Leaders in Tech and Ecommerce

Candice Ong Chief Commercial Officer of ShopBack

October 06, 2020 Alcott Global Season 1 Episode 43
Leaders in Tech and Ecommerce
Candice Ong Chief Commercial Officer of ShopBack
Chapters
Leaders in Tech and Ecommerce
Candice Ong Chief Commercial Officer of ShopBack
Oct 06, 2020 Season 1 Episode 43
Alcott Global

Candice Ong, the Chief Commercial Officer of ShopBack. ShopBack, the leading rewards and discovery platform in Asia-Pacific, is a pre-shopping portal that enables shoppers to make better purchase decisions. It is a one-stop rewards and discovery platform for users to earn cashback while delivering performance-based marketing to merchants. First launched in Singapore in 2014, ShopBack has since expanded its reach to nine markets across Asia-Pacific. 

Prior to joining ShopBack, Candice traded the world of investment banking for e-commerce when she made the move into Zalora in 2012. Candice was also a member of the CFE sub-committee on Future Corporate Capabilities and Innovation in 2016 and chaired the retail panel for the ASEAN Business Club Forum in 2015. She echoes the push for greater innovation in Singapore, and firmly hopes that future generations will go on to surpass the ones before them.

Discover more details here.

Some of the highlights of the episode:

  • [04:25] Engaging local expansion teams during the pandemic
  • [08:45] Collaborating with merchants and managing cancellations and rejections
  • [11:37] Building a network of 4,000 merchants across APAC
  • [14:24] Strategy behind the ShopFest Campaign
  • [16:59] 9.9 Results – Over 400,000 USD in cashback in a single day
  • [22:29] ShopBack’s KICK-ON company values

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Show Notes Transcript

Candice Ong, the Chief Commercial Officer of ShopBack. ShopBack, the leading rewards and discovery platform in Asia-Pacific, is a pre-shopping portal that enables shoppers to make better purchase decisions. It is a one-stop rewards and discovery platform for users to earn cashback while delivering performance-based marketing to merchants. First launched in Singapore in 2014, ShopBack has since expanded its reach to nine markets across Asia-Pacific. 

Prior to joining ShopBack, Candice traded the world of investment banking for e-commerce when she made the move into Zalora in 2012. Candice was also a member of the CFE sub-committee on Future Corporate Capabilities and Innovation in 2016 and chaired the retail panel for the ASEAN Business Club Forum in 2015. She echoes the push for greater innovation in Singapore, and firmly hopes that future generations will go on to surpass the ones before them.

Discover more details here.

Some of the highlights of the episode:

  • [04:25] Engaging local expansion teams during the pandemic
  • [08:45] Collaborating with merchants and managing cancellations and rejections
  • [11:37] Building a network of 4,000 merchants across APAC
  • [14:24] Strategy behind the ShopFest Campaign
  • [16:59] 9.9 Results – Over 400,000 USD in cashback in a single day
  • [22:29] ShopBack’s KICK-ON company values

Follow us on:
Instagram: http://bit.ly/2Wba8v7
Twitter: http://bit.ly/2WeulzX
Linkedin: http://bit.ly/2w9YSQX
Facebook: http://bit.ly/2HtryLd

Speaker 1:

Hello, and welcome to the leaders in tech and eCommerce podcast. I am your host, Andrew Polamalu , and I am the APEC director for elk with global executive search. Our mission is to connect the tech and supply chain and e-commerce ecosystem in Asia and globally by bringing forward some of the most interesting stories about success and failure from leaders in the industry. I am happy to have with us today, can this song , and this is the chief commercial officer at Showpad Showpad is the leading rewards in this company platform in Asia Pacific, and is a pre shopping portal that enables shoppers to make better purchase decisions. It is a one stop rewards and discovery platform for users to one back while delivering performance based marketing to much first launched in Singapore in 2014. Shopify has since expanded its reach to nine markets across Asia Pacific. Now , a few words about Candice prior to joining shop back , can this traded the world of investment banking for e-commerce when she made the move to Dallara in 2012, Candice was also a member of the CFE subcommittee on future corporate capabilities and innovation in 2016 and chaired the retail panel 14 RCN business clump forum in 2015, she echoes the push for greater innovation in Singapore. For me, hopes that future generations will go on to surpass the ones before them. I can this, it's a pleasure to have you with us today for the podcast.

Speaker 2:

Hi, thanks for having me on as well.

Speaker 1:

Great. So shop Becky's is already a very strong brand in the region, and I'm sure we'll, we'll cover all the details, but before that, just to set the scene, if you can take a few minutes and introduce yourself your role, and then we'll cover more about shopping .

