PayPal wants its customers to get a tangible experience of what cash-back rewards look like, adding a physical and emotional association with the digital financial-services company.
PayPal is hosting a live walk-through pop-up exhibit in New York City on June 8 and June 9, the first time the company has hosted an experiential event of this kind. Anyone can attend the free event with music and refreshments. PayPal is the latest financial company to add realness to what many consumers see as abstract, transactional products.
“Sometimes the way to show people the benefit of product and services is to show and not tell,” a company spokeswoman told Tearsheet.
The exhibit is a visual representation of a survey PayPal carried out with Wakefield research, asking customers how they would spend an additional $500 to represent the cash back they could earn with PayPal’s Cashback Mastercard it launched last year. (Forty-six percent said they would spend it on clothing, shoes or accessories.)
The pop-up, located at 201 Mulberry Street, will resemble a bodega from the outside. The company teamed up with artists Stephen McMennamy and Vanessa Mckeown to present custom art pieces illustrating what cash-back rewards can become; inside, visitors will also be able to view candy chandeliers and flower bouquet dresses.
Analysts say the pop-up exhibit is emblematic of a trend among financial-services companies to link their identities and products to experiences rather than transactions. PayPal isn’t alone among finance companies pursuing this strategy; in Toronto last week, American Express launched a pop-up art exhibit showcasing the work of Toronto artists called the “Live Life Experience,” which centers around the company’s support for customers enjoying passions like travel, adventure, dining or entertainment. Samsung is teaming up with banks to roll out pop-up bank branches to entice younger customers to pay attention to the offerings, and banks are rolling out shipping-container size branches as part of marketing efforts.
Pop-ups are a good way for companies to experiment with real-life touchpoints — they’re smaller and less expensive than permanent spaces.
“The digital [financial] experience is transactional — when I think of PayPal, you’re moving money from one place to another,” said Melissa Gonzalez, chief pop-up architect at The Lionesque Group, a New York-based agency that designs pop-up marketing activations for retail clients. “[PayPal] is trying to create a deeper conversation about their investments in customer service. … It creates more of a personalized approach to how you think of the brand and the community aspect behind it.”
The other objective behind a pop-up marketing exhibit is to create opportunities for Instagram moments — valuable marketing tools to generate referrals from customers who post on social media, she added.
While brick-and-mortar financial brands have been dabbling in pop-up branches for years, building a physical presence is especially important for digital-first consumer companies; despite the growth of digital retail and e-commerce, marketing with a physical presence is still important for longer-term growth, said Forrester senior analyst Ananda Chakravarty.
“For companies like Amazon or PayPal, the physical presence is important to have their marketing and advertising dollars spent — the physical reinforces the digital,” he said.
PayPal’s emphasis on what products can achieve for the customer is also part of a broader strategic shift the company is making, moving beyond product transactions toward playing a role in solving bigger problems for customers.
“We are more and more becoming a solutions company and a platform company than a button,” CEO Dan Schulman said at the company’s investor day conference in May.