Unilever Category Experts – empowering women to help shoppers navigate the shelves

In a nutshell

Empowering women to become confident and effective sales ambassadors who have the passion, the skills and the knowledge to serve our shoppers.

What’s the issue?

Based on an assessment conducted by the Internal Labour Organization in 2013, the Philippines’ women’s labour market participation is substantially lower than the men’s. Women are often expected to fulfil domestic roles, thereby spending more time on “unpaid work” such as household and child care tasks, that limit their participation in paid work. This not only compromises their economic independence, but also jeopardises their control for decisions concerning their body, health, and life. When women are employed, they usually end up in the informal economy with low income and inadequate job security and work benefits. Majority of employed Filipino women are laborers and unskilled workers earning as little as €2.85 per day.

What’s the story?

Launched in 2014, the Category Experts Programme (CatEx) transforms ordinary women into brand experts and sales champions through intensive and holistic trainings, which ranges from product knowledge, personality development, effective communication and professional selling. Armed with the mindset of “Shoppers First”, Category Experts educate, serve and actively sell to our shoppers in hypermarkets, supermarkets, and drug stores across the Philippines. They are rewarded with a stable income and recognition, which allows them to realize their personal goals and improve their self-worth and fulfilment.

The CatEx Development Program covers 8 levers: (i) Image, (ii) Recruitment and Selection, (iii) Training, (iv) Career Progression, (v) Performance Measurement, (vi) Personal Development Plan, (vii) Remuneration and (viii) Rewards and Recognition, which ensures growth and retention of Category Experts as well as programme sustainability.

What are the outcomes and impact?

Impact on People:

  • Provides livelihood to 1,587 women with ripple effect to at least 6,500 family members
  • Impacts the lives of 2 million shoppers monthly
  • Contributes to expansion of indirect distribution of Unilever products by catering to 525,200 mom and pop store owners who shop in RTM supermarket stores 

Impact to Unilever brands and categories:

  • Positively contributed to the sales growth for the hair, laundry, skin and deo’s categories.
  • For hair alone, the sales growth for stores with CatEx deployment was 21% compared to -2% for stores without CatEx. For Laundry, sales growth for CatEx stores is 6% vs -2% for non-CatEx stores.
  • Based on a shopper study, interaction with Category Experts significantly improves brand awareness, most notably for Deos and Skin categories. In addition, CatEx can help increase association of brands to their must-win attributes (MWA), strengthening the competitiveness of Unilever brands in the market.
  • Shopper inclination to purchase is higher with CatEx interaction. The Category Experts can provide incremental sales by increasing penetration and frequency for Deos, encouraging switchers for Hair and Laundry, and improving shopper basket size through regime building and upgrading for Skin and Hair categories.

What are the future plans?

Philippines Customer Development have developed a plan called “Frontline First.” This is an umbrella programme which aims to maximize the feet on the street as holistic Unilever ambassadors. The programme aims to standardize 4 key pillars:

  1. Hiring,
  2. Training,
  3. Career Progression
  4. Remuneration to ensure sustainable development of our sales team, merchandisers, and Category Experts.

Identified as the leading-edge model, the Category Experts Development Program will set the foundation in creating this holistic and full-proof Frontline First activity system. The CatEx program also serves as an inspiration for the sales ambassador program in countries such as Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and South Africa.

In Summary

“We grow our categories and channels by winning shoppers at POS through initiatives like the CatEx Program. But more than just a POS tool, the CatEx program strives to empower and build families’ lives.” Mian Datu-David, Channel and Category Development Director, Unilever Philippines 

To learn more, please contact: Iyessa Ganuelas, iyessa.ganuelas@unilever.com

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