Speaker 2:

Sure. So I'm currently the chief commercial officer of shot back. I actually take care of the PNL at shot back shot back is across nine countries currently. And we have been expanding very quickly across the region, and I'm really excited to be part of this journey.

Speaker 1:

And when you're saying expanding really quickly, I think that's an understatement. It's quite a fast growth that we've seen, especially in this current circumstances. And you've been with the company for the last, I think if I'm not wrong four years, I'm just wondering if you look back at the, at the four years and maybe previously, what would you say are some of the big milestones in this professional journey? What would you say? Yeah ,

Speaker 2:

Sure. So I joined the company in January, 2017. I think the aspirations then and now are very different previously. We would aspire to be the top cashback platform in Southeast Asia, but now our ambitions are much more regional right now. We are in nine countries previously, much fewer, I think in terms of how we serve our customers have evolved as well. We have two types of customers. One will be users and the others would be digital platforms. They could be eCommerce , they could be online travel agents. They all use our platform to reach out to customers as well. I think long time ago, we were a lot more focused on just general marketplaces, but now we've evolved to more lifestyle as well. We also have more products last time. I would say the main focus would be on just cashback . Now we also enable consumers to search within our platform. Price comparison is in terms of the products they are looking for. We also sell vouchers or stock credits in Singapore, and we also have expanded in terms of product verticals to go offline in Singapore as well. So I think we have really expanded in terms of not just geographical footprint, but in terms of product line footprint. And I would say now in 2020 versus 2017 or even 2014, the company has grown tremendously.

Speaker 1:

And I would, I would stay on this topic of growth because just browsing on Google, we saw the Vietnam is a new market for you. And I I'm sure it's, it's a high growth market, Korea as well might be the next high growth one. I'm wondering during a time of year , if you will look around, there is quite a bit of suffering and crisis in the business world . How did this strategy of expansion come in ? Why did you decide to do it? What was the motivation behind it?

Speaker 2:

Sure. I think in terms of growth and envisions of growth , we need to be intentional about it . In terms of geographical extension, there is something that shot back has been fairly successful. A site from Korea and Vietnam on previous success with extension was to Australia . And there's our confidence that we could expand into Vietnam and Korea as well. We have an extension team. I'll extension team plays a crucial role in understanding and exploring potential markets to which we should expand in today . They will also be the team that's charged with hiring folks on the ground to expand into, I think in terms of Corvette and in terms of the recent pandemic, definitely in terms of travel that has been impacted, but the expansion team has been very much still engaged with the local teams on the ground. I would say that one thing to note would be in terms of whether we would go forward or not in terms of expansion would be to consider has the new, has the nones changed? You see that that digital will play an even bigger role in consumers' lives as well as higher uptake in terms of visual commerce. So we felt that expanding is the right thing to do.

Speaker 1:

And this is under the geographic aspect of things. I wanted to go a bit back on the product focus at its core. I'm sure it's, it's tech driven. And I'm wondering when, when we think technology that you're using and the products, and then the new features that you're bringing on, how does this work and how is tech driving this growth of yours? Because we talked about a few, the shop Fest festival and a few other things. I'm just wondering, how does the marriage between tech and product?

Speaker 2:

Sure. So as with you observing customer behavior, we are always trying to find new ways to serve customers. And we note that that value is an increasingly important concept for users. This year, we have launched a product comparison is the aggregation service for users to search and compare prices across items from shop back merchant partners. We also have launched another product it's , uh , vouchers , and this enables consumers to buy gift cards or store credits at discounts , right ? And this is also tremendously, I guess, useful for merchants who are trying to lock in their sales to the sales of such credits. So these will only all possible to tech, right ? In terms of creation of this product commercial team together with tech and product teams, we need to come together to offer these digital services.

Speaker 1:

And how do you decide? Because it's interesting, I'm sure there's a lot of different types of features that you would focus on when you're mentioning them. I'm sure you have a priority list. I'm just wondering what is the process behind it? What makes you decide this is important and this will maybe not so important.

Speaker 2:

We actually have a framework that the acronym of it will be some S U M so that will be shot back users and luncheons . And we seek to understand in terms of privatization , does it sell these three stakeholders, but does it make sense for the business? Is it something that would be useful for our consumers and users? And is this going to also accept the needs of our merchant partners as well? So in terms of prioritization, we seek to make as big impact as possible. And that's where we will put our resources and energy behind as well. So that's how we think about [inaudible] . And of course the consideration would stand across countries. If it's a product that's only going to be perhaps developing for one country that will not take precedence over something that would be more relevant across the board.

