This entrepreneur ran a makeshift grocery store from his bedroom before building Thailand’s first cashback site

Sainul Abudheen

British citizen Anthony Quinn launched cashback site DeeDee in 2015 and has seen quite a decent growth, thanks to the shopping habits of Thai users

He has been an entrepreneur type from a very young age.

Anthony Quinn began his entrepreneurial career with a makeshift grocery store in the bedroom at his London home, setting up items he could find on display and then inviting his sister to come and buy some products. After gaining “considerable experience” from his first venture, he went on to co-found a spa in London, before running some music events during his student days to generate some extra cash.

But Quinn’s true calling came, not when he was in London, but when he was somewhere down South.

“I spent the last eight years at my previous company, and whilst I really enjoyed my learning experience there I knew it was time for something different, really different — not just another job in London,” Quinn told e27.

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“I know Bangkok and Thailand well, having spent numerous trips here to visit friends and family and kind of just knew this would be a destination for me at some point. In addition, after some initial research into the Southeast Asian e-commerce marketplace in general, I was intrigued to read about the opportunities here and the speed in which the market was growing,” Quinn grinned.

Honing skills at Rakuten

After spending some time in London after finishing the Marketing Management programme from the University of Gloucestershire, Quinn went on to join Rakuten Europe in 2007. He worked within the Marketing Services pillar of Rakuten, an affiliate network previously known as LinkShare. When he began his career at LinkShare, the team consisted of just four people. When he left, the team had grown to over 60 people.

“This was a massive experience for me, as I was able to experience the startup feel at the beginning, but then went through all the growing pains,” he added. “Before working at Rakuten Affiliate, I was on the retailer-side and touched on the affiliate marketing channel. However, working at Rakuten Affiliate gave me a deep understanding of this channel, and in particular working closely with a variety of evolving publishers, with cashback sites being a key contributor.”

Quinn left Rakuten in 2015 after a eight-year long stint, and flew down to Bangkok, one of his favourite destinations. A few months later, he set up DeeDee Cashback, a loyalty platform for Thailand that rewards members every time they shop online.

According to Quinn, DeeDee is a win-win scenario for all parties: The customer gets added value from their purchases, the advertiser secures a sale over competitors, and DeeDee gets a small share of commission it receives.

DeeDee has already seen some positive growth with its member base, claims Quinn, growing over 50 per cent month-on-month. Members typically use DeeDee service over twice a month and spend an average of 3,800 THB (US$107), and earning approximately 190 THB (US$5) per transaction. “We are also seeing a steady increase in the amount of referrals from existing members as they start using and loving the site, and of course being able to cash out once they reach the 500 THB (US$14) threshold.”

“We are the most competitive cashback site in Thailand, offering the highest cashback across over more than 250 stores,” he smiled.

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Quinn, however, admits that there’s never going be only one company occupying a space, and the same can be applied to the loyalty space as well. “There are one or two larger players in Southeast Asia, and I would be naive to think they are not looking at Thailand as a target market. However, we welcome them because they will help educate consumers and grow the market. We, however, have a few other advantages, which are agility, first-to-market advantage, and a local team with local market knowledge — all of which takes time to set up,” he sounded optimistic.

DeeDee Cashback Co-founder Anthony Quinn

DeeDee Cashback Co-founder Anthony Quinn

As a frequent visitor, Quinn learnt about the culture of Thailand, but confesses that it will take a bit longer to master the language. But having a strong team of people that speak the language and are culturally integrated helps the team immensely.

While online shopping is just under one per cent of the total commerce happening in Thailand, the last few years have seen some stupendous growth. But the cashback industry has not seen a corresponding growth.

“There seem to be two main reasons: education and awareness. Thai shoppers do love promotions and are actively applying these when they shop. When you look at the offline space, physical coupons, mobile incentives, etc., are all popular. Thai shoppers are well aware of reward programmes as they use them in their day-to-day. They are familiar with the cashback term even, which is heavily promoted in financial products and property,” he added.

There are some other hiccups, too. “When you build a site that tells someone he/she essentially gets paid to shop, there is going to be some level of scepticism, especially looking at confidence of shopping online. Many hear of stories of fraud, etc., so it’s really up to us to create the awareness of this great new model for them and educate them on how it works and how it is for real. Once those challenges are overcome and they join, we see members using the site again and again, because they see the value.”

Thailand has a huge market potential for e-commerce, but this potential has not been realised yet. If you take markets such as the US or the UK, the amount of e-commerce as a per cent of total commerce is over 10 per cent. In comparison, it is just under one per cent in Thailand.

The silver lining

But the silver lining is the shopping habits of Thai people. “Thais love to shop — that is for certain! When I say shop I mean they love to shop in-store. I have never seen so many shopping malls within such a small area. They are a connected society and interaction with friends and family is common, whether face to face or via social networks. When you think about targeting online customers here, it’s got to include social channels. For example, nearly half of the population is an active user on Facebook (30 million) with over 60 per cent of those accessing the site daily, and mostly via mobile devices.”

DeeDee is currently getting incubated with TechGrind and actively looking for investment to grow the team, develop its product into something even stronger, and to scale the business.

Thailand is growing, and it is now one of the top destinations for e-commerce companies worldwide. But the country lacks in terms of online payments. The government is now aggressively looking to address this issue with new mode of e-payments. Once this is resolved, Thailand can be the next e-commerce hub in Southeast Asia.


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