Shopback co-founder and country head Kristina Ay-ay

Even after she graduated from the Lyceum of the Philippines with a degree in International Relations in 2009, Kristina Ay-Ay was always interested with the digital world. Then barely in her 20s, Kristina was in a dilemma as to which career path to pursue.

“After graduation I thought about which job offers to take, either as a management trainee in the banking industry or to work in a tech startup,” she recalled. A huge fan of Alibaba’s Jack Ma, she chose the latter because she wanted to acquire more knowledge about e-commerce.

In 2010, she joined Ensogo wherein she was able implement her out-of-the-box ideas. “We launched a digital coupon marketing strategy for retailers offering them another sales channel for their promotions. We grew so fast as a company as we influenced the behavior of the consumers to try to purchase online by getting discounts from our merchant partners,” she recalled. Kristina was then moved to Ensogo’s Singapore branch as a result of her impressive track record.

After her stint in Ensogo, Kristina flew to Thailand to work as a Marketing Senior Manager at Cmart, another e-commerce marketplace local company. But she wanted to do more and explore, “I was hungry for more. I want a sense of deeper purpose related to nation building.” Even then, she always felt like the Philippines was a sleeping giant in the tech ecosystem in Southeast Asia. So she grabbed the opportunity by creating something that would burst the e-commerce bubble.

The beginning of her Shopback journey

Before the launch of Shopback in the Philippines in 2015, Kristina first met with the founders from Singapore who told her the purpose of the application. “We are a group of passionate shopaholics and basically we want to address the pain points of consumers and the merchants,” she shared.

Being a shopaholic herself, the meaningful value proposition fascinated Kristine thus she eventually brought it to the country. “I can save more thousands of pesos with just one click. While for the merchants, this is a results based marketing for them and it is one of the most cost efficient strategy to reach out to online consumers.”

Growth of Shopback in the Philippines

The loyalty platform has garnered almost half a million subscribers in a span of a year. In addition, they have also partnered with over 1,300 global and local e-retailers. She emphasized that Shopback addresses the various needs of consumers, “with our diverse category covering travel, rides, grocery, dining and general merchandise, it’s an all-in-one app of discovery, cash rebates, and exclusive discounts from our merchant partners.”

Today, Shopback has become Southeast Asia’s largest and fastest growing online loyalty platform because of its no membership fee requirement and simple payout system. The site’s most popular cashback availment is the beauty category of Lazada and the popular transport network vehicle service (TNVS), Grab.

What’s in store for Shopback in the future

Kristina, now 28, thinks that the Philippines e-commerce market is still relatively young which makes it more exciting compared to other countries in the region so Shopback is continuously innovating its app features to meet the changing demands of consumers.

“One of our product features of our app is our recently launched Rides comparison between Grab and Uber.
Customers can now see which destination is the cheapest, the cashback reward they can get to make the ride cheapest and how much time they have to wait without switching the apps to another,” Kristina pointed out. Aside from this, they also plan to provide aggregated reviews and head-to head comparisons in order to provide consumers with more informed decisions when they shop online.

Kristina’s story shows that the hunger to keep learning is key to becoming successful in the tech industry. For her, creating a website is just the tip of the iceberg, “starting an online business is not just starting a website. A website is merely 10 percent.” She believes that in order to stay competitive, aspiring tech entrepreneurs should focus on what keeps the website running. “90 percent include optimizing operations such as payment infrastructure, logistics, product development, marketing and tech optimization.”

Business Times / BY MARGA BELLOSILLO  / ON


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