Speaker 1:

Good . And now looking at this year, and it has been full of ups and downs. And as we know, every time there is a crisis, there might be opportunities. What I'm wondering is in this overall situation, how has your collaborations with the merchants, especially in this situation worked and what are some examples of support or maybe projects that you focused on with them?

Speaker 2:

Sure . So professor specifically as well, I think a lot of them happen to be using your marketing budgets due to concern in terms of STEM . I would say there are two types of behaviors that we've noticed. One would be general decrease in terms of STEM . The other would be the concern around cancellations and rejections, right ? And in terms of amount of spin , one thing that has worked out well for us is that given the only charge you commission on a sale basis, which means we only charge a merchant partner when there has been a successful sale net of cancellations and rejections is very much cost efficient for them to work with us. So I think that has worked out well for many partners who are concerned about whether marketing here would be effective for driving sales. That's one, two will marketing expenses here take into consideration high cancellations and projections given that perhaps individuals are less certain about sound , their push cases and reject down the line. And given that we only charge on a confirm sale basis, advertisers has been a lot more comfortable in marketing dollars in generating sales for their companies.

Speaker 1:

Hmm . And I think at some point I was just scrolling through LinkedIn. You mentioned that the cancer or unfulfilled orders also incur no costs . And there are a few things that you're, you're pushing forward in order to eliminate risk when it comes to emergence . Is that correct?

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So we are trying to help the merchants . We use their risk in terms of what our eye does, their mother , the marketing dollar. So given that we are net of rejections as cancellations, I think this has been perfectly useful for say online travel agencies that were doing the pandemic has seen massive amounts of cancellations and projections . And this has led to reduce conversion rates generally now with traditional marketing that might not take any from our reservation that could be perhaps concerning for many executive teams. And they would like to reduce their marketing dollar . Cause they're not sure what that will bring in terms of sales, but given that we are so sales focused , I think that gives us the confidence that we are a worthwhile investment. Secondly, in terms of lower conversion rates, generally due to uncertainty with the pandemic, and we only charge on the sale basis as opposed to a cost per impression or cost per click, this was all given, I guess, quite a bit of confidence to work with us. So in the second quarter we've seen about 500 new machines coming on, board our platform.

Speaker 1:

So can this , we were talking about mine since I was wondering how many more inches do you have at the moment?

Speaker 2:

So shrunk back has about 4,000 merchants across the region.

Speaker 1:

I mean, that's , that's an impressive number of spread across the region. Now I wanted to ask you a bit more about the users and coming back to trends because I'm sure in the last few months you've seen a few trends when it comes to user behavior online. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

Speaker 2:

Well , one thing that we definitely noticed is an uptake of users trying different types of eCommerce is given, I guess, a little more limited accessibility to goods given lockdowns consumers in terms of the assessability offline has been reduced. So aside from general market pieces , we do see uses for more goods and items for more niche players, any conferences as well, I guess one two would be also, I think an uptake in terms of digital services and entertainment given, I guess, would be more limited in terms of entertainment choices within your home and not being able to go out at least at the onset of the circuit breaker in Singapore. That's what not given that travel international travel is limited or pretty much non-existing for most vacations. It's also something that is of interest, especially for Singapore. And we have seen Fabio search in that behavior too . Now, in terms of just general behavior across the board , we have seen that increased focus in terms of the focus on value. We have seen, especially a uptake in coupon usage in quarter two and quarter tree. So we can conclude that from there , users are much more value focused or value centric in terms of how they make their purchase positions. And that has also informed us on why we focus quite a bit on our price comparison development as well.

Speaker 1:

And is there any trend that different from country to country or you see pretty much the same across the region? You see the same behaviors

Speaker 2:

There might be say just slightly different country, a country largely because of say in countries where intra country travel is still committed , that activity still goes on, but in countries where perhaps there is stronger lock downs or in Singapore, it's just the city state does not happen as much, but we definitely do see consistency in terms of increased focus to what value for consumers.

Speaker 1:

I wanted to ask a bit about campaign . So now if I'm not mistaken , there is a campaign called shop fast . Can you tell us more about the strategy behind it and what you're trying to achieve with this?

