How ShopBack Delivers Faster, Better Data Reports With Holistics



As a fast growing company in online shopping, Shopback has a variety of requests when it comes to data analysis and visualization, whether it is to analyze data base on countries or to measure the effectiveness of marketing campaigns real-time.

The Problems:

  • Report is not real time: As the data is delivered via excel to business team, it requires human touch in data exporting, preparing and visualization. This lengthens the time to produce a daily presentable report, not to mention a customized one on ad-hoc requests.
  • Query scripts are difficult to managed: current method of storing query scripts in a huge corporate wiki ends up having the data team lost in a long file with repeated, similar set of queries.

The Solution:

  • Publish dynamic report online: By using Holistics as the end-to-end BI platform, Shopback’s data team just had to write the query one time for one type of report. The business team then can access the dynamic report online and perform basic customizations by themselves.
  • Schedule automated email reports: With just one setup, the report is now delivered to the right person, at the right time, demanding no extra human attention.

The Results:

  • Real-time and customizable report can now be accessed both online and via email, allowing the business to make on time judgements and decisions to optimize day to day operation.
  • The amount of query scripts to be stored are minimized as less customized scripts are needed than ever.
  • The data team now can save time on manual data operation tasks and focus on more important missions.

Powering South East Asia Shopping Deals

ShopBack, the online Cashback shopping website, is a treat for all shoppers in Southeast Asia. The 2 year-old Singapore startup strikes deals with over 1,000 online stores the likes of Taobao and Expedia in five countries. Shoppers who click through ShopBack and make a purchase at their partner stores will receive up to 30% Cashback. This gives both merchants and shoppers a mutually beneficial reward system.

With 85 people, ShopBack has been growing rapidly, offering up to 30% Cashback for over 1,000 online stores, and has amassed more than 250,000 users in Singapore alone.

Challenge - Manual Data Extraction

With the rapid growth and traction of ShopBack, Shopback’s Data team ran into a problem: The number of data requests were going up as the company grew, and it’s taking time away from the team’s core analysis work.

“We didn’t have any tools for visualization and reporting. Reports / visualizations were in excel format and the file size can be huge sometimes. We had to generate reports / visualizations from SQL queries manually; business users have to come to us for reports; and we have to generate reports again when there is only a small change in criteria, e.g. date range.”

- Jacob, ShopBack senior data analyst


For each data report request from his business teams, Jacob needs to launch his SQL editor, write a query and run it against the database to retrieve the records he needs. He then exports the query results into a spreadsheet before emailing them to his business teams. The business teams would then proceed to pivot the results, group them by date/time range they need, edit the columns and visualise the data with charts.

Daily and weekly reports were prepared manually, and there were days where he needed to attend to up to 8 data requests. While a simple request may take him 30 minutes to complete, complex requests may take him up to 4 hours to prepare and complete the request.

Organizing And Navigating Queries Becomes Difficult

Most SQL queries used to extract the report result-sets tend to be similar but with minor changes based on the user requests (example: slicing cashbacks redeemed by different time-periods or merchant categories). The data team would incorporate these variations as parameters in their queries, and subsequently save their queries into company shared folders. However, storing the scripts into saved repositories did not provide the context on what the scripts are developed for beyond the character limitation of the file name and what these reports refer to.

The data team tried to move away from storing the scripts into a shared folder, and tried to store the script definition and description in a corporate wiki, where they include the script description together with the SQL syntax in single page. However when ShopBack expanded into different countries and web domain presence, the team found themselves navigating and scrolling through long continuous pages of similar SQL queries, with specific syntax for each country.

As their data requests grew in both numbers and complexity, ShopBack data team needed to find a better way to manage, process and deliver the reports to their business users. It is also important for the business teams to have real-time access to the data they need to make timely decisions.

For example, whenever the country heads and marketing team of Shopback run a new campaign, they want to track and know immediately the impact of their marketing campaigns in terms new user sign-ups, and the increase in cash-back transactions. It is important to them that they have the most up-to-date visibility about their tasks on hand. For each report update, Jacob has to run the same process all over again, taking time away from his other analysis work.

The Solution: Automating Data Reporting

The ShopBack team evaluated several cloud reporting and business intelligence tools (Looker, Periscope) but these tools require a high upfront cost just to get started with the software and implementation. In addition, the time-zone difference made it difficult for them to communicate with their vendor’s support team.

After a brief demo from the Holistics team, Jacob and the data team could better visualize how Holistics can help address their problem. It helps that they can reuse their existing SQL scripts that they had already developed, and publish them as dynamic reports that can be accessed by their business teams online instead of trying to relearn a new platform interface and language.

“Getting started with Holistics was easy. Once you get the syntax to add filters in your reports, you are ready to start. Holistics filters lets you accept user inputs as parameters for your SQL queries and generate reports based on the user inputs.”

After setting up the initial reports, their country and marketing heads can immediately start using Holistics to track and retrieve the data they need to make business decisions.

Highlight Feature: Automated Email Reports

There are specific reports on key metrics that’s important for the ShopBack team and the business teams will want these reports to be emailed to them.

Previously, Jacob and his team had to query, export and email the data manually to their business users. They also set up calendar events to remind themselves when to send the data to which group of users. This means that they have to plan who needs to prepare the report on days when they require time-off, or even take time off their personal schedule to ensure the reports are sent in time.

With Holistics, Jacob can now simply set up an email schedule for the required data to be sent to a group of business users in just a few clicks. The values of the date range are automatically derived within the past period (week/month) for the reports delivered.

“My favourite Holistics feature is the ability to email reports on a schedule. Once set, it is fully automatic and the business users can receive their reports right from their email.” - Jacob

The Result: Everyone Wins

Holistics was not only easy for the data teams to adapt to, but the business teams in ShopBack were also able to quickly get used to the software to access the report they need with no training required. They found an effective way to access the reports they need real-time, without waiting for a previously created report to be updated.


“For reports that are consumed on a regular basis, business users no longer need to come to us for reports; they can get the reports from Holistics and gain insights from it straight away. Business users can use filters to get the data they require, even though they have no knowledge of SQL.” - Jacob

Jacob and his data team are freed up from doing manual data reporting for business users. They have more time to dive into the numbers for more advanced data analyses to help grow the business. For the business teams, they have effectively eliminated the waiting time for their reports to be updated with the newest data.

Now, when the marketing team launches a campaign, they can instantly track new user registrations and cash-back redeemed by product or merchant. This made it easy for them to collaborate and plan their business strategies, and confidently back up the effectiveness of their campaigns with data, helping them discover new trends for growth.

“Holistics has helped us increase the overall company’s usage and consumption of data, even for the business users who have no technical knowledge. This has helped us build a better data-informed company culture.”

Holistics provides an online interface for data analysts to create automated reports/dashboards to share with your business users through dynamic SQL queries.

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