The Crunch: Earning cash back while shopping is an idea that continues to gain popularity across the globe. ShopBack launched its Singaporean site in 2014 to save consumers money using an innovative cash back model. By 2017 the brand expanded into six additional markets because it brought together the best concepts from discounting sites in the US and the UK. ShopBack’s focus on deal delivery and tailored messaging has earned the trust of millions of consumers in Southeast Asia and helped it develop partnerships with more than 1,300 retailers. The company’s key value proposition, offering up to 30% cash back on purchases, has helped it grow exponentially in the $60 billion Asia Pacific e-commerce marketplace.
Rebate and cash back sites aren’t a new phenomenon in the US, with some having been around since the late 1990s. But because of the unique challenges and consumer shopping habits in other markets around the world, cash back sites hadn’t taken hold at all as recently as three years ago in some regions. This was the case when ShopBack launched in Singapore in 2014.
“The cash back idea was new in Southeast Asia,” said Vincent Wong, Country Head of ShopBack Singapore, describing the region’s e-commerce landscape before the site launched in Singapore in 2014. “We looked around to see what models we could pull from, and cash back hadn’t come to Southeast Asia yet.”
By researching and applying successful ideas from established discounting sites to the specific needs of its customer base, ShopBack introduced a new way for Asia Pacific consumers to shop and save. And ShopBack is now enjoying some of the same growth and popularity as the sites that inspired it.
Built by Southeast Asian e-commerce veterans, ShopBack has proliferated, expanding from Singapore into six additional nations by 2017. The company has invested in technology, to ensure reliability, and in messaging, to familiarize consumers with the concept of earning cash back.
As a company dedicated to customer service, ShopBack maintains offices in all six nations in which it operates and seeks partnerships with national, regional, and international retailers.
While moving quickly to bring ideas such as a browser extension and a mobile app to market, ShopBack has also provided a clear value proposition to consumers — offering up to 30% cash back on transactions, payable directly to users’ Paypal or bank accounts.
ShopBack now directs more than 1,000 transactions per hour back to its retail partners. By working closely with those partners to shape and respond to Asia Pacific shopping trends, the company has assumed a leading role in the region’s growing e-commerce marketplace and has positioned itself to grow for years to come.
ShopBack’s Winning Formula: The Right Idea in the Right Place at the Right Time
ShopBack’s founders — a six-person team with experience at Singapore e-commerce retailers such as Zalora and the gaming site TMG (The Mobile Gamer) — knew that cash back shopping was an idea that could work not only in Singapore but other Asia Pacific nations as well.
What they saw was a region with more than 200 million internet users — all potential online shoppers — and an exploding market in mobile tech.
They also saw how well the cash back idea was working elsewhere. Two of ShopBack’s founders had participated in the National University of Singapore’s NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC) program, spending a year in the US and China interning at high-tech startups and studying entrepreneurship models.
ShopBack Singapore quickly gained market share and grew retailer partnerships — which now number more than 500 in that nation alone. After raising more than $1 million in two rounds of seed funding in 2014 and 2015, the company expanded to Malaysia and the Philippines in 2015, Indonesia and Taiwan in 2016, and Thailand in 2017.
About 3.5 million monthly desktop and mobile users currently visit the seven ShopBack sites, accounting for more than $20 million in total monthly sales. The 1,000 transactions per hour that ShopBack directs to its partners across the seven sites translate into about 740,000 sales per month — and counting.
ShopBack has earned a lot of recognition in a relatively short time. In Singapore, the company won the 2015 SiTF Gold Award for best startup and the 2016 Emerging Enterprise Award. The Singapore and Malaysian sites were finalists in the Retail Startup of the Year category at the 2015 ASEAN Rice Bowl Startup Awards. ShopBack was also the 2016-17 Champion of Global Mobile Challenge in Barcelona.
Filling the Cash Back Niche in Southeast Asian E-Commerce Markets
“We’ve tried to make it so that, no matter what kind of e-commerce customer you are, you have a reason to come to ShopBack,” said Vincent.
The company uses the “stack” approach familiar to users of discounting sites in places, such as the US and the UK, where cash back is given on top of other coupons.
Shoppers browse through ShopBack’s wide selection of retailers organized by category. Clicking on a store reveals details about available cash back offers and a list of deals and coupons. A further click to “activate cash back,” or a click on a deal or coupon, redirects the shopper to the retailer’s website, where the transaction is completed.
After payment, the buyer’s cash back appears in his or her ShopBack account within a few days, where it can then be cashed out — or transferred to the shopper’s PayPal or local bank account.
ShopBack’s value proposition — in addition to cash back — lies in its ability to strike the right partnerships with retailers to offer the highest possible cash back percentages.
Building Multi-Channel Retailer Partnerships to Serve Consumers
Quickly moving beyond the website, ShopBack has rolled out other ways to bring retailers and consumers together, evolving into a multi-channel marketing partner for retailers and an indispensable assistant for consumers who want to leverage the efficiencies of online shopping.
“Consumers are going to compare offers, and you want to be where the customer is,” Vincent said. “So ShopBack helps merchants be there.”
ShopBack has a branded browser extension, available on Chrome or Safari, known as Cashback Buddy. The extension allows customers to earn cash back wherever they’re shopping online, not just when they’re on the ShopBack site.
“Beyond helping customers save money, we also want to help them save time,” Vincent said. “And Cashback Buddy lets us do that.”
Cashback Buddy notifies users when they’re shopping at a store that offers cash back, and like the website, also brings forward deals and coupons, redirecting users to the shopping site to make purchases.
The Shopback mobile app, Concierge, also makes shopping on the go a win-win for retailers and customers. In addition to alerting shoppers as to the latest promos and cash back offers, the app offers exclusive app-only cash back rewards.
ShopBack Continues to Meet the Rising Expectations of Consumers
ShopBack pioneered the all-inclusive discounting concept in the Asia Pacific region — differentiating itself from previously existing group buying and credit card rebate sites where discounts were limited by local availability or type of purchase.
The company has also invested in messaging to shape consumer understanding of the cash back concept. In one campaign, for example, ShopBack made a top customer its “Chief Shopping Officer” and invited the public to follow his shopping journeys.
Those types of campaigns help consumers learn by example just how reliable and profitable cash back can be.
“We now have a high concentration of ready-to-buy customers because they come to us to save time and money,” Vincent said. As more and more Asia Pacific consumers develop an affinity for e-commerce and grow comfortable with cash back shopping ShopBack is positioned to move forward with them.