Interbrand Thinking

Five Questions with Leanne Sheraton, Senior Vice President of Marketing, PayPal


Leanne Sheraton, Senior Vice President of Marketing, PayPal

Given the success of PayPal this year, what do you think you have done in the last 12 months that has driven so much growth in brand value? And how did evolving customer expectations evolve how you showed up?

There are three key success stories for PayPal, which I think over the last 12 months are highly connected to the momentum that we’re seeing both as a brand and a business. The first is the way that we mobilized around our consumers and SMBs (Small – Medium Businesses) during the pandemic, the second is the way we rolled out our program of product launches to really enhance the financial health of our consumers and SMBs. The third is putting our values into action with real investments to advance access to opportunities in communities where equity remains a challenge.

In 2020, customers were dealing with so much ambiguity and during this time, the core PayPal promise of ‘Trust’ became more important than ever. We quickly mobilized around a set of actions to support and empower our customers. On the consumer side, suddenly they had to buy online, and they had to deal with things like remote and contactless payments. Consumers were looking for safe, flexible, and trusted ways to pay and transact and online and contactless commerce became an essential service. It meant that PayPal became a more central part of their lives. To help them, we launched QR codes, which enables contactless payments, we launched “Buy now, Pay Later” payments, to help our customers with their cash flow. Also, we set up direct debit, so that consumers could receive their government stimulus payments through PayPal and Venmo! It’s about removing friction and really helping customers through that stage of their lives.

SMBs had their own challenges. Many of them were faced with finding new ways to sell. We were fast to respond with fee waivers, deferred payments on loans, and providing information to help. We also launched products like QR codes for sellers, solutions to sell on social channels and created new opportunities for in-store sellers to expand to omnichannel commerce though PayPal Zettle. We saw a record of 70 million new customers on the platform and millions joined PayPal for the first time. We also saw an acceleration of digital behavior and across all segments.

Dan Schulman, our CEO, is big on our values not just being written on a wall. They need to be lived by externally and internally. Over the last 12 months PayPal has put actions behind our values and invested meaningful dollars to advance the opportunities for important groups in our communities. We’ve allocated the majority of the $535 million we pledged towards closing the racial wealth gap and advancing racial equity. We also recently launched a $100 million commitment to focus on Women’s economic empowerment; and we’ve also just made a $5 million corporate donation and partnered with Uber to provide free and discounted rides to vaccination sites, so that we ensure that access to vaccinations isn’t a barrier! So those are examples of things we are continually looking to do to ensure we put our values into action.

Are all the things you are doing to bring your values to life driven by your consumers’ beliefs and needs, or because employees and leadership care about these values?

At PayPal, we passionately believe in doing the right thing for our employees, customers and shareholders, but also for the communities that we are a part of. Our leadership team believes in stakeholder capitalism and doing well by doing good. That is fundamental to the mission of our business, and we make sure that we live our values externally but also internally.

I’ll give you an example. In 2019, we conducted a survey of our hourly and entry level employees and found that despite them getting paid at or above market rates, a lot of them were struggling financially. So, it was quite clear to see that people within our own ranks were experiencing the same things that we were trying to solve for our customers. We immediately put in place several actions to help our employees. We made every full-time employee a shareholder of PayPal. We enhanced our benefits while also lowering the costs. Finally, we raised wages where needed and we offered financial planning tools for all employees, to help educate them on financial health and making great financial decisions.

Succeeding now as a brand is about winning share of mind and hearts of customers in truly authentic ways.

Increasingly, we see that traditional industry or category conventions are less helpful to understand a brand’s commercial landscape, and that understanding and planning around consumer motivations or desires gives a better sense of the true competition. Do you see yourself playing outside of what would have been the “traditional” financial services category?

It’s never been a more exciting or challenging time to be a marketer. Succeeding now as a brand is about winning share of mind and hearts of customers in truly authentic ways. It’s no longer about brilliant advertising or defining yourself by a category, it’s about engaging customers in the places and through the passions they care about. It’s also about delivering a product or a service that adds value to their life in a consistent, trustworthy, frictionless, and delightful way. I think the brands that are doing that the best have a deep commitment to consumer insights, and then create the communication channels with customers where those insights can add value to customers’ daily lives. The other thing from a category perspective, if you look at the changes in customer behavior, commerce, technology, payment, and financial services are all converging. The brands that are winning in this space, really know the customers the best and use that insight to deliver delightful customer experiences consistently.

In an increasingly digitized omnichannel world, customers want to engage with the brands that give them choices, but that also give them the ability to curate and personalize those choices.

Where do you think the next big threat is coming from within your competitive set? Also, where do you see the changes coming from in your category?

The rapid acceleration of consumers’ digital behavior is driving convergence across payments, financial services, technology, and commerce. This is creating an incredibly dynamic category for fintech and incredible choice and innovative solutions for customers. When we talk to our consumers during research, we hear that the proliferation of choice is both a blessing and a curse! It’s a blessing in that they have so many more choices and are empowered to manage their daily lives and their finances in new ways. But it’s a curse because its complexity is overwhelming. So, the opportunity within the category is to simplify the proposition for our customers and to put everything that they need in one place. That’s what has truly informed our development of the PayPal app. We’ve used these insights to inform the design of the app and we wanted to focus on bringing all the best of PayPal in one place. We see this as a massive opportunity to add value to customers’ lives and help them simplify what is a complex landscape.

What are you most excited about that is on the horizon for PayPal? Any game-changers?

Right now, we are highly focused on delivering on our commitment to deliver delightful customer experiences to help customers build their financial health. That’s about adding value to their lives on a daily basis. In an increasingly digitized omnichannel world, customers want to engage with the brands that give them choices, but that also give them the ability to curate and personalize those choices. We have been talking a lot about our path to a super app — we just launched the new PayPal app and that is a great first step in weaving together all our product features and services to deliver a comprehensive platform to meet our customer needs. For SMBs, it’s the PayPal Commerce Platform for Businesses. I’m excited about continuing to innovate and build new features and functionality into those products, so that we deliver solutions that help our customers advance their financial health every single day.