Unpacking the box

As Stock Box rolls into its fifth year of operation, we have a candid chat with the founder Craig Matthews, on the program, industry challenges and the future.

Stock Box is a bit of a conundrum to many businesses, so how do you explain the program and its benefits?

Yes, for most businesses it is a bit of a challenge because we umbrella so many different business functions. Stock Box for some products and brands is seen as a sales function, others view it as a marketing function to raise brand awareness, while others look at it for its insights and data capabilities.

The truth is that it can deliver all of these things for our clients, which is where the challenge lies. Our program is all-encompassing and is not siloed to one function within a business, so the challenge for us is to understand exactly what the client wants the box to do, which helps them decide where it needs to sit within their business from a ROI perspective.

How did Stock Box start?

Well my oldest daughter will probably take credit for it, but it started in our longeroom. I was out of corporate life after 30 years, and thinking about the future. My daughter had just received a Bella Box of beauty products to our house, and I was watching her open it.

It was like a little bit of Christmas, watching the excitement on her face has she rifile through the products, and that’s when the “Aha” moment occurred.

I realised that this was a unique way to get product in the hands of consumers to raise the profile of new products in the market. At the same time I heard the flood of independent retailers who had mentioned to me on countless occasions “Why are we always the last to know about new products in the market?”.

The rest as they say is history.

What have been the challenges along the way?

Well we don’t have time to list them all, but as anyone starting out knows, there are many challenges you face when implementing something new.

The main challenge that still exists for us today, is the challenge of change. We are without doubt an interrupter, and any change like this is typically viewed as a threat to the establishment.

The world has moved on, and like it or not, we are not going back to the way things used to be. The retail landscape is littered with examples of retail businesses who have maintained a position of “Thats not how we do things here” only to find themselves out of business within 5 years.

I don’t want to sell anyone anything that they do not believe in, but here is what I know. TIME is the asset, and if you are not focused on this you are going to loose.

The internet has changed our lives forever, and our appetite for time is relentless, so everyone should be thinking along the lines of giving back time to consumers or retailers…. it is all about time!

Is Stock Box all about saving time?

Absolutely! Stock Box can get products in front of retailers faster than a field force and for much less cost, but it can’t make your product or your sales pitch any better.

I want to be clear here. Stock Box is not a silver bullet for any product or business. You can put lipstick on a pig and it is still a pig… it goes the same for brands and product.

What Stock Box will do, is save you time in finding those retailers who have genuine interest in your products, and those that don’t.

Next time you are in a cafe, just look at what is going on here, and try and work out when would be the best time to interrupt the retailer to tell them about your great product.

Chances are there will not be a great time to do this, and how do you really know if you are talking to the right person anyway?

Retailers register to our program because they want to know about new products, on their terms… not yours. When the box arrives they can put it aside and view the products later, so they are in a much better mindset to touch, taste and test, and we would argue that products get more time and attention this way.

Is Stock Box a threat to some business functions?

Anyone who sees Stock Box as threat is living in fear of their own existence, and they need to take a good hard look at themselves.

We are already working with fuel groups and their members to help them find new products for their business. We are acting like a 3rd party category manager, which is giving back time to their team so they can focus on other things, while we report on potential left of field products that are worth considering.

Their retail members love the program because they are included in the decision making process, and suppliers love it because they get a better level of retailer take-up if their products get ranged. How is that threatening?

I have heard people say “We make the decisions for our business, not our members” and I always think to myself… did you know that the Big Mac was invented by a franchisee, not the head office. Comments like this astound me, because it is a prime example of exclusion, rather than inclusion.

In my experience, comments like this are more about control and self preservation, rather than whats right for the business and the customer.

They want to control the market, in an age of endless connectivity. It used to be ok when there was no internet, and you could dictate what the customer got access to, but not anymore. The market decides…

What are the main challenges for the future?

I think that the main challenges for the industry is speed and complacency. Stop trying to find reasons not to do something, and find that one reason TO do it.

I have heard all the excuses to stay the course of tried and true methods. Everything from “We’re good thanks” to “That’s not how we operate” to “We don’t want to create cross-over”, the list goes on. It is all rubbish!

My worry for the industry is speed, or the lack of speed to be more exact. I was there for the birth of category management in convenience, which was well before the internet.

In that era, you had time, you set the agenda and you controlled the market to some degree. Fast forward to 2018, and it is a different world where the market decides not you! What we all need to do, is work out ways to be more responsive and inclusive, while maintaining a structure of sorts.

Customers don’t care about your range reviews, or your planogram calendar, they only care about what they want now! If you don’t have it then they will find it elsewhere, so you have to be faster and more responsive than ever before.

I find it fascinating that in a world that is constantly moving, there are still people trying to make us all stand still.

Someone said to me “ Well some things that used to work do in fact continue to work, because no one has come up with something better” to which I responded “So how will you find that something, if you are still in love with what you have always done?”.

I agree that most things that are working out there still work… just not as well as they used to. Grow or die, it’s that simple.

So whats ahead for Stock Box?

Many have observed what we are doing from a distance, unsure if we are a flash in the pan or the real deal. I keep saying that we are 5 years into a 10 year overnight success, its a slow burn, so as far as I am concerned we have not even got to half time. Furthermore I view this as a long game, and we are still learning, so I am not even focused on the score.

What I do know, is that anything that saves business time is a good thing, and that box models are growing, so it is a widely acceptable way of discovering new and interesting products.

While B2C is well established with box models, we are doing the hard yards in the B2B space, but this also means that when the pendulum swings we will be the trusted incumbent.

There is a ground swell that is now happening, as field force representation diminishes, and suppliers look for new ways to engage more retailers, spreading their marketing budgets to pick-up on complimentary ways to raise awareness in a dynamic marketplace.

We can’t go into too much detail on our plans for the future, only to say that we are happy with our three program options (Stock Box, Discovery and the new Enterprise packages), plus we have successfully tested our online ordering portal, we are talking to companies about a perishable solution, and we are also looking at the B2B2C space… Shhh

So what is your parting message?

It’s a simple one “Evolve or dissolve”. In todays marketplace an attitude of complacency will either force you out of business, or force you into action… usually when it is all too late.


Extracted from Medium