Speaker 2:

Sure. So fast is a campaign that we started in 2018 and it connects the different peak days, peak shopping days from September, all the way to your end. The reason why we did this is that in Southeast Asia and in Australia, Taiwan needs do see that there are different shopping days that are particularly meaningful for users and merchants, right? Users would, I would say have the intent to make big purchases these days, because this is where they find this low value much as well. We're also focused on these days because these important sale days for them, I wouldn't think this is just akin to what China's stuff that the concept of singles day or 1111. Now , the reason why, why we felt that this was also relevant for us is that how can we better inform customers what to look out for during this big shopping season? So first extends from September all the way to December as mentioned, and it kicks that for the first event, home nine, nine, and then 10, 10, then 11 black Friday cyber Monday, and then so on. Right. But I think customers know not just in 10, they're not just expect to be able to procure items online. They also expect to be entertained. So we inter twined these campaigns with entertaining activities as well for consumers .

Speaker 1:

Hmm . I mean, when you say entertaining activities, what examples can you tell us on that?

Speaker 2:

Sure. We want consumers to understand that we are pre shopping portal. So for example, before nine nines takes in on eight, nine, we would have a live stream and we would share what we feel to be the strongest deals, the best I can to look out for in terms of fields , across different platforms, we would have giveaways as well on social media to let customers know, introduce products that could be practically interesting on you. During this time period, we will also have engagement activities that might be marketing campaigns or videos that call on consumers to participate, to create videos themselves as well as we get into the Philippines. So that's what I meant by that. Consumers don't expect to just go to a store and make the purchase, or they also expect to be entertained and engaged throughout the shopping season.

Speaker 1:

How did the nine nine campaign go? I think it's just happened a few weeks ago. I'm just wondering what , what results did you see there?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think nine nine when well , shot back helped mergers drive about 3.5 X in terms of sales uplift compared to the average day in September and every shot back user would also have spent about 40% more per transaction compared to an average day. And overall we gave out over 400,000 in cash back just in that single day, two uses

Speaker 1:

400,000, not a small sound handy measuring , and I'm sure that the following the next year , this will only go up and up. You mentioned a few times customer experience in why way, one way or the other and customers can be both the users and the merchants. I was wondering, how do you measure? Are there certain tools that you use to make sure that you're delivering the best service possible? And you're kind of testing the waters with both the users and merchant , any tools to measure customer experience?

Speaker 2:

I wouldn't say so much pools, but I guess in terms of areas that we look out for, right? So we want to make sure that we are aligned to what customers are demanding. So in terms of consumers, we will definitely use a whole suite of tools to understand if customers are engaging with our platform, customers engaging with a social media engagement, I guess, campaigns, and also are they active on our platform. So for example, we will take a look at the monthly active users. We'll take a look at daily active users, we'll explore, and how much time are they spending on our app to explore different yields ? Are we doing a better job by measuring their conversion rate? We will look at how much sales and traffic they're driving through our margin partners as well. And we will constantly seek feedback from customers again on both sides and partners, as well as users to understand how we can do better for them.

Speaker 1:

And I think this connection and continuous connection and making sure you listen and be engaged in and engage them is very important for any company growing so fast to do. Now I wanted to ask you about the future and the future can be short term longterm , but if you look ahead, what are some of the projects that you can share, of course, that excites you the most connected to shop bank , and maybe you can share more about it.

Speaker 2:

Sure. I think again, serving the ecosystem is something that keeps us going every day , right? I think in terms of, as you mentioned, Chavez has really well, they'll be able to only go well, if we're able to serve , um , stakeholders as well. So really excited in terms of being able to still quite a few of these new products and features I've mentioned going forward. I think what will be will be a pretty exciting coming October, November is that we also be releasing a game that users can engage with. We will be called cashback last year. We released this game and it's gotten a lot of traction and interest. And the reason why we're bringing it back is that actually uses have been very much writing to us or engaging us to say this , bring it back, but we wanted to bring a version that even better. So we took some time to upgrade the game and hopefully this will bring even more fun and joy for customers. I think I'm also populate excited about scaling the concept of vouchers as well as product comparison across the region, especially for vouchers. I think this is very meaningful for the merchant partners as well as they would see as this would help them look in sales with users in terms of compare product comparison. I think this is especially relevant tool in these times where users are trying to research and compare prices across the board.

Speaker 1:

Hmm . I think that show big is going to grow and it's going to dominate the region in, in everything connected to the product you mentioned. Now, can this, I wanted to ask a bit more about the talent side of things in culture, maybe the company, when you look at the most in demand skills, and we are looking here at the commerce and tech professionals, what can you share? What are the things you're seeing in this area? The skills part?

