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Marni Schapiro | Afterpay

On this episode of the RETHINK Retail Podcast, Marni Schapiro, the Head of Global Advertising & Affiliate Partnerships at Afterpay, shares some interesting financial insights on Gen Z consumers and reveals why it’s critical for retailers to seek new platforms to market and advertise themselves on.

Prior to joining Afterpay, Marni built her career with editorial companies like Marie Claire and Cosmo and tech giants like Google and Snap.

Afterpay is an alternative payments platform that allows consumers across Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States to shop and purchase products in 4 installments over 6 weeks. Afterpay is also available in France, Italy, Spain, and the UK where they’re known as Clearpay.

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Hosted by Julia Hare
Produced by Gabriella Bock
Edited by Chase Atherton

Post Transcript

Julia Hare: Hello everyone. And welcome back to another episode of the RETHINK Retail podcast. Joining me today is Marni Schapiro. Marni is the head of global advertising and affiliate partnerships Afterpay, which if you haven’t heard of Afterpay by now, then you must not shop all that often because they are everywhere. And it’s an alternative payments platform. It allows consumers across many countries, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, US, to shop and purchase products in four installments over six weeks. It’s also available in a few other countries under a different name, under Clearpay, and that’s in France, Italy, Spain, and UK. So quite global. Julia Hare: And what’s great about Afterpay is there is not revolving debt, there’s no cost and no waiting. So shoppers can purchase their orders directly from our retailers’ website through the integrated app with Afterpay or with select retailers, even in store. So Marni has held leadership positions at huge tech companies. You may have heard of them, Google and Snapchat. And now she’s with Afterpay. We get to have her on the show and pick her brain a little bit about this topic. It’s so great for you to be here. Marni Schapiro: Thank you so much, Julia. I’m thrilled to be on the show with you today. Julia Hare: Absolutely. Let’s dive in. I want to hear about your journey. So all of the retailers listening I’m sure they’re interested in hearing a little bit about what Afterpay is, but before we get too much into that, what is it like being with huge tech companies like Google and working for Marie Claire and Cosmos and huge editorial names and then transitioning to tech with Afterpay? Marni Schapiro: It is quite an honor, I have to be honest with you. I am very, very proud of my career. I actually fell in love with advertising at a very young age and knew from that moment, it was a commercial that I saw when I was really young, that I wanted to work in advertising. And I didn’t actually really know how that would ebb and flow, but I’m one of the very few people that I know who majored in advertising and then did that for my career. And I just knew that I wanted to be part of this industry that was able to tell stories and to get humans to feel something and to making action. And I have been fortunate enough to work at really big companies like you said, but not only the fact that they’re really big companies, I’ve always worked at brands that I feel so proud to represent. Marni Schapiro: And that happened from the day I left college and got my first job at an ad agency to joining the ranks at Cosmo, which was my very first media sales job. Couldn’t have had more fun, been around better mentors, amazingly strong women who taught me how to sell with integrity and all of the ins and outs in the media world. And those steps took me to these big tech giants like Google, which I was at for almost a decade, and Snapchat, which I helped build from very early days. And I just have a lot of pride for those steps in my career. And I have to say that when you ask, how did I do it? Or where did I end up? How did I end up there? I really always just followed this fire in my belly, of what was I interested in? What seemed different and curious? And most importantly, I don’t know why I do this to myself, but I always tend to take a step in my career that scares me. That makes me feel really uncomfortable. Marni Schapiro: And I know that when I feel those things, it’s the right move for me, because there’s just something inside of me that wants to challenge myself to learn and to create. And that’s what I’ve really tried to do at all of these companies. When I went to Google, we had just bought YouTube. And I was able to ride that train and help build that entire business with the very first people that worked on YouTube at Google, it was such an amazing ride. And I loved that feeling of the unknown and the build and the work and the challenge that goes into not only building something, but then bringing clients along for that journey. Marni Schapiro: Same thing happened at Snap. I went over to Snap. I was 41 years old. I didn’t use Snapchat, but I fell in love with it. And I knew that was something that I wanted to just go and learn about and build. And that’s what I did. And then when the time came for me to leave Snap and pursue other things, Afterpay came around. And once again, it isn’t an industry that I came up in. It isn’t something that I knew in and out the payments industry and financial institutions and industries, but there was something about Afterpay that