battle between CPG and retailers on which SKUs to stock, how much space to allocate in which stores, and whether a product should be delisted.CPGs had previously been held back without the means to optimize assortments at the lowest, most granular level. However, a cloud-based platform can create optimized assortment decisions at scale, right down to individual store level. This gives clear direction on product mix, space elasticity, and pricing, and a truly optimized assortment has the potential to significantly drive volume and profit for both parties. The latest platforms are able to run millions of what-if scenarios in a matter of seconds, giving real-time insight that allows a proactive assortment approach. The results ensure customers get the value they need, whilst the CPG and the retailer can make the most out of every bit of shelf space.
  3. Take a medium-term view to deliver a business plan
    Both CPGs and retailers have monthly, quarterly, and annual revenue and profit targets to hit, as well as shareholders and stakeholders to satisfy. Delivering a successful joint business plan is not a quick fix, and therefore it will take bold leaders who are prepared to invest at least a couple years in order to deliver a properly-executed joint profit plan. As a CPG, you should have a 3-year plan for each of your most important retailers with an imperative of not being distracted by only focusing on monthly sales targets.
  4. Build trust and transparency
    Strong relationships are built between people. Beyond the written business plans and agreements, invest in building strong relationships with all the key people within your retail partners. Build these not only with c-suite executives or VPs, but with the people who will actually deliver the day-to-day strategy. This includes category managers, buyers, and shopper marketing directors. Build a real understanding of the KPIs they track. What does success look like to them? How are they being appraised? Then, arm yourself with data that gives them the confidence to buy into your CPG’s initiatives, whether it’s store assortment, a new range, or a price change. If you’ve got granular data to prove something, then you’re halfway there.
  5. Break down silos within your CPG
    Most CPGs have teams dedicated to their most important retailers to bring people together from commercial, category, sales, marketing, manufacturing, and logistics.Whilst people from these disciplines do work together on projects, it is incredibly challenging to avoid a siloed mentality. There are many widely-cited solutions to the siloing issue, and hundreds of management books have been written about it. However, taking a pragmatic approach to ensure teams are collectively responsible for delivering the retailer’s P&L with common goals and objectives is the key. Ensure the collective responsibility is mandated from the highest level of leadership within your CPG so it has a real sense of purpose and gravitas.