Interview with Vicky Brock

Interview: Vicky Brock

Vicky Brock is founder and former CEO of a high-growth technology start-up, Clear Returns, which helps retailers boost profits by understanding and tackling their returns. Vicky won Innovator of the Year at the 2014 FDM everywoman in Technology Awards, led Clear Returns to be named top Tech StartUp in Europe, by the European Commission and is one of Computer Weekly’s Top 50 Women in IT. She graduated from King’s College London, Birkbeck and MIT. She is a Director Emeritus of the Digital Analytics Association and previously worked with Google Analytics, HP and Tesco Clubcard. Get Market Fit, Vicky’s next data tech startup, is currently in discovery mode!

We caught up with Vicky ahead of her appearance at this year's Digital Day, that's taking place at The Studio in Glasow on Oct 5.


Can you explain the motivations behind launching your company, Clear Returns?

As an early pioneer within the digital analytics industry, I had worked with HP and Google Analytics to focus on growing sales and campaign conversion. But my own online shopping behaviour - I return maybe 80% of what I buy - made me realise that if anyone else shopped the same way as me, the idea that the sale was the end of the story was wrong. I championed the message that it is not really a sale until the customer decides to keep it - and with online return rates at 35%+, it is no surprise that resonated with retailers.

You raised over £1.5m for your start-up. That’s an incredible achievement. How did you go about it?

A combination of prizes, grants and equity investment - the problem is for a founder/CEO is that raising money is a full-time job and it can be a distraction from the real business of finding product market fit.

What’s the biggest mistakes made by startups?

A startup’s job is to find a scalable repeatable business model - product market fit + customer traction at a cost that makes commercial sense. It is easy to forget that, or believe you have that product market fit when you don’t. It takes longer and it takes more customer feedback than you first realise before you get the commercial offering right.

These blog posts may also help answer this question:

How big an issue is it for retailers to understand their returns and realistically, what can they do to tackle it?

Returns are a manifestation of inefficiency and hidden costs and they are not sustainable. Actually, I’d like to see returns treated as a marketing problem, the same way churn is, rather than a supply chain problem - because when you are paying to acquire high cost, high returning customers, the simple economics don’t make sense. The more customers you acquire, the less money you make. So I see the way to tackle this is by far more cost and lifetime value informed targeting decisions, and by measuring performance of marketing activities net of returns at a very granualar level.

What is the future of returns for retailers?

Currently levels of returns are not economically or environmentally sustainable. I think the future is in “keep optimised” targeting and in innovative business models that encourage, even reward customers, for keeping more and returning quickly and efficiently.

Catch Vicky at this year'd Digital Day where she'll be talking about why understanding customer profitibilty matters, and how to use big data to undrstand customer value. 

Vicky on Twitter