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Interview with Gil Carmo, Country Head of ShopBack Malaysia

February 24, 2016 EC Milo Category : , , , , , , ,


ShopBack, a cashback site founded in Singapore has recently shared a media factsheet (refer table below, accurate as of January 2016) with us.

Market Presence Singapore: founded in September 2014
Malaysia: established in February 2015
The Philippines: established in June 2015
India: established in January 2016
Indonesia: coming soon 
Number of Merchants Over 1,300
Total Headcount Over 50 pax
Total Web Traffic Over 1.5M (Desktop and Mobile) per month
Total Users Over 300,000
Total Sales Over RM18M per month
Total Orders Received At least 2 orders per minute
(Estimated at least 86,400 orders per month)
Total Cashback Given Over RM6M in 2015
Total Funding Received More than USD1M
Investors Accel-X and East Ventures
We speak to Gil Carmo, Country Head of ShopBack Malaysia to gather his insights and the company's progress specifically in Malaysia.

Gil Carmo, Country Head of ShopBack Malaysia


Congrats on your 1 year anniversary! The factsheet you shared is a combination of 3 markets, can you share specific data on Malaysia?


Thanks and sure, for Malaysia alone, we have:

  1. Over 500 merchants
  2. Over 280,000 users
  3. More than 300K web traffic
  4. More than RM 8M monthly sales
  5. Transferred more than RM 4M (to those who have opted to cash out their Cashback amount) to Malaysian shoppers last year
  6. Helped our top spender to save a total of RM 9K last year


How does Malaysia perform compared to neighbouring countries like Singapore and Philippines?


Currently, Malaysia is ShopBack's biggest market, with its sheer population size of over 30M and high Internet penetration of near 70% according to the Internet World Stats. ShopBack is the top Cashback site in Malaysia and also in the Southeast Asia region.

Singapore is our second biggest market so far. While it has the highest Internet user penetration rate in the SEA (source), it also has the smallest population size among its neighbours at just around 5.5M. 


How do you compete with other big boys, for example Ebates in Singapore?


While startups like us may not have access to as many resources as the incumbents, we are able to move quicker and nimbler with our lean team structure. Our 'startup' spirit has helped us to grow fast - an idea conceptualised today can be scheduled for execution on the very next day. Any precious learnings will only make us one step closer to our goal.

We also set ourselves apart from the rest with unique merchant offerings, such as Taobao, Cotton On and Reebonz. Customers are kind, and we stay true to that by making ourselves easily accessible to customers who need our timely assistance. We can be reached via hotline, email and social media platforms.

Establishing physical touch points are pertinent for us as well. We do roadshows, school campaigns, and other offline activations to bring people online. The additional human touch and our understanding of local culture help us to better connect with the customers.

ShopBack Malaysia team members


What is your strategy in new markets like India?


For new markets, it's important to beef up the number and strengthen our current offering in order to establish a foothold. ShopBack's foundation lies in the quality and quantity of merchants. As a fresh name in the markets, we need to build rapport and credibility with the merchants from scratch. Understanding the market and striking the right chord with potential customers is critical for survival as well.

For instance, the launch of ShopBack.in in India sees an offer of flat 5% Cashback for Mobile Recharge and Bill payment with Paytm - almost 3 times higher than the usual market rate of only 1.9%. The rationale is to provide them with extra Cashback to power this necessity (Indians are heavy users of mobile recharge) so that they will become returning customers.


Who do you see as the main competitor in each market?


We do have some competitors in each market and there are certainly other players which are looking at a similar business concept. However at the end of the day, we need to see ourselves as the greatest competitor. As a startup, we have to go all out to make sure that we grow better today than who we were yesterday.

For instance, we keep ourselves motivated by placing TV screens and projector with LIVE updates on sales figures in our office. All country offices have daily scrums to discuss the actions and deliverables of the day. Individual team leads also set bets and wagers with their team members on target achievement. Stakes are high and we can get really competitive. We love ideas, and always encourage our talents to suggest anything that will make our business better. Our passion and firm belief in what we do always drive us to go for that extra mile - so that we can keep trying and able to spread Cashback benefits to more shoppers.

Read also: Singles Day vs Cyber Monday vs 12.12 infographics by ShopBack


Who are your top 5 merchants (for overall, and Malaysia)?


Our top 5 merchants differ for each market as we engage a good mix of local and International merchants tailored for each country's users' preferences. Overall, we've noticed that the International merchants such as Taobao, Aliexpress, Groupon, etc perform better than the rest. 

For Malaysia, Qoo10, Taobao, Lazada, Groupon and Agoda take the cake. Zalora, Hermo, and Booking.com are doing very well too.


Which are the growth categories on ShopBack (for overall, and Malaysia)?


Travel and hotel categories bring in huge basket size purchases that are very well-received on ShopBack. For example, if you book a hotel at Agoda through ShopBack at RM221, you can get RM40 Cashback from your purchase. That's almost 20% discount which translates to a substantial saving!

We have observed a strong buying trend in Electronics, Fashion, and Home & Living categories too, as such purchases are evergreen. Our shoppers can never have enough popular tech devices, mobile accessories, as well as trendy apparel and grocery items!


Can you share successful campaign case study on ShopBack so far?


It would be our 9.9 campaign (Cashback Day!). It was the biggest Cashback online sales ever - the team worked closely with 40 selected international and local merchants to offer Malaysians up to 49% Cashback. It was also supported by credible partners such as AirAsia BIG, Maybank, Digi, and MyTeksi (now Grab). Our shoppers really love the upsized Cashback and promo code deals that we secured for them!

Why do we said so? There were 3.5 times orders, more than 4 times sales, and 300% of traffic hike successfully achieved on that day! We are motivated by the overwhelming response and definitely look forward to working with merchants like Lazada, Groupon, Zalora, Foodpanda, Agoda, Booking.com, Qoo10, etc again for upcoming campaigns.


How do you see the growth and potential of e-commerce in Malaysia?


Malaysian has become more cautious and conscious about their spending due to the GST implementation, rising cost of living, etc. We see this as a good timing to introduce the benefits of using ShopBack as ShopBack has the Cashback model that enables shoppers to save more as they spend.

We are glad that our services have benefitted many online shoppers and we hope to be able to bring aboard more merchants and value-added offerings for Malaysians.


What are the biggest challenges for e-commerce in Malaysia?


How to use ShopBack?

Regardless Malaysia or Singapore, our biggest challenge has always been education - What is Cashback, why are we paying people to shop online, how does ShopBack sustain itself, and the list of questions goes on.

It is an uphill task to first capture consumers' attention in the crowded online retail scene, educate them about ShopBack's service before we can persuade them to embrace and use the service, even though it is completely free-of-charge.

Once users started to use ShopBack, they actually enjoy the benefits and love getting Cashback everytime when they shop!


What is ShopBack planning for the near future? New market? New strategy? New technology?


We definitely wish to double/triple the Cashback amount for our shoppers - the ShopBack Malaysia birthday sales (up to 100% Cashback) will be one of the key platforms for us to scout offers, discounts, coupons, and upsized Cashback for Malaysians!

Additionally, we are going to invest in talents, onboard new merchants, explore potential business collaborations, and enhance our product features i.e. ShopBack Cashback Buddy.

Currently, ShopBack has a presence in Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, and India (just launched). We will continue to expand into other countries as we want to be the No.1 Cashback site not just in the SEA, but also in the Asia-Pacific

Read also: 3 secrets of successful coupon strategy revealed

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