We sat down with Andrew Clarke, the brains behind CASHREWARDS.COM.AU, which is shaking up the online shopping industry, one dollar at a time.
Hi, Andrew. You’re the CEO of CASHREWARDS.COM.AU. Before we get onto hearing about that, tell us about yourself. You’ve been an entrepreneur from a young age. Can you tell us about some of the jobs you’ve had and the businesses you’ve run?
Of course. I’ve been involved in a variety of industries and professions over the years. In the very early days before getting into the business world I started out as a labourer and bartender, after which I moved into real estate.
At the age of 19 I started my first two businesses, a cleaning business and an amusement toy business, and I also imported “massage” sandals from Hong Kong! I learnt many valuable lessons from these early ventures.
A few years later, now 24, I began working at a boarding house in Glebe, Sydney, and four years later when the opportunity became available, I made the big decision to purchase the property and went on to turn it into a hotel.
The hotel needed a new selling point, so I introduced show packages which quickly filled up every night. I then had to turn guests away to other city hotels, and I was able to charge a commission for these referrals, opening a new revenue stream.
Later, I got into the ticketing business and founded ShowTix, which really pioneered event ticketing in Australia. We managed the event ticket distribution for Qantas Box Office, American Express and many other large loyalty programs.
While operating these ventures, it was obvious the huge impact that new digital platforms were having on existing businesses and I knew from then that this space would be my next calling.
Tell us about CASHREWARDS. How does it work? Where did the concept come from and how long did it take to build it into what it is today? What challenges have you faced along the way?
When anyone asks what CASHREWARDS is, I tell them it is quite simply the smartest place to start your shopping online. When you start your shopping journey with CASHREWARDS, you are rewarded with real money on every purchase that you make.
Most people are very interested straight away but are naturally very curious about how it works and where the money comes from. We’re very transparent with this on our website:
“We’re all about giving back! When you shop through CASHREWARDS, we receive a commission and we share it with you.”
This sums it up in the simplest way possible but to expand on that… our partner retailers (1,200+ of them) absolutely love us because we are able to generate sales for them. They only pay us a commission when a sale is made that originated from CASHREWARDS – no sale means no commission – so for them, there is very minimal risk. It is performance-based marketing. So far, we have generated over $1 billion worth of sales for our retail partners.
So, retailers pay us a commission and we then give most of it back to the CASHREWARDS member who made the transaction, in the form of Cashback. To date, we have given over $40 million back to Australians, creating a positive connection with brands while also helping our members with the increasing cost of living.
The remainder of the commission is kept by us and that’s how we keep the business growing for our members. We have now approximately 60 staff members and no signs of slowing down. At our core though will always be the mission of giving back, and we’re actively practising this not only to our members but through other initiatives like our partnership with The Starlight Children’s Foundation, giving them 1% of all Cashback earned to help improve the lives of sick children in need. We also recently introduced CASHREWARDS Community, an initiative to support all sorts of communities, schools and charities in their fundraising efforts.
We’ve received 18 industry awards and helped 1,800 children so far through our partnership with The Starlight Foundation, with a goal to help 10,000 seriously ill children by 2020. Giving back is in our blood, it’s what we do.
To talk a little bit on where the concept of CASHREWARDS came from, I initially saw the idea in the United States and the UK where it had been established for over a decade. The Australian marketplace, including the prevalence of e-commerce sites, was several years behind.
Identifying this opportunity, it wasn’t long before my wife and Co-Founder, Lorica Clarke, and I were led down the stressful but rewarding path of building CASHREWARDS, from humble beginnings at our kitchen table pre-2014.
It has so far taken four years to get to where we are today, but even though we have come so far, we still have a long way to go. Since we have pioneered the Cashback space in Australia, it has been an ongoing challenge to not only get the CASHREWARDS name out there, but to educate people so they can understand what it is, how it works, and ultimately trust us. Being such a new concept in this country, and being the leader in this market, this presents both an opportunity and a challenge!