Speaker 2:

Well, I think the usual textbook answer would be perhaps the most in demand skills would be data engineering thing . But frankly I think one of the more important skills that sometimes neglect it and it is relevant to many industries actually is the ability to deal with ambiguity and apply a first principles thinking to solve problems. A lot of the issues that we are looking to solve for might not exist a decade ago, the concept of apps is fairly new. So I think in terms of an individual, having the skillset to be able to deal with ambiguity and apply first principles thinking is crucial to be able to grow with times and solve new problems as well. I think this is something that schools perhaps are not trained as well, but given that disruption is going to happen more rapidly. I think this is an ability we all need to hold .

Speaker 1:

Mm . And if you would look at the culture within the company and in your sitting in the executive team, and I'm sure you talk about it quite a bit, what are some of the elements that you want to drive and see when it comes to your teammates and the other teams? What would you say define the culture ?

Speaker 2:

I think we pick our company values very seriously . We will hire and fire by them. The acronym is kick on. So K I C K O N a and it's keep it real . We want everybody to be able to be a constructive in their feedback and honest in giving feedback can make things better. We want to inspire, not require lead from the front it to be. We want leaders and everyone to understand that it's not about leading mistakes, but understanding, you know , how can we inspire folks to do better? See , he'll be con is not an option. It's all about finding ways to solve problems. It's easy to see a brick wall in front of you, but if the mindset can just be finding a way around it, I think that would really enable things to move forward as well. That next key would be killer team execution. I mean, in any organization, I think people think very important asset and we need to be some key players to be able to make big projects happen. Like all here would be on the change to see, I think all startups that would be incredibly important because a lot of things are not developed and we will need to make things happen together. And the last but not least is never ending customer obsession. And that's why we put such a big focus in terms of learning, listening from a customer's viewpoint and your feedback.

Speaker 1:

And I imagine this , these values are connected to the way you interview to the way you promote when it comes to promoting individuals within the company. What are the main criteria? Is it just the values? I'm sure there's more to it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, there's definitely more to it. I think it would be values as well as performance and readiness for the next role. Right? So I think values would be key in terms of the foundation to whether one person even gets considered in terms of performance, in terms of demonstrating expertise in your current role, whether they are ready for the next step readiness for the next role, is this so important to consider because we want to make sure that while they are stepping into bigger shoes, they are going to be ready for the responsibility. I think these will be some of the key considerations we have in terms of promotions .

Speaker 1:

And , um , I'm getting close to, to my a few last questions. I was wondering if you look back at the four years, maybe four years plus with the company, what are some of the things that come up when you think about the most, the things that make you feel most proud and it can be team, it can be your own personal projects, but I like to ask this question about what makes you feel proud when you look back?

Speaker 2:

I think one thing that makes me very proud when looking back is that in 2017, just envisioning where we stand now in 2030 would actually have been a stretch. I would say that the team has definitely meet a lot of things happen that we thought could be having the same chance at the onset of 2017. I don't think we thought of ourselves as a APEC company company. I think the ability to manage a successful expansion into nine markets is certainly quite a feat. I think it took a lot of hot work together, but also to grow together. So I am very proud of individuals who I think have done things that they previously did not think were possible as well. Also very proud that in terms of , of country teams that even has been turn around situations whereby we had countries that perhaps were not three as well, but they pulled through and made it quite a bit big success. So really very proud and thankful to be on board with individuals that I truly respect. I think in terms of the tolerance, as well as appreciation for contrarian views also was a key factor for us to get so far.

Speaker 1:

I can feel the energy going from there . So thank you for sharing. Now, as a, as the last question, there is a of attention coming on on eCommerce in general, because this is maybe one of the spaces that is still going strong. Even with all the circumstances around us, four individuals would like to do a career change and maybe move towards this phase . What would you advise them to do?

Speaker 2:

The main advice I would give to do with, I think, individuals being open minded and curious in terms of learning and growing, as well as being self aware about each others style , right. I think that is key because different types of environment, a suit, different types of individuals, all stage of development as well. And even in the startup world , there's a big difference between like a startup, like perhaps us, which is perhaps growing very quickly, but relatively small versus I'm not sure if you call Greg or xAPI a startup given they're a fairly big, and then of course, big tech here would be the likes of Google and Facebook as well. So I think in terms of career changes into eCommerce or tech space, I think being open minded, being curious, very beneficial as a mindset. I think being self aware and being clear on each other's learning style and what kind of environments to STEM , but also be key to enable better chances of success.

Speaker 1:

Thank you very much for the time and sharing. I think Trump will only go up and up and I wish you best of luck in the future .

Speaker 3:

Thank you very much.

Speaker 1:

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