Vicky Brock: Turning a hobby into an award-winning start-up
Vicky is CEO and founder of Clear Returns, a predictive software company which provides data-driven solutions to multichannel retailers' returns challenges. Before she decided to launch her own company, she began her career in direct marketing, with clients including Tesco Clubcard and HP, and she was also Scotland's first Google Analytics Authorised Consultant. In 2014, she won the Innovator of the Year Award at the FDM Everywoman in Technology Awards.
Clear Return's product, an early warning system, is an award winning invention. Helping retailers tackle returns before they escalate – resulting in more revenue retained in the business and higher profits. Vicky herself tells us that the company's idea originated from her own bad shopping habits. "Like many people, I buy way more online than I intend to keep, yet I knew from my previous work with analytics at Google, HP and Tesco Clubcard that conversion analytics traditionally stops at the sale" she says.
However, it is important to keep in mind that, as Vicky states it "it isn't a sale until the customer decides to keep it". With retailers today facing the problem of having one in three items sold online returned – with a decreasing profit as a consequence. By valuing and segmenting customers, based on what they keep and by predicting individual products' likelihood to return, Vicky found a new way to understand retail behaviour and turning the retail business model around.
"I applied my data analytics skills to the problem of returns in retail and Clear Returns was born" Vicky phrases it. Their returns intelligence platform (Best New Product 2013 and Ecommerce Innovation of the Year 2014) merges key data from sales and warehouse systems to provide insights into everything retailers need to know about the products, customers and marketing activities that are costing them money, rather than making money.
Vicky explains, "Very few companies have too little data, but very few can take fast, informed action based on the data they have. Our focus is on being a global returns intelligence and being experts rather than generalists. We are delivering alerts and automated responses, but most importantly we are solving the real world problems our customers face every day".
When the topic arises of why Clear Returns has been so successful, Vicky humbly credits her team and their tenacity. "We have a complete and utter self-belief that we are changing the world", she says. Not to mention the company's product/market fit is impeccable, filling a need retailers have been struggling with long before the rise of the Internet and online sales.
The company has a lot of patented Intellectual Property (or IP) and regard themselves entirely as an IP company. Vicky is keen to keep innovation as a core of everything they do. " I was really honoured to win innovator of the year at the FDM Everywoman in Technology Awards last year, but it is really a team achievement. Innovation is not just about ideas - and I generally have at least 20 in the bath everyday - it is about execution on those" she tells us. Currently, Clear Returns is working on a new innovation - a roadmap focused on extending existing IP further along the retail supply-chain and into the broader AdTech ecosystem. Which will hopefully support them in reaching their vision of becoming a global market leader in returns intelligence and to be a £100 million company within five years.
Overall, Vicky is a great ambassador for women in business, particularly in the technology industry where her passion lies. She is an active champion involved in changing the ratio of women in the technology sector and creating opportunities for a younger generation. Her advice for fellow entrepreneurs is simple:
"Pick your battles, set big hairy goals, get over your ego and make it all about the customer and team. Always be prepared to lead, especially in the bad times when there are no good options, you must trust your gut. Oh, and don't run out of money."