Other challenges we’ve faced include educating our retail partners of the benefits as well. Some have been extremely adopting of the concept, realising it is a new and untapped channel to push their products, whilst others have been a little more hesitant and unsure. As mentioned earlier, we’ve now generated over $1 billion in sales for our retail partners so it’s fair to say we’re almost through that hurdle: the proof is in the pudding.
Technology was also a challenge, and building a major e-commerce platform at a time when web technologies were fast evolving also proved to be challenging. In saying that, I’m proud to say that we have managed to build all of our own proprietary systems and have full ownership and control over our systems to ensure we are constantly able to improve and spec out requirements for future plans and functionality.
Finally, as with any business, it all comes down to the people you have in your team. We were very much a startup business in the first few years and still are in some respects, so we had to ensure we had the right people for the tasks required at the time. As the business grew we were able to expand the team, and I’m proud to say the approximately 60 local staff members we now employ are able and ready to take CASHREWARDS to the next level.
Who is CASHREWARDS for? Who is using it, who should be using it and who can get the most out of it?
CASHREWARDS is for everyone. If you ever buy anything online, you should be getting something back for it. With CASHREWARDS, no-one ever pays full price. Currently we have over 410,000 members accounting for over 2% of online spend nationally.
From families to singles, millennials to baby boomers and more, Australian online shoppers are still realising the benefits from starting their shopping journey at CASHREWARDS.com.au.
We have a huge number of categories on board throughout our 1,200+ retail partners. If you book travel, if you buy fashion, if you buy alcohol and groceries, insurance, tech and computers, gifts, beauty, sporting goods – you name it and we’ll have a retail partner on board allowing you to get Cashback for every one of those purchases. So, the best way to get the most out of CASHREWARDS is making sure to click through our site to activate Cashback and offers before checking out. The Cashback amount may seem small for some but it grows quickly!
And what about the businesses? Tell us about the range of businesses who are taking part?
We have a breadth of approximately 18 different categories on our site, allowing you to earn Cashback whatever the purchase.
We have partnered with numerous big-name Australian and global retailers including Woolworths, David Jones, THE ICONIC, Asos, eBay, Amazon, Priceline Pharmacy, Chemist Warehouse, Apple, Microsoft, EnergyAustralia, Booking.com, The Good Guys, Dan Murphy’s, BWS and many, many more.
The growth of our partner businesses is all down to our relationships and strong connections with local retailers, and the fact that they see instant ROI through our channel. We work with very strong networks in the industry which has enabled us to fast track some strong bonds. We’ve got very experienced and influential Board members – just one example is our Chairman, Andrew Reitzer, who’s exceptionally experienced in retail. I too have many of my own personal connections through my many years in business. Also, we’re right here, on the ground in Sydney, 100% accessible. We have Woolies in our office every week, just to give you one example.
Not only do we have the big names, we also have many smaller boutique retailers and you may just find your newest favourite store simply by browsing around our site – and you’ll earn Cashback there too!
It seems like an absolute no-brainer! Honestly, is there any catch? Why isn’t everybody using this to do all of their online shopping?
It really is a no-brainer! It’s funny because part of the responsibility we have is to educate the Australian public about how it works and the benefits, and we’re slowly starting to get there.
The concept is widely established and trusted overseas, but Australians tend to not be as trusting in this space as e-commerce is still quite young in this country. It’s not their fault, many of our largest retailers did not even offer an online shopping website until relatively recently. We’re running about five years behind the rest of the developed world.
As for a catch, there simply isn’t any. It’s a win-win-win situation between us, CASHREWARDS, our retail partners, and our members. We are not a market research company in disguise, our member’s privacy is of paramount importance to us. The only way in which we would use our member’s data is internally to provide more tailored and personalised communications for them. We don’t want to send an email newsletter that is tailored for a baby boomer to a millennial – it is not relevant to them – so we try and use the data we have to be more relevant to each and every member, so they can make the most out of CASHREWARDS.
As mentioned earlier, “When you shop through CASHREWARDS, we receive a commission and we share it with you.” Once people have joined CASHREWARDS, seen the cash coming in, and realise that the above statement is 100% accurate, they all wish that they had joined sooner.
