Application Critique: ShopBack

Before the presentation, I knew nothing about ShopBack. As a person with ample “frugal” mentality and thus a frequent visitor to deals/coupons websites such as Massdrop, Groupon and Qoo10, the existence of ShopBack actually surprised me a little.

The concept is not novel

I was surprised even more when the presenter said the idea behind Shopback “isn’t common in the region”. A quick Google search on “cashback website in singapore” returns almost 600K results, with at least 5 sites similar to ShopBack on the very first page. That’s not to mention tonnes of cashback websites in nearby countries like Thailand, Vietnam, etc.

The good and bad of UI/UX

So to appease my curiosity, I opened ShopBack on my own laptop to have a look.

My first impression was “It’s actually not that bad!”. The UI looks uncluttered and sleek. There are clear intentions and call-to-actions. Therefore I agree with the presenter’s opinion that ShopBack utilizes screen real estate quite nicely with good use of thumbnails and logical arrangement of information.

As opposed to Qoo10, a quick glance at it already makes me dizzy.

Oooh look Ma, a dialog box!

The presenter mentioned the dual-language problem on ShopBack, which didn’t occur to me. However I found another rather similar problem, which is the rampant inconsistency of text styles.

For example, there are at least 4 different ways the cashback info is displayed.

4 Shades of Cashback

In my opinion, the most important aspect on a cashback-centric website, which are the cashback info, should share some visual similarities, so users would know they’re all referring to the same stuff.

Another gritty detail that bugs me is there’s not enough separation between UI elements, which sometimes causes confusions.

For instance, hovering over the “Categories” dropdown brings us this:

Notice the submenu on the 2nd column?

Yes, it contains the children of the first “Automotive & Gadgets” category. (I don’t even have to hover on “Automotive & Gadgets” to make its submenu appear, which is another problem).

Therefore no, the submenu doesn’t belong to “PAYDAY SALE”, which is clearly suggested by the UI due to the shared white background. The subtle gray divider between the columns worsens the issue.

UI/UX aside, after some casual browsing on ShopBack, I failed to find any interesting deals or things I want to buy right away. This might explain why I haven’t heard of this website in the first place.

Back to the presentation, the presenter made a rather amusing statement that linked “a high number of users” to the necessity of “a good UI/UX”. This is apparently not true for ShopBack, which has a nicer UI but much less quality content, compared to Qoo10. I’d rather go back to the latter to be swamped with all the items that actually make me want to pull my debit card out.

One stop application for online shopping?

The group proposed the idea that ShopBack could maximize its opportunity by becoming an online shopping platform, i.e. an e-commerce website. It’s a beautiful outlook, and a dream shared by many new enthusiastic entrepreneurs, so many that it’s dangerous.

E-commerce is a hugely potential market, and unfortunately an overwhelmingly competitive one as well.

In the Vietnamese context, an alarmingly increasing number of e-commerce startups have to shutdown during the first half of 2016. A particular example is Beyeu, which closed down even after receiving significant investments from IDG Ventures Vietnam, leaving its last words on the dead front page:

E-commerce requires lots of money. Many companies will decide to stop burning. Good luck to the rest who are still trying.

Foodpanda, which was considered a successful instance of the Copycat Business Model, also had to pull out from Vietnam and sell itself to a less well-known Vietnamese competitor.

Many people say the e-commerce market is currently the most potential market in Southeast Asia. But that doesn’t mean it’s the place for the fastest growing companies.

There are many factors that decide the growth of a e-commerce company: its own strategies, service quality, competitive advantage, etc. Nevertheless the more challenging factors like marketing, delivery or logistics normally depend on third parties, which are much more difficult to control.

So there might be a reason why ShopBack hasn’t “upgraded” itself to an e-commerce platform. And in fact it’s wiser not to do so.