ApoPou is the savvy buyer’s free to use, one-stop shop, combining cashback, coupon and sales offers, information regarding specific product discounts, shipping information, as well as customer reviews on a single platform. Its objective is to save money and time for consumers, by combining the most popular affiliate marketing models on its website and saving users from having to visit multiple websites to retrieve reviews, offers and shipping information.

Co-founded by Vias Stratis and Nikolas Savva, both have had careers which provided them with the right combination of skills and experience, allowing them to build a platform and business model for ApoPou. Mr Stratis has previously worked as a digital marketeer for a large American company, as well as being a Google Partner, with more than 30 years’ experience in marketing he was able to build ApoPou’s overall business model. Meanwhile, Mr Savva, a computer science lecturer and freelance developer, built ApoPou’s platform.

The idea emerged after Mr Stratis spotted a gap in the market for a platform like ApoPou and, along with Mr Savva, decided to test the idea initially in Greece. Although based in Cyprus, the Greek market was seen as more mature for their idea, adding that the Cyprus market had yet to become familiar with cashback services.

ApoPou was partially launched in December 2018 and only offered coupons to their users. In 2019 they added the option for users to add reviews, and later on started offering a cashback service on their platform. After their concept started gaining traction with the public they decided to join IDEA Innovation Centre’s incubator programme where they received €12,000 in investment in exchange for a 5% stake in the company and approximately €70,000 worth of legal, consulting and AWS (Amazon Web Services) services. ApoPou is the parent company of the two respective companies that operate in Cyprus and Greece, with the parent company based in Cyprus.

By the end of 2020 they had a fully functioning MVP (Minimum Viable Product), however, Mr Stratis added that they still consider the platform an MVP. For ApoPou to be deemed a finished product Mr Stratis stipulated that a mobile application, which is currently being developed, will be necessary, a browser extension to notify users when cashback offers are available, an automatic coupon applier and finally a fully automated website, which will require software redesigns of some website features. A key source of ApoPou’s revenue is the cashback service they offer to users, earning commission based on the sales made through their website, with part of that commission used for the cashback payment to the customer. Depending on the commission, ApoPou receives the cashback amount which can vary between 20% to 50% of ApoPou’s commission from the store.

Overall, ApoPou has two different marketing models for companies on their platform. The first consists of ApoPou promoting products and stores which they think will increase their commission. The second model is based on companies paying to make specific promotions, such as ApoPou’s featured section on the homepage where companies pay €150 to be included. ApoPou derives income from other targeted promotions including addition to ApoPou’s newsletter, special posts on social media and Google ads. An additional source of income can also be obtained from standalone promotional agreements with stores, such as that with About You, a Polish fashion website entering the Greek market, which paid ApoPou €3,000 to indirectly promote them through coupons and cashback offers.

Promotions so far have been made on ApoPou’s social media platforms, together with Google Ads and influencers, promoting both stores and products. Recently, ApoPou formed a partnership with DIAS, a Cypriot media group with a presence across TV, radio, online and print media, worth €250,000 of media space, in exchange for equity in ApoPou. The partnership will allow ApoPou to engage in various promotional campaigns, through more traditional marketing means, to grow its userbase, complementing its current strategy of growing website visitors and users. Mr Stratis also expressed his willingness to repeat such a partnership in Greece if successful in Cyprus, with a user target increase of between 30,000 to 50,000 in the next 1,5 years. ApoPou is also considering the creation of ‘partner badges’ aimed at incentivising stores to show their review ratings from ApoPou users, however, the idea is still in its early stages.

Over 1000 stores are registered on the Greek platform and roughly 300 on the Cypriot version. With companies such as Booking.com, Aegean Airlines and ASOS on the platforms, Mr Stratis stated that it had a ‘snowball’ effect on local stores, giving them greater confidence to register on the platform early on. In respect to users, ApoPou currently has 30,000 registered users, 10% of which are active, meaning they have made at least one cashback purchase in the past year, with a 90% retention rate. Part of the challenge for increasing its active users is explaining how cashback works. The concept itself is still largely unknown to most Cypriot and Greek consumers, most of which prefer to use the more familiar coupon offers. To increase familiarity of users with cashback, ApoPou attempts as much as possible to communicate to its customers both how cashback works along with stressing its benefits.

In 2019, €300,000 of sales were made through ApoPou, with the figure doubling in 2020. ApoPou’s revenue was roughly 15% of total sales made through the platform. In September 2021, it completed its pre-seed round with a valuation of €800,000, receiving €50,000 in exchange for 5% of the company, from two Cypriot angel investors. Once ApoPou reaches their user target, the plan is to begin their seed round next year, ideally seeking a €350,000 investment, with a company valuation of approximately €3-3.5m. Such an investment would help expand their marketing and sales team, as well as further develop their product, with an estimated €70,000 earmarked to make the platform more user-friendly. Their long-term goals include expansion to English speaking countries with the potential of an acquisition by a larger company down the road.

With cashback being a fairly new concept for Cyprus, ApoPou is alone in extensively pursuing and promoting the service, although its coupon offers are not, with websites such as DailyDealsCy and Coupons.com.cy offering an array of promotional offers and coupons, each having a relatively large social media footprint. In Greece on the other hand, ApoPou is among a number of cashback websites, some of which only offer cashback of global e-commerce brands such as AliExpress, Amazon and Booking.com. ApoPou’s Greece platform, however, focuses on offering cashback for local physical and online stores as well.

In a broader international context, cashback websites have thrived in markets such as the US and UK with notable examples including TopCashback with over 15 million registered users. The key to these platforms is brand recognition, as the competition is strong and cashback rates don’t vary significantly, especially with large companies such as Booking.com or Amazon who have standardised commission rates. With that in mind, ApoPou is moving in the right direction in respect to its media partnership, as it will boost its brand recognition among Cypriot consumers. If Cyprus is to be seen as a test bed for such a partnership and proves successful, ApoPou will be able to replicate such an arrangement, not just for their largest market, Greece, but for future expansion regions.