How does Australia compare to the rest of the world when it comes to our online spending habits? Is the perception – that we have been a bit slow on the uptake – true, or do you think it’s just that local retailers have been out of touch with how the average Aussie consumer wants to shop?
It’s shocking to think that only a few years ago our biggest department stores such as David Jones and Myer didn’t even have an online e-commerce platform.
Australian retailers and as a result, Australian shoppers have been slow to adopt online shopping. There are several reasons for this.
Firstly, some retailers still love bricks and mortar and believe that an “assisted” sale, where there’s upsell from the sales person, will always be more profitable.
Another reason is our geography and the serious distances between major cities and regions. A lot of retailers didn’t want to embrace online because of the time and cost involved with freight. Many of the big players I was talking to five years ago just said: “how the hell will we make the deliveries?”. Now with the smarter delivery logistics players these issues are being addressed. Australia Post has really come to the party: they’ve changed their whole business model to accommodate online shopping.
There was also an element of complacency – we didn’t have an Amazon to compete with or to show us the way, so to speak. So, some pure plays have now come in and taken market share – THE ICONIC is a great example.
Australian consumers are also less trustworthy than others overseas. Until a few years ago they didn’t like using their credit card online. Because there were fewer retailers offering online shopping, they also had fewer opportunities to test and trust. Trust is key in online and it’s been the key for us at CASHREWARDS – showing consumers that our model really works.
We’re taking Australian businesses to the next level when it comes to online marketing and we’re giving back to Australian consumers all at the same time.
Do you think there’s still value to be had in the “old school” shopping mall experience, or do you think the benefits of going online far outweigh the downsides?
If you’re not online in today’s landscape, you’ll find it extremely difficult to survive. Shopfronts are struggling with lower foot traffic and high overheads whilst huge new online-only retailers are quickly establishing themselves in the market.
From a consumer point of view, the convenience of online shopping is hard to pass up, and when barriers are constantly being removed such as high delivery fees of the past for example, it really is becoming the norm for Australian shoppers.
Do you have any advice for budding entrepreneurs? How do you go about spotting – and developing – the next big thing, the next great idea?
I do, and I’d be happy to share.
Firstly, look outside your market. Generally speaking, Australia follows models and behaviours from overseas. Your first port of call should be looking at the US, UK and Asian markets to see what kinds of business are gaining traction there. Don’t be scared of competition – find a model, make it your own and don’t sit on it.
Secondly, ensure your business is highly scalable. If your goal is growth, then this will be key. When I was in the hotel business, there was nowhere I could go after filling the hotel to 100% capacity. It was the same with the ticketing business – once you sell out a venue, you’ve reached a wall. Some businesses, like CASHREWARDS, have no walls to reach. The sky’s the limit.
Thirdly, listen to trends, what could become redundant and what people want. Uber flipped the taxi industry on its head. You must be willing to look for alternatives and not accept what has worked before. Listen to what people are complaining about and use creative brainstorming techniques to open your mind up to possibilities of how industries could work smarter, faster and better.
Lastly, embrace technology: it can amplify and help scale the business. We spent 12 months building our unique proprietary technology and we’re continuing to build it to stay on top of trends. This not only gives us an edge in the market, but it ensures we have our own intellectual property. Any business idea should be deeply rooted in technology and the digital space in some way. If your idea is not highly, highly, digital then you need to change it.
Anything else you want us to know?
Join CASHREWARDS!! We’ve only been around for four years and now employ approximately 60 local staff members. We now have approximately 410,000 members who have received over $40 million in Cashback and savings. We’ve received 18 industry awards and helped 1,800 children so far through our partnership with The Starlight Foundation, with a goal to help 10,000 seriously ill children by 2020.
Giving back is in our blood, it’s what we do. We want everyone to join the CASHREWARDS community, so we can give back to you too.
To learn more about all the ways CASHREWARDS can help you save, visit www.cashrewards.com.au and visit their page on the TBS Media Hub!