The concept of cash back is not new thanks to how banks have been throwing it around to add value for their credit and debit card deals. Even if most would be able to cite this financial jargon, not many have seen these promised returns. Shopback intends to directly address this long-standing problem.

Since its inception in Singapore, Shopback has been making waves all over Southeast Asia as the cashback platform that has made the money-return concept legit, tangible, and real. Based off similar services that are not linked to any financial institutions in the United Kingdom and United States of America, this relatively young startup officially introduced cashback as a means to earn some money while they shop. The catch – purchases must be done online and there is a lengthy waiting time to contend with as well.

Having used the platform, the cashback returns generated happen to be more visible and feels very much in-the-hand, proverbially, when compared to what bank-linked credit cards offer.


Team caught up with Shopback Malaysia leads – Gil Carmo, Country Head, Shopback Malaysia, and Sharmeen Looi, Chief Operating Officer, Shopback Malaysia – to find out how it all started the company and the growth process they both face when started up operations in this country.

Carmo, previously in an advisory role for the Lazada management before taking up the hotseat at Shopback, is responsible for developing and determining country strategy as well as growing the local team to go above and beyond its initial targets. As for Looi, currently in charge of marketing collaborations, is key in growing the merchant and customer base for the cashback platform.


When prompted on what challenges they had to face when they started up Shopback Malaysia, Carmo promptly showed why he is a force to be reckoned with as he framed the direction of the interview by keeping his answers on the straight and narrow.

“Opening up a business is easy enough with the right funding avenues and solid ideas. However, when we opened the Malaysian arm for Shopback, the main challenge for us is not as straightforward. While entering into this marketspace is easy enough, education – the simplest aspect of a business venture – had been critical for us as we had to show potential users how they can earn back some cash by just shopping online. eCommerce is currently in its early growth stage in Malaysia and so the idea of earning from buying off websites, let alone going onto the web to shop, is still foreign to most,” Carmo shared.

Looi, picking up on Carmo’s angle, revealed that the legality of earning cashback from a private entity is one major roadblock for Shopback as most would not know that such avenues exist and only believe that banks are the only entities that offer such services.


“Shopback, essentially, is a cashback concept that pay its users to shop online. What we do is work with merchants to create variable offers that allow our users to earn back some of their spendings through the commissions we earn,” Looi said.

Wouldn’t that complicate matters for the merchants and Shopback?

“It’s fairly easy to justify to vendors about what Shopback has to offer since they know the value of customer returns. After all, growth is a big driver for eCommerce and being able to earn back some of the spendings is huge plus for many. With us, it’s no longer about cost-per-clicks as we operate on a cost-per-order system. Obviously, the latter has a higher investment return than the millions of clicks that don’t translate to sales,” Carmo said.

Shopback operates on the concept of trust with its merchants and users as the cashback is all carried out digitally and, to many, may not sound legit. Looi confirmed that once users and merchants see positive returns, on proper returned earnings and return customer base respectively, all parties could immediately see the positive outcomes that Shopback has to offer.


In terms of future growth, both Carmo and Looi pointed to the continued expansion that eCommerce is now experiencing. “As the marketplace grows, so does our inventory – in this case, the considerably new market segments that can be incorporated into our cashback platform. What we have to do now as an enabler for online retail is to keep a close eye on current and upcoming trends. We do this by listening to what our users are saying and tailoring our platform to requests that make sense. This, of course, includes looking at our analytics and paying attention to merchant feedback,” Carmo added.

Looi, in similar thought, also added that keeping up the standards for customer quality and merchant management are critical as they are key drivers in growing the business. “By focusing on these aspects, we are able to put into place a solid foundation that can be used in the future to expand the business to new regions. While more still needs to be done for Malaysia, with only 1% now accessing current eCommerce services, we also have to consider options to expand in the future as well,” Looi shared.

Expansion of Shopback around Malaysia and beyond is definitely on the cards and both Carmo and Looi revealed more of that in the unabridged interview that is shown within the embedded video below: