We talk with ShopBack Co-founder, Lai Shanru about how they built a successful e-commerce platform in the complex Southeast Asian market, where both the consumer and merchant benefit. Sounds too good to be true? Have a listen.

To listen to this pod on your phone, subscribe via Apple, or any of your favourite podcast players. My personal favourite is Overcast.

What is Shopback? How does it work?

“You get paid to shop when you shop online on any of the 500 stores on our platform that we have. You can actually earn a portion of your purchase back on ShopBack as cash back and that is the value we provide to our consumers. To our merchants, it’s more about being an effective marketing channel to bring them successful purchases and also do 360 marketing for them in a cost-effective manner.”

E-commerce in South East Asia is complex due to the logistics and different markets and
people usually like to go to shops and feel their stuff. Has that changed?

“I think ecommerce is definitely booming in this region—looking at our customers, we offer different activities. It’s not like regular e-commerce, where maybe you are only selling fashion.

Also Read: Asia VC Cast with Michael Smith Jr. of Seedplus

“For us, you can purchase travel, electronics and you can even take a Grab or Uber—we are quite encouraged by the activity and we see the type of merchants’ people purchase from. I think increasingly in this region as logistics improve, it’s becoming convenient to shop online and sometimes the price points are really good.”

How did you get over understanding and embracing your product and the way to use it?

“One of the key challenges we faced when we first started was the educating people about how this works—even though this sounds too good to be true, it is all legitimate. We tried to bring out the awareness through various channels and customer groups. We even called up customers at the start to find out what their pain points were and give then confidence that we are a human company. Marketing was key and we focused on our product as well.”

How did you build and grow your brand in a diverse market with so many challenges?

“In terms of our brand story, we have been pretty consistent, where we really want to be the smarter way to live, shop, travel and make more informed decisions. We also localise the branding message in different countries.”

Tell us about the Chief Shopping Officer job you have advertised.

“We are looking to hire someone for two months to spend SGD$11,271 shop at any of the 500 stores we have. They should document how they do it and share a few videos.

Also Read: How to empower your team to build a culture you’re proud of

“We are looking for deal hunters who want to learn how to save more, be natural for the camera, and are interesting.”

Why?

“It’s easier to get struck by lightning than get a conversion through a display ad. It’s marketing, building credibility, educating consumers and an ongoing building of awareness.”