For one week from 15 to 21 July 2019, Singaporeans made use of a pretty unbelievable deal to get $10 worth of items from Guardian, completely free.
You may think there was a catch.
Was the promotion tied to a particular brand? Did it exclude discounted items? Or at least, there must have been a high amount of minimum spend to hit before you qualified to get the $10 off.
Our skeptical minds found it hard to believe too, but it was nothing of that sort.
This was a legitimate campaign by ShopBack, offering 100% cashback capped at $10 with no minimum spend (so essentially, free $10) across all products at Guardian stores islandwide.
The process was simple too. All people had to do was download the ShopBack Go app and link a debit or credit card from any Singapore registered bank to their account.
Then they were able to head to any Guardian store, pay for their purchase with said card, and the cashback was later credited into their bank account. Those who were already ShopBack Go users didn’t even need to go through the earlier steps.
Needless to say, you can trust Singaporeans to seize a good deal. Across that week, shoppers were hyped up to get their free $10 and show off their bounty online.
Members of ShopBack’s Facebook community group flooded the page with their spoils, from travel-sized toiletries to children’s products and medicine.
In the spirit of sharing, those who enjoyed the cashback deal also spread the word and recommended their friends and family to do the same.
Spending To Save Is A Shopper’s Dream
ShopBack probably needs no introduction, but for the unacquainted, it’s one of, if not the most prominent cashback site in Singapore and the region, that promotes a “smarter way” to shop.
It partners over 2,000 merchants across 7 Asia Pacific countries, letting shoppers earn cashback from their usual spending, covering every area from dining and groceries, to fashion, lifestyle and gadgets.
Although they started as an online service since 2014, they now also operate in the offline space with over 600 partners, through ShopBack Go.
As a whole, its mechanics are just like the recent Guardian campaign: Users link a debit/credit card to the ShopBack Go app, and automatically earn cashback when they pay with that card at physical stores and restaurants.
While users can frequently get cashback rewards of about 5-15%, the recent 100% cashback campaign with Guardian really pulled out the big guns.
With people scrambling to make full use of this deal, it got us wondering just how much money ShopBack ended up giving away.
Unfortunately, when we dropped them an email to find out more, ShopBack declined to reveal exactly how many people benefitted from the campaign, apart from saying it was the “most talked-about giveaway” they’ve had so far.
Neither did they let us in on the total cashback value that was redeemed. So we had to do our best to cast an estimate.
To put things into perspective, ShopBack says it has about 1 million registered users in Singapore, of which more than 60,000 are active daily.
Considering they are active daily rather than monthly, we could assume that this pool of customers is quite used to stringing ShopBack’s service into their every day lives.
Let’s suppose, if about one third of them responded to the Guardian campaign, it would cost ShopBack $200,000 ($10 x 20,000 users) to reward them.
On top of enjoying the deal themselves, some existing users may also take a step further to get their friends and family to join and save even more together.
If about 5% of the 20,000 campaign users brought at least one person to try ShopBack Go at Guardian, this makes another 1,000 new users, which would add $10,000 to the cashback redeemed.
Altogether, it’s possible that ShopBack may have spent about $210,000 to run this campaign—although, to be absolutely clear, this is simply our guess.
While the actual numbers remain unknown, it would certainly be quite a sum. So why would ShopBack give away free money with no conditions? Here’s what we think.
A Price To Capture New Users
Their bold 100% cashback deal is a prime example of the phrase ‘go big, or go home’. By withholding nothing and taking it all the way, ShopBack captured people’s attention.
Singaporeans go all out when presented with a great promotion, which means as long as there’s enough push, people will act on it.
Not only would users make sure they get their full $10’s worth of free items, the excitement stirred up from the promise of 100% cashback also would also get them talking, as we tend to share good ‘lobang‘ so our friends and family can benefit too.
ShopBack frequently taps on the power of word-of-mouth. They even have a thriving user community on the Facebook group ‘ShopBack Smarter Way Community – Lifestyle, Shopping, Deals, Cashbacks‘.
By offering a little extra kick (exclusive incentives in return for sharing on their personal social media pages) to an ambassador group they call their ShopBack Rangers, ShopBack makes sure their users are more than glad to talk about the brand and its promotions.
Running the campaign with Guardian was a strategic choice too.
ShopBack tells us their target was to “let all Singaporeans know [how easy it is] to be rewarded with cashback”.
This probably meant they were hoping to cast their net beyond the typical user base of young savvy millennials.
Selling all kinds of daily essentials, health and beauty products, Guardian reaches many customers in the older generation. But at the same time, it doesn’t need to exclude younger crowds, since everyone buys these types of necessities.
They would also be highlighting to people who don’t shop online, that ShopBack Go is available offline and just as simple to use.
In this way, the campaign could have been a great adoption driver for ShopBack to get different demographics of new users on board. And by learning how to use ShopBack Go once at Guardian, they would be well equipped to repeat this many times from then on.
It’s not too big a price to pay to convert new users who have never tried ShopBack and ShopBack Go before, and reaffirm current users’ loyalty.
There’s More Where That Came From
ShopBack co-founder and Head of Expansion Josephine Chow gave us a little explainer on how the campaign came into formation.
She says it started out few months ago while the team was “doing a study on [how much] cashback users usually receive per transaction” across various categories they purchased from.
$10 was the amount that stood out to them. Drawing on that, they realised it was a pretty decent cashback value, as it could equate to “3 [plates of] chicken rice, or 2 [cups of] ‘branded’ bubble tea”.
This was a dream that came to reality when we decided to reward our users with a one-off freebie, since it’s never been done in a major way before.
The difference, is that we wanted to give back not [just people’s] ‘wants’, but rather [their] ‘needs’. Guardian was the perfect partner.
When asked if they have plans to leverage on similar campaigns in the future, Josephine teased that we could find out by following the ShopBack app.
We read that as a definite yes.
In fact, they already followed this with another 100% cashback campaign for bubble tea orders on foodpanda that just ended on 31 July 2019.
Going forward, perhaps ShopBack might explore more giveaways targeting different things that Singaporeans love to spend on, to help them continue reaching out to new groups of users.
An ideal outcome for them would be that people who discover ShopBack for the first time through these giveaways will be impressed by how much they can save, and decide to make it a regular habit.
However, it’s hard to say things will really go as planned. Retaining new users and forming loyalty is often much tougher than attracting people to a one-off deal.
Or, ShopBack might even find a significant group of users who lie dormant and only surface to use the platform when 100% cashback deals come around.
In the long run, the startup would have to be mindful not to let extreme marketing methods become merely money-burning activities while they rely on funding from investors.
This is probably where a shift to rewarding the most loyal users (which they already do through ShopBack Rangers) is really important.
ShopBack is already pretty strong, but if campaigns like this—along with their other marketing and community efforts—really reap results in expanding their user base, we may even see them command half of Singapore’s population in a few more years’ time.
We say, bring it on. If ShopBack grows, we all stand to benefit from what they have to offer!
Featured Image Credit: TechCrunch / Trans Studio Mall