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CashCashPinoy: Private club shopping in cyberspace

/ 05:25 AM February 09, 2015
FREDERIC Levy of CashCashPinoy. KIMBERLY DELA CRUZ

Frederic Levy of CashCashPinoy. KIMBERLY DELA CRUZ

MANILA, Philippines–After the “piso” fare, now comes the flash sale. Dining at the best buffet restaurant in Metro Manila and traveling to your dream destination are just a few clicks—and pesos—away.

Filipino consumers are now reaping the benefits of what a French businessman sowed four years ago.

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Capitalizing on Facebook’s popularity, Frederic Levy put up CashCashPinoy, an e-commerce website specializing in discounted goods and flash sales.

“We basically pioneered this business. The idea initially was to see if there was an open room for e-commerce in this country,” the founder and chief executive officer of CashCashPinoy tells the Inquirer.

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Prior to CashCashPinoy, Levy also co-founded NetBooster Asia, a leading digital agency that was sold to GroupM of the WPP Group in 2013.

Every day, CashCashPinoy offers up to 80 percent off discounted deals—from fashion and beauty to electronics and travel packages, among others.

It currently has 1.5 million members.

Private club shopping

Levy, also a member of Digital Commerce Filipino Association, said the member-based system was inspired by private club shopping in Europe and the United States, like Gilt, Beyond the Rack and Amazon.

Married to a Filipino and with four kids, the 40-year-old businessman said the Philippines was the best place for him when he considered coming to Asia.

“(Almost) everybody speaks English, and 50 percent of the population is under 30 years old,” he says.

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His Bicolana wife takes the credit for coining the brand.

“I realized that, to insist on something, you have to say it twice—like sarap sarap or disco disco,” he says, adding that he wants CashCashPinoy “to have a very strong Filipino look and feel.”

Since the discount website’s creation in 2010, others have joined in the fray.

“The environment changed a lot in four years. At some point, we were the first one. A year after, there were 50 sites like us,” he said.

80 percent of revenues

Undeterred by growing competition and the possible entry of big retail players in the Web market, Levy stresses the importance of “having your own identity” and “quality of execution.”

“It’s not because you cook well that you can open a restaurant. Cooking is just one factor of putting up a restaurant. And it’s not because you lead one restaurant that you can lead 10 restaurants at the same time,” he says, drawing comparison with other retail sellers.

Unlike other e-commerce websites that focus on selling restaurant deals and services, CashCashPinoy plans to boost products, its most profitable segment.

According to Levy, products drive 80 percent of its revenues.

“So we will push more on that,” he says.

With the booming Internet population and shift toward online buying, the experienced businessman admits that his chosen turf is both a boon and bane.

Rotten apple

Citing a few customer complaints that had been posted and shared online—including a blog entry calling a CashCashTravel deal a scam and a petition accusing CashCashPinoy of selling fake items—the head honcho says he would rather stick to the “real story” and focus on its members’ positive feedback.

“It’s not because there is a rotten apple that we should throw the whole basket,” he says.

A consumer he explains, also needs to be responsible.

“Everything is written [in] black and white,” he says, referring to the fine print shown on every deal’s layout.

Still, Levy takes into consideration the buyers’ feedback. In fact, he says, the kids section and the cash-on-delivery payment scheme, which is to be launched this month, came about because of members’ requests.

Besides, up to 95 percent of CashCashPinoy consumers were satisfied, according to an after-sale survey conducted last year.

“Sixty-three percent of the buyers are repurchasers,” he says. “So it’s normal to have customers who are unsatisfied. In a way, it’s healthy. That means we are legitimate and we do proper business.”

Seeing CashCashPinoy’s high growth potential, Hera Capital, a private equity firm based in Singapore, invested $2 million last year. Hera will bankroll over $3.5 million of the company’s financing.

Authenticity guarantee

Asked what sets his company apart from the bunch of retail websites, Levy cites user experience, good customer service and product authenticity.

“That is why you need a good organization, a good process and great people,” he says.

Tucked in its head office in Makati City, CashCashPinoy has over 120 mostly Filipino employees aiming to provide the perfect customer buying experience.

A laptop you can change that easily, with people, it’s more complicated. So, you have to take care of your people. In the end it’s the people who make the difference,” he says.

For a firm that takes 3,500 pictures a week, does 10,000 layouts a month and handles around 300,000 transactions a year, keeping its spot as market leader in the retail scene without compromising quality is a feat in itself.

“Imagine, you are in an industry that changes all the time. It’s like a shop that never closes … open at night, weekends and holidays,” he adds.

To ensure that CashCashPinoy adheres to its 100-percent authenticity guarantee, Levy says the whole work flow is quite controlled.

Except for delivery, which is outsourced, everything else is done in-house—from product sourcing, content creation, fraud management to customer support.

This fully integrated system is powered by its very own technical platform, Revo.

Levy stressed that every product goes through a gatekeeper—the quality and assurance control team—that is solely dedicated to screen all items for authenticity.

An added advantage is that the buyers directly deal with the CashCashPinoy staff, not with the merchants.

“If there’s something to settle with the supplier, it’s our job,” Levy says.

Cash-on-delivery

“You have people who do that all day. You refuse a lot of suppliers who sell their stuff somewhere else, you refund when there is doubt, no questions asked. These types of things should be a strong reassurance to consumers. All the other sites, they don’t put that on the table.”

For instance, nine of ten suppliers are rejected, he says.

Despite some attempts to tarnish the e-commerce giant’s reputation, big innovations are under way, Levy says. And with the launch of cash-on-delivery this month, CashCashPinoy is taking a big leap forward.

Reaching out to consumers in the provinces and boosting the home and décor segment with cheap but original designs, like Ikea, are also in the offing.

Crazy idea

“At the end of the day, we just want more people to have access to the benefits that some people would have never accessed in normal time,” Levy says.

“I like the idea that, at some point, we really made a difference. When we started, everybody said it was a crazy idea. Now, there’s a rush, and everybody wants to do e-commerce. But I like the idea that we tried to do something not only for business reasons but also for good reasons.”

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TAGS: CashCash Pinoy, e-commerce, Frederic Levy, Philippines
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