Even once ShopBack settled on a winning idea, however, the team continued to adapt the model to respond to users.
To get started, they designed and launched a test site — then known as ShopMoolah — in just 24 hours to gauge response before investing heavily. That's much like the way Jeff Bezos launched a basic site in Amazon's early days.
"We used that just to test out the concept and when we realized it worked, after a couple of months, we changed it and rebranded it to ShopBack," said Lai.
That evolution continues to this day.
Though the cashback concept has existed for decades in other countries, it was relatively new when ShopBack launched in Asia and Lai said it has taken much experimentation to drum up business and educate consumers that they can save money while spending.
That includes appointing members of the public as chief shopping officers and giving them 11,271 Singapore dollars (around $8,151) — the highest amount a single customer has saved through the app in one year — to show how easy it is to shop and save through the app.
That strategy proved to be a big success, and it has since been rolled out to many of ShopBack's six other locations in the region: Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand.
Today, ShopBack processes $45 million worth of sales per month. But Chan maintained that the company is still on a learning journey and any other failures they experience along the way will be part of the ride. Indeed, he has a photo wall of "misses," including missed hires, in the corner of his office to remind him of the opportunity to grow.
"Failure is just another word for the journey to success," said Chan. "Some people get lucky the first time, but you can't have that every step of the way." It's more important to find a "good team, a good problem and to work hard," he added.
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