FEATURE writer Fiona Patricia S. Escandor learns the ins and outs of online shopping from the creator of Cebu’s pioneer online shopping site
Shop ‘til you drop? Not quite. Her passion for shopping is astounding, but she is certainly not the kind who spends and swipes for the mere sake of the high. A practical shopper would be a better description of her, as she is the type who is on the lookout for a good bargain. For instance, in one of her travels, she was able to snag a $200 room in Las Vegas for a discounted rate of only $40. Remarkable? You bet.
For someone who always had an aptitude for business, the self-confessed shopaholic then figured: why not turn her favorite hobby into a worthwhile venture? That, in a nutshell, was how the proudly Cebuano group buying site PinoyGreatDeals.com was conceptualized and created.
“It’s really for the love of shopping,” said the site’s founder Clarisa P. Briones-Bernal. “I have also noticed that Cebuanos are ready to use credit cards online; and since shopping online is cheaper, we decided it would be a good idea to start PinoyGreatDeals.”
With the support of Clarisa’s husband and sister, the group buying site was officially launched in September 2011. In less than a year, it has attracted not only the local shopping crowd, but also tourists who are planning to visit the queen city. The site also features a blog of Cebu-based events as well as a directory of establishments.
“The difference with us is that we’re very easy to reach,” shared Clarisa. “I make it a point to get to know the clients and to know what their needs are. We try to be flexible in addressing their needs.”
“Our customer service is also good,” she said. “On weekdays, from eight to five, there’s always somebody who will answer all queries. Then from five up, the operations manager and I have the support email on our phones so we can answer all questions right away.”
As a shopper herself, Clarisa is surely aware of the nitty-gritty aspects of the business she joined in. What do online shoppers want? What do they need? What are the things that will appeal to them?
Clarisa said: “On our end, we make sure the merchants we’re dealing with are honest.
We put it in the contract that the prices should be real and it shouldn’t be altered just for the sake of the promo. I’m also a buyer and I don’t want that to happen to me! I don’t want to be misled thinking that I got a good deal when actually it’s just
the original price.”
“We also make sure the products and services we’re putting up are of excellent quality to make sure the buyers are coming back,” she added.
Clarisa had worked in sales for a multinational company for nine years before finally deciding to push through with her own venture. “I actually took up tourism in the University of the Philippines in Diliman,” she said. “I never thought about taking up a business course because I knew that I already had a knack for it.”
Even during her student years, Clarisa had dabbled in small-scale projects like selling CDs that she bought in Manila and selling clothes that she had imported from Bangkok.
On a personal note, when she is not busy with work-related activities, Clarisa makes sure to spend time for her other hobbies like scuba diving, underwater photography, and playing the violin and the piano. She has been playing the piano since she was a child and she even named her son, Wolfgang, after one of her favorite composers.
Also a voracious traveler, together with her husband Neil, Clarisa has travelled all around Asia, Europe, and North America. “I want to get more on the memories,” she shared.
She may be an avid shopper and CEO of an online shopping platform, yet Clarisa shared that one of the principles that she simply lives by is: “Don’t be too materialistic.”
“Fulfill your basic ‘needs’ like clothing, food, and shelter. Then when you’re done with that, enjoy your life,” she shared heartily. “Work to have money to fulfill your wants, but don’t lose sleep if it’s just your ‘wants’ that you’re not getting.”