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Photo: Inter/Courtesy

Brazil's neobank Inter chooses marketplace as key operation to open doors to international expansion

In the race to build a super app, Inter draws on its digital banking expertise to attract (and retain) more customers. In an interview with LABS, Rodrigo Gouveia, CEO of Inter Shop, reveals the strategy behind the operation launched in the US in March

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While large retail and e-commerce companies, such as Magalu and Mercado Libre, and startups such as Rappi, add financial services to their platforms to increase recurrence, there are digital banks doing the opposite. Inter Shop, Inter‘s marketplace, is not only the company’s biggest bet to leave the word “bank” behind, but also to win international markets.

In March, the bank that became a platform hit the 10 million customer mark. In the same month, it kicked off its international expansion by launching Inter Shop in the US. “What we are looking at now is the consumer finance movement: doing more banking and less bank. What does that mean in practice? Everything runs through a financial transaction,” explains Rodrigo Gouveia, CEO of Inter Shop, in an interview with LABS.

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“I [company] can be in the food, delivery or travel segment. At the end of the day, you are a financial company that operates in a specific segment.” In Gouveia’s thesis, the company seems to have a competitive edge: if Inter, as it holds a multiple bank license since 2008, has expertise in a number of financial operations, why not take advantage of this structure and add more business units?

Rodrigo Gouveia, CEO of Inter Shop. Photo: Courtesy/Inter

Inter Shop enabled its e-commerce platform on the web for Inter’s non-account holders in late 2020. By June this year, Rodrigo Gouveia, CEO of Inter Shop (pictured above), reveals that the plan is to also enable the app. With good experience and cashback (which is higher for account holders), the company’s bet is that Inter Shop users will end up opening an account on Inter.

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“We have matured our business units to a point that we understand customers can come from anywhere”.  

Rodrigo Gouveia, CEO of Inter Shop

“We started to triangulate: we have something here that ends up becoming a platform, it is not just a bank. That’s what we’re bringing to the market in the last twelve months. You have a connection [between transactions] and a mix of value proposition in a single app,” he points out. Overall, Inter relies on five key operations today: banking, credit, investments, insurance and e-commerce – the latter, headed by Inter Shop, was launched just over a year ago and by the end of 2020 surpassed 1.4 million active customers and 9.5 million transactions in the year.

Inter Shop already has major partnerships. Amazon, Americanas, Nike and even Magalu are some of the brands that users find browsing the online marketplace. 

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How Inter Shop works

Two models connect retail brands to Inter’s e-commerce. In the first, of affiliation, the transaction begins at Inter and ends at the partner’s store, as the user is redirected to a new page to complete the purchase, with cashback that can reach up to 20% of the purchase’s value. Currently, 13 affiliates commission Inter for sales coming from its platform, where, according to Gouveia, over 3 million daily accesses are counted.

In the second model, 73 partners, such as Renner and Samsung, entrust Inter to the end-to-end operation: users are able to complete the purchase without leaving the app. “We first started with the affiliate model (…). Then, through a partnership with VTEX, we imported catalog and shipping costs to literally make the one-click buy, in which you can complete a purchase within our app. You don’t need to create a wallet, enter your card, because you’re already logged into your bank and the entire process takes place there,” says the exec.

READ ALSO: Brazilian neobank Inter doubles customer base in a year; reaches 10 million users

In addition to e-commerce, Inter already had services such as mobile top-up, parking payment and, more recently, gift cards, which allow users to pay for services such as Uber, iFood, PlayStation, Xbox and Free Fire. Without leaving the app, it is also possible to refuel the car, through a partnership with Shell; buy airline tickets through the Inter Travel tab; clear toll gates with Interpass and access an online education platform, Learn In. “We have evolved to understand the share of wallet of our customers.” 

From morning to night, Inter

For Gouveia, “nobody wakes up and says: I’m going to log into my bank. So we are always bringing services that create engagement”. The strategy seems to have an effect: in the last earnings report, Inter Shop reached 63% recurrence, which means that more than half of the customers who purchased on the platform during the fourth quarter of 2020, had already used the service in previous quarters. 

The much-desired recurrence is what makes Inter bet on yet another service: food delivery. In partnership with the startup Delivery Center, the new operation is being tested in Belo Horizonte, the city where Inter was born, and is expected to reach other cities during the second quarter. 

According to Gouveia, only 60% of payments for delivery services take place upfront. That is, 40% of people still pay for their order at the time of delivery, inserting the card in the POS machine. “In our case, the customer will make a purchase directly logged into the app”. In the new service, initially aimed at Inter’s account holders, Gouveia says that they will also offer a cashback program.

Inter Shop: global expansion strategy

Inter kicked off its global expansion by launching, at the end of March, the Inter Shop platform in the US. Users, who, like in the Brazilian e-commerce, do not need to be Inter account holders to purchase on the platform, already have access to brands such as Macy’s, Best Buy, Wish and AliExpress. Cashback from purchases is deposited by Inter, in US dollars, in the account of any bank in the US territory.

READ ALSO: From neobank to super app: inside Banco Inter’s growth plans

The last operation to be launched by the company in Brazil, was also the first one chosen to take Inter’s flag worldwide. “For regulatory reasons, for the ease and speed, we chose to start with Inter Shop at this moment. But our intention is, in fact, to have a platform value proposition there too [in the United States and other international markets]”, reveals Gouveia.

Having worked for tech companies such as TOTVS, Stefanini and UOL Host, the executive Silvia Blas is the one following Inter’s venture on American soil. According to Gouveia, the choice for the United States has to do with the maturity of the e-commerce sector there, in addition to the familiarity of Americans with the cashback culture.

“The US was our first choice because of its size and opportunity, but our strategy doesn’t limit us to one country or another. Eventually after the US, we want to enter ten or fifteen countries at once,” he explains. “If you expand product and audience, it creates a natural scale because our business model is tech-light. To scale, we don’t have to open 50 offices in 50 different countries.”

In addition to the US, the executive reveals that Portugal, as it shares the same language and a strategic position that would give access to the Spanish and British markets, is also on Inter’s radar. In Latin America, Argentina, Colombia and Chile are expected to gain Inter Shop operations later this year.

In 2021, Gouveia says the goal of the e-commerce operation is to triple the metrics achieved last year. Of the total revenue of BRL 1.4 billion reached by Inter at the end of 2020 (33.2% more than in the previous year), BRL 63.5 million came through Inter Shop, which transacted BRL 1.2 billion last year. 

To get there, the exec says that Inter relies on data intelligence: the knowledge it gets from customers’ consumption and spending habits, and the cross-referencing of these habits with service offerings – whether financial or not. “We know the opportunity and we always have the customer at the center. We make money but we understand the importance of passing on part of that gain [through offers like cashback] to our customer, in order to have a value chain.”