Interview: Meeting Clear Box Retail

Clear Box Retail is a technology driven supplier of retail execution solutions. The leadership team have intriguing CVs and includes a mix a backgrounds including Acosta Europe/ Reach and Kraft Heinz. 

Clear Box opened for business almost exactly when we were just getting used to the a new word, Covid, so the successful emergence of the business is an indicator of its sound principles. 

We thought it was about time we stopped by to hear a bit more about the business by putting our questions to members of its founding and leadership team.  In this group interview FMBE put the questions to:  

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Mark Smith – Chief Executive Officer (MS),  Nick Marr – Chief Technology Officer (NM), Sarah Morris – Business Unit Director (SM), Jonathon Monger – Insight Director (JM),

Simon Newton – Co-Founder & Director (SN)

Here’s what they had to tell us: 


Why is technology such an important corner stone of Clear Box Retail? 

(MS) Retail Execution instore for us is about four things, all under the umbrella of “”Retail Intelligence””.

1) where to go, 2) what to do when you get there, 3) how will you change something, 4)how do you measure impact

Therefore, technology and specifically retail analytics, can help all of those 4 points, but in very different ways. That is why its right that technology is at the core of retail execution teams. You still need great people, great training and management to complete the picture and hence you need to be brilliant on these elements, so then technology becomes the differentiator.

How does the proprietary tech create clear points of difference between Clear Box Retail and other agencies in the Field Marketing sphere?

(NM) There are a number of areas that we lead on versus the competition.

  1. We own our technology, which means we evolve and adapt to our clients needs. Many UK agencies are either buying a solution from a third party or they have outdated technology.
  2. The technology is modular – meaning it never goes out of date or lags behind. If a new component (e.g data base structure) is better than before then we can easily swap it in
  3. Our technology connects with any system and this means you dont have change anything else.

A good example of this is in the USA. He we are working with a large FMCG company, and we have Billions of $ of product sales in our systems, and over 1.7 million outlets on our live data base. We direct 26 different agencies on where to go and what to do, then measure everything on the return. The scale of our experience means we have to have the best technology to deliver this.

Can you give an example of how your retail intelligence is helping a client to increase sales? 

(SM) The retail intelligence model is designed to make retail execution a key pillar for our clients by bringing together cross functional teams. What this means in practice is that we use our data and technology solutions to direct action to Supply Chain teams, National Account teams and Field teams in order to make each stage of the retail execution journey more efficient and effective.

A clear example of this would be where we use highly precise data alerts to direct our Field teams into store to fix availability issues and ensure the products are on shelf for consumers to buy. When that product then goes on promotion our retail analytics solution, ClearView, is used by Supply Chain teams and National Account teams to understand which stores will not have enough stock to fill the gondola end on day one and allows them to talk to retailer Supply Chain teams to push stock to store. During the life of the promotion we then track both sales performance and stockholding to alert stores which have either a stock issue which can be fixed by Head Office teams or a compliance issue can be fixed by a Field team.  Once the promotion is finished ClearView then gives National Account Managers the ability to review the promotions performance and use the learning to improve the next promotions forecast and execution.

All of the analytics are fully automated and can be self serve but we also provide Insight Analysts who will build out bespoke insights using ClearView, because we know that clients are increasingly stretched and value the support to drive their commercial relationships with retailers.

Does Clear Box’s the additional provision of e-commerce solutions help sales directors to see a 360 view of their grocery product sales? How/ Why?

(MS) Simply put, yes it does. Sales Directors could not see all their channels performance in one place as no-one was offering this service, we can do this. Its not easy and the hardest is Amazon but we have cracked this. In addition, we show all the channels to our clients; Grocery, High St, Foodservice, Convenience, and Pharmacy.

What are the most frequently requested e-commerce solutions that Clear Box provides? Why?

(NM) Amazon is the one that comes up time and time again. The level of difficulty, specialist knowledge and volume of data are difficult to navigate and the way Amazon operates is often a challenge for ‘non experts’ to understand. We are able to use our technology and expertise bring visibility and simplify Amazon so that everyone in the organisation can understand the data and is directed to action.

Who is using Clear Box for e-commerce? 

(MS) We have some small clients and large clients using this service, in the UK and the USA – due to confidentiality we are unable to name them, but one we can is Edgewell Personal Care.

How much of Clear Box’s day to day activity uses a field team? How is it provided? For whom?

(JM) We have a range of clients including Edgewell, Storck, Bacardi, Kraft Heinz. We prefer to talk about Retail Execution rather than field sales as we believe that delivering a great instore experience for consumers is the responsibility of many functions. Our suite of analytics tools improve Retail Execution by bringing together supply chain, national account teams and field sales teams all working as one team to seamlessly deliver excellence at the point of purchase. Clearly, field teams are an important part of that process, and we are delighted to provide this service for the majority of our clients.

Our field sales model is very different from what you typically see in the market as we are using data first to understand exactly how to execute in the most efficient way. What we see elsewhere is data being used to try to sell more people. This leads to huge contracts but doesn’t necessarily deliver the right solution for clients, the brands they own and the consumers they serve.

How are Clear Box’s field teams held accountable?

(SM) We empower our field team to be accountable by providing the right training and support and equip them with the tools, skills and knowledge to achieve and exceed expectations. All our field teams directed through ClearView to the biggest issues and opportunities in each store, they are given the tools to understand the size of the issue or opportunity and what action is required to resolve this.

We measure the success of our teams within 7 days of an action being taken and they are rewarded against this success and the return on investment of their visits. Complete visibility from pre action to post action enables us to hold both our field teams and our client HO teams accountable for the delivery of excellent retail execution.

What sort of new business pitches is Clear Box being invited to? And winning?

“We are invited to all forms of pitches across all channels, from pure data analytics to full service field teams (Technology & People). Through our pitches we are able to demonstrate our unique capability and understanding which has helped us to win new business across Grocery, Convenience & Foodservice, both in the UK and Internationally”

What will be the one thing that takes Clear Box up to the next level in its evolution?

(JM) The typical data alert that UK agencies use for field sales picks out a SKU which is selling less than it should and when it reaches a lost sales threshold in £ value you send in a rep to fix it. This means that manufacturers are always losing money before sending someone in to fix the issue.  In addition to this availability metrics have braodly been the same over the 20+ years that I have been working in this industry so it is clear that something significant is needed in order to deliver material change in the industry. This is why we are working on a new predictive analytics model.

Predictive analytics means you will no longer wait for an issue to occur and become big enough to warrant a visit. Instead, you will use the data to direct your resource to issues that will happen in the future if you do nothing now. This will significantly reduce out of stock and availability issues through ensuring issues are reduced dramatically. For the wider Retail Execution process, it means that supply chain teams can intervene before it even becomes a field issue so you can then re deploy your field resource to carry out actions that deliver incremental sales rather than just recover your lost sales.




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