If you like cashback or in general, like to save on your purchases, the chances are you’re very familiar with Shopback. This Singaporean startup has been at the forefront of the cashback revolution since they started in 2014.

While not a new concept even back then, most people knew cashback from credit cards and Shopback was probably the first brand in Southeast Asia to go strong with that concept.

As the pandemic continues to ruin everyone’s year once again, Shopback has grown from strength to strength. They boast over 1,000 new brands on their platform. While expansion has slowed due to COVID-19, it hasn’t stopped them growing in-market across APAC.

We had a chance to speak to Joel Leong, Co-Founder of ShopBack to find out more about their journey and plans for 2021. He heads Merchant Development at ShopBack, while at the same time running the Singapore operations. With a lot of experience in the industry, formerly at Zalora, we wanted to also get his thoughts on the industry as a whole in the region.

Here’s what he had to share.

The growing Shopback team

How has business been since the pandemic? 

As a whole, the e-commerce market grew significantly across APAC in 2020 as the various markets implemented quarantine orders and people had to remain home. People of all ages and demographics had to turn to online shopping to purchase their groceries, essentials, and any other products. While some categories have definitely been negatively impacted, such as flight and hotel bookings and travel experiences, where we have seen a drop in sales, we have also seen clear growth in many categories especially in food, groceries, personal care, health supplements, home essentials and furniture, electronics and appliances, and more.

As consumers turned to e-commerce in droves, we also saw many businesses making the move online to reach their customers. With that, many brands turned to ShopBack as they needed help amplifying their digital channels and driving valuable traffic online in an efficient and effective manner — in fact, over 1,000 brands have joined us across the region this year. 

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When the pandemic first hit, the team quickly and successfully seized the opportunity to evolve the business model beyond cashback to drive performance and scale — during this period, we ramped up on bringing in new merchants, grew existing verticals, and launched new mechanics and features to continue creating value for our users and merchants.

ShopBack is the bridge connecting users to their favourite brands, and our strong performance in 2020 show that shoppers across Asia-Pacific are making ShopBack the first stop of their online shopping journey to ensure they are getting the best deals and value on all their purchases.

Can you run us through some of the additions you have made to the ShopBack service?

The team closely tracked shifts in consumer behaviour and shopping trends resulting from the pandemic in order to build and improve our products and features for customers. We sped up the timelines of innovating and rolling out new features in order to bring more value to our customers during this difficult time.

We rolled out several new features – a product comparison tool, Vouchers, and ShopBack Challenges – all of which were built to further simplify the shopping experience and help our users make better purchase decisions during this difficult time. 

  • ShopBack’s new Product Comparison tool is a product aggregation service for users to search and compare prices on tens of millions or products across ShopBack’s merchant partners
  • ShopBack users can enjoy attractive discounts and cashback when they purchase Vouchers from a wide variety of ShopBack’s merchant partners, both online and offline
  • ShopBack Challenges allows merchants to “gamify” the shopping experience on ShopBack by encouraging users to complete specific tasks or challenges to receive bonus cashback and other attractive rewards

What are some of the challenges you are facing with your expansion?

Since launching in 2014, ShopBack has successfully managed to catapult the concept of cashback into mainstream consciousness – our success has demonstrated that users and merchants in this region do enjoy ‘the smarter way’ of shopping. 

Despite the challenges brought about by the pandemic, ShopBack remained focused on creating value for our users and merchants and continued to scale – last year, we awarded our customers US$45m in cashback in 2020, added over 1,000 new brands across nine markets in Asia-Pacific, and drove over US$2b in sales for merchant partners. We also saw around 2x increase in total orders in 2020, compared to 2019.

With that being said, while we are always on the look-out for new opportunities to connect with and serve more consumers, ShopBack’s expansion plans have been put on pause due to COVID-19. Instead, we focused on growing and scaling ShopBack in our existing markets, especially in our two new markets – Vietnam and South Korea. 

How do you see consumer behaviour and shopping trends change in Southeast Asia in the next year?

We believe that the unprecedented rate of technological adoption witnessed in 2020 will affect some really fundamental and irreversible changes in the long haul. Although some consumers may possibly return to old habits when COVID-19 is contained, those who have found value and satisfaction with their online experience will persist with their online consumption.

The most apparent trend has been the clear shift to value-for-money purchasing across the region. Shoppers are becoming more conservative and seeking out ways to maximise savings as they shift their spend online, and with a strong and clear value proposition – to simplify the shopping experience and bring users more savings on time and money – ShopBack is well positioned to attract more customers.

In terms of consumer shopping trends, we expect to see some shifts in preferences and demand. During the lockdowns, categories like food delivery, sports & fitness, and electronics such as entertainment and gaming equipment, saw an uptick in sales as consumers remained at home. As economies across the region slowly start to open up and people resume daily activities out-of-home, there will be a shift in demand to categories like Fashion and Beauty. We are also starting to see green shoots in travel-related categories in selected markets, and we hope that with the rollout of the vaccine, this category will continue to generate traction through 2021.

What’s next for Shopback?

Moving into the new norm, it is crucial for companies to remain focused on creating value for customers during a time they need it most – and keep this in mind when innovating new products and features.

No matter what 2021 throws at us, ShopBack will stay committed to innovating new features and simplifying the shopping experience so as to continue driving value to our users and merchants.

As the largest pre-shopping portal in APAC, ShopBack will continue to redefine the online shopping experience and set the stage for further growth in the coming years.