[Pictured above: Shanru (pictured right) with her co-Founder, Josephine Chow]
By the SMU School of Accountancy Social Media Team
SMU School of Accountancy alumna Lai Shanru was named among the Forbes 30 under 30 Asia for 2018, as co-founder of the highly successful e-commerce start-up, ShopBack. We were fortunate to snatch a few moments with Shanru in the midst of her packed schedule to hear her thoughts on her latest achievement.
Q: Our heartiest congratulations on being named among the Forbes 30 under 30 for 2018! Can you share with us your thoughts on this achievement?
It’s definitely an incredible honour for Josey and myself to be able to represent ShopBack to be part of the list this year! As cliche as it may seem, I definitely think the only reason we made it was due to the amazing ShopBack team that worked super hard as one to build a great product that millions of consumers in the region love.
Q: In the short 4 years since founding ShopBack, you and your team have grown the site from a 10-man operation to a 150-strong company, with over 6 million members around the region and more than 1,500 partner merchants! What’s your secret (if you can share that is!)?
It’s no secret really. I would say that it’s a combination of team, execution and innovation. Our awesome team, both past and present, is really what’s made scaling over these past 3+ years, possible. We focus very much on execution and a strategy of localisation in whatever market that we enter, in order to establish our foothold there. And of course, to always innovate, be it in terms of our product, internal processes or problem-solving, to ensure we’re constantly pushing to do things better and faster.
The ShopBack team
Q: What were the greatest challenges you’ve faced as an entrepreneur trying to carve a slice of the e-commerce pie?
We don’t actually compete with e-commerce players. Instead, we empower them with performance-based marketing to reach more customers effectively. For ShopBack, one of the greatest challenges, in the beginning, was consumer education. Many people found the concept of earning ‘Cashback’ through ShopBack too good to be true so we had to use various marketing channels to explain how we work—that we earn a commission from our merchant partners when we refer to them a successful sale, and from this commission, we give back a portion of it to our users as Cashback. Another big challenge was hiring the right people. As you know, it’s always difficult to find good people who are not only great performers and team players, but are also a good culture fit.
Q: Can you share with us how your background and experience in SMU School of Accountancy helped you achieve your goals?
My current scope in ShopBack lies more in the areas of Marketing and Business Development, but I think my background in Accountancy helps me approach problems with a little more structure, and makes me more data-driven as well—whether I’m thinking of how to better market ShopBack, or in striking business partnerships. And of course, the countless presentations I’ve had to do in SMU have trained me to be more comfortable and confident when I have to speak at various conferences or events on behalf of ShopBack.
Q: In the incredibly fast-moving world of online commerce how does Shopback stay ahead of the game?
We strongly believe in powering our merchant partners sustainably while adding value to consumers through discovery and Cashback, and we see ourselves more as contributors who help push forward the entire digital economy. Take our latest initiative, ShopFest, for example. We’re organising this industry-wide shopping festival to help shoppers navigate the labyrinth of year-end sales by shedding light on who, what, where, when, why and how to shop smart this year-end. ShopFest marks the beginning of all shoppers’ shopping escapades from travel, dining, fashion, marketplaces, electronics and more.
We choose to run ShopFest as a retail-wide movement as we want to connect merchants and shoppers more efficiently. ShopFest will be the ground littered with tips and tricks to help shoppers locate their best buys from various merchants this year-end. We believe that by elevating the industry, we’re elevating ourselves as well.
ShopFest – upcoming promotional campaign at ShopBack
Q: Can you share some words of advice for budding entrepreneurs?
‘Can’t’ is not an option—be resourceful and relentless in finding ways to get to where you want to be. Also, it’s super important to find the right team of people to fight alongside you in this journey of starting up something new.
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