As part of our lead up to TAP Conference, the premier mobile commerce conference on October 4, we are interviewing leaders from the mobile world about their views on the future of commerce. Most recently, we sat down with the CEO of Ebates, Amit Patel, ahead of his session at TAP.
While Ebates has been helping its members earn cash back from their favorite stores since 1999, the business and offerings look quite different today compared to its inception. A key ingredient to becoming one of the largest free-membership loyalty programs? Building with the user in mind for a seamless experience, especially on mobile.
Patel, points out that "mobile plays a key role in enabling us to be "everywhere our member wants us to be."
Check out our Q&A below and of course, if you haven't yet, register to see Amit at TAP 2018!
Question: Ebates has paid members over $1 Billion in cash back. What have been some of your biggest learnings from leading a company of this magnitude?
Amit: Leading Ebates has been a privilege, and one of the best learning experiences of my professional career. Since starting in 1999, we've steadily grown into one of the largest, free, member-based rewards programs in the U.S. Along this journey, we have paid out more than $1.3 Billion in Cash Back to our more than 10 million members.
What I have learned from our success is that delivering value back to our members creates a wonderful virtuous cycle which drives loyalty for us and our brand partners. That is why I have made it our mission to take Ebates into new categories and create new experiences that deliver even greater value for our members.
Question: What role has mobile played in your overall strategy? What have been some of the biggest challenges introduced and how have you overcome them?
Amit: Mobile plays a key role in enabling us to be "everywhere our member wants us to be". It has increased the opportunities we have to engage with our members. However, our mobile platform is not intended to simply extend and replicate the Desktop experience. Member behaviors vary greatly across the platforms— from frequency and duration of engagement, to product categories searched and usage during the day. Hence, our strategy has been to develop both platforms in a way that they help our members address the problems that they want each to be solving. And knowing our members' preferences helps us in creating the right experiences, and delivering the right contextual messages at the right time, on each platform.
Today, we offer a very compelling mobile experience across our app and mWeb. We are building new, mobile-centric experiences that take advantage of the unique capabilities that mobile brings— for example, to deliver Geo-targeted offers in-store, and ride-sharing, through our partnership with Lyft. Our members have responded very positively, and I am happy to note that we have successfully transitioned our online audience to a cross-platform audience. This is reflected in our member engagement— Over 70% of our sales are from members who engage with us via both mobile and desktop. Additionally, cross-platform members engage with us 4X times more on average than single platform members, and spend 160% higher annually.
Our challenges with mobile have been no different than those faced by other retailers. For example, the screen size has been a challenge, but we have overcome that with a custom browser that gives us greater control and flexibility. App to App tracking was also an issue, but we have partnered with Button to overcome that.
Question: Partnerships are critical to Ebates' core product and mission. What strategy have you found most impactful for scaling a partnership marketplace?
Amit: Partnerships have been important for our success so far, and will be even more critical going forward as we bring Ebates to new categories beyond Retail such as Travel, Dining, Ride sharing and many others. While industries and geographies may change, our fundamental strategy for successful partnerships remains unchanged. And that is— to set clear, mutually beneficial goals for the partnership, and deploy our assets accordingly.
We identify and work with Partners who share similar values to us and bring a complementary and compelling value proposition of their own. We build mutual trust through transparency and work together to find 'win-win-win' solutions that benefit our members, our partners and us. We succeed when we are all setup to win together.
An example of where we have successfully launched a new partnership is with Influenster. Influenster is a product discovery community powered by over 30 million reviews. By opening up our platform, we are helping them move the consumer from discovery to purchase, and do it in a way that is completely seamless for the consumer. Influenster benefits from the ability to monetize their membership base and the millions of organic visitors they get. And For Ebates, it helps us go back to what we always focus on, creating an effortless, seamless experience for our members, wherever they may be.
Question: What's one thing you're not doing on mobile that you wish you could be?
Amit: The one area in mobile where I wish we were doing more is integrating with the native mobile web browsers to deliver a more seamless experience for members. For now, we rely on a custom browser which gives us greater freedom and flexibility.
Question: As we gear up for the holiday season, how is Ebates preparing? What are some of the best tactics for capitalizing on the increase in traffic and purchases?
Amit: We all know that holiday shoppers are increasingly turning to mobile as better mobile shopping experiences means Thanksgiving Day purchases are now occurring from a couch or dining room table. Last year, mobile accounted for a majority of shopping visits on Black Friday and nearly 40% of total sales. At Ebates, we are using mobile to engage with our members in these moments when before we couldn't.
Another big trend that we are capitalizing on is that Black Friday sales are starting earlier and earlier every year, and retailers increasingly spread sales and discounts throughout the month. As a result, we are seeing traffic increasing as early as October, and Black Friday sales are no longer about a select few peak days. We are constantly working on creative campaigns for our merchants to help them stand out from the noise.
Question: You'll be speaking at TAP 2018 on October 4th! What are you most excited for?
Amit: I am very excited to have this opportunity to share our vision for Ebates and what's next for us. I am also looking forward to hearing from the talented group of speakers and learning about the latest in mobile commerce.
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