co-founder of ShopBack, tells us the secrets of her success
Ever since co-founding ShopBack – a platform that incentivises its members to shop at partner merchants by giving them cash rebates – Lai Shanru has been going full throttle as the company built itself into what is now Singapore’s largest e-commerce platform and cashback programme. The 31-year-old started out in banking before pivoting to her true calling in e-commerce, with Zalora.
Lai constantly challenges herself to drive change because “‘can’t’ is not an option”. It is this tenacity, together with her love for e-commerce, that led her to say yes when approached by her ShopBack co-founders, Henry Chan and Joel Leong, to join forces back in 2014.
Today, ShopBack is a thriving success with more than eight million (and growing) users and over 2,000 merchant partners, including NET-A-PORTER, Taobao and Singapore Airlines. ShopBack’s reach extends to other South-East Asia countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand, as well as Taiwan and Australia.
Last year, the company helped its over 2,000 merchants attain almost S$1 billion in sales. It averages over S$96 million in monthly online transactions and has doled out more than S$41 million in cash rebates to its users up until earlier this year. During the recent 9.9 sale on Sep 9, it hit a whopping S$50 million in sales and gave out over S$1 million in cashback. For any start‐up, those are enviable figures, for sure.
“ShopBack is a cost-effective marketing channel,” explains Lai. “While merchants pay for impressions and clicks via other marketing channels, they only pay ShopBack a commission when we deliver a successful sale to them. ShopBack connects consumers and merchants, with direct benefits to both parties – giving cashback to consumers and saving marketing dollars for merchants.”
As ShopBack continues to make its presence felt in seven Asia‐Pacific countries (with one more in the pipeline) that boasts more than eight million users, Lai, an inductee to Prestige‘s 40 Under 40 list this year, isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. She recently took on another key role, driving ShopBack’s foray into the offline sphere with ShopBack GO, a service that allows users to earn cashback when they dine at over 600 F&B outlets in Singapore. After officially launching it in June this year, Lai now heads the Client Success Management team, taking care of its partners. Plans to grow ShopBack GO beyond F&B are in the pipeline, among other updates she says will be unveiled as soon as early next year. It is clear Lai is revved up for what’s to come: “The possibilities are endless!”
Lai says that while her end goal is to make ShopBack a unicorn in the e-commerce industry, she ultimately wants to be remembered as someone “who keeps it real”.
Fashion direction: Johnny Khoo
Art direction: Audrey Chan
Photography: Joel Low
Fashion styling: Jacquie Ang
Hair: Edward Chong/ Evolve, using Kevin.Murphy
Makeup: Peter Khor, using Lancôme
Photography assistance: Alfie Pan
Fashion assistance: Nicholas Chan