I just felt was so special and so smart. And I have to be honest, the people that I met in my interview process blew me away. And it was just something inside where I said, I got to do this. I got to go try to help build this piece of business at this amazing company and let’s see what happens. And that’s really how I ended up at Afterpay, after a long career in mostly, you could think of it as media platforms. Julia Hare: Definitely media platforms. I know it’s tech, but these are some of the largest advertisers, if not the largest, obviously with Google, but Marni, it sounds like you always come in right at the time where something big is going on, like when Google had just acquired YouTube. And then when Snapchat was in its genesis. That’s a huge platform. There’s, even today I looked up before we hopped on this podcast, and it’s 560 million almost users on Snapchat. So a ton of people, huge for advertising still. And the demographics, I think have shifted a little bit as usual with these types of apps from really younger consumers to getting a little bit older, but I’m curious how you’ve seen those demographics change, or what the shifts are from a retail advertising perspective? Marni Schapiro: Yeah, that’s a great question. I’ve spent most of my time at Snap and my latter half of my time at Google with retailers. And this is such an really interesting phase because when I was pretty early in at Snap, we released our very first, I think it was 2017, and we released our first report on gen Z shoppers. And I just remember how hard it was actually to get a retailer, or a brand to consider gen Z as a really important part of their marketing plan. They knew that one day these gen Zers would grow up and then they could target them and really work with them. But in those early days at Snap, it was really difficult to get a brand to consider moving into an environment that was almost all gen Z and the younger part of the millennial generation. And now they have taken over everything. Marni Schapiro: All the things that we knew would happen, meaning gen Z being the highest spending power generation in human history. It is all coming now and no one can get enough of them. And what we see now is gen Z and millennials that they’ve just experienced such a range of financial and cultural impacts throughout their life. Think about this from the 2008 financial crisis for millennials, all the way to what we’ve just gone through with COVID, and gen Z, I have three children, two of which are officially gen Z. What they know is their mobile phone and COVID. They know that more than anything else. And that has really shifted the way that these generations are going to navigate the world and how they currently are navigating the world. And I like to think about that being someone who has worked in service of these generations, with the platforms that I’ve been on for most of my career, that if they are changing the way that they’re navigating the world, the entire world will change. And all of us will change the way we navigate because of them. Marni Schapiro: They are that powerful of a force in the economy. Currently we’re looking at gen Z and millennials that make up 32% of total retail spend in the US. And that is going to continue to grow. The expectation is that we’ll hit almost 50% of spend by 2030, as more gen Zers are in the workforce, and they have even more disposable income. And these are, as we know, digitally native generations, they do not know life without their phone. And they insist that things are done in the way that they want it done. And when it comes to shopping, let’s say, omnichannel, the idea of omnichannel, something that we struggled with for years and years and years at Google, what does omnichannel mean? How do we do it? This is just natural for them. Marni Schapiro: And I think that where we are right now after COVID, that’s fueled so many incredible opportunities for merchants and for brands to show up the way that they need to show up for this consumer set. You’ve got things like buy online and pick up in store, that grew massively over the pandemic. And it’s really about this pent up demand from these younger generations to get what they want when they want it and how they want it. And it doesn’t mean that they’re sitting at home only on their phone, and that’s the only place that they want to shop. It just means that they want to be able to access what they want, however it’s convenient for them. And I think that all of those things, these generations growing up, having more money, marketers understanding how they need to connect with them. And then these marketers and brands really being able to be present all the time. I think that, that’s a big shift and that’s because of the way that gen Z and millennials operate. It’s pretty cool. Marni Schapiro: We’ve seen pretty great traction also when we think about the ways that these consumers shop, and the way that has changed even through COVID. We have a really big promotion called Afterpay day. And we just recently had our Afterpay day and our activity was up 46% this year versus August of last year. And it’s really just because people want to shop and this younger consumer, nothing’s going to stop them. They are going to search for what they want and find what they want, how they want and support the things that they want. But then they are going to go and take action to shop anyway that makes sense for them. So I think that these generations, they’re not getting anything but more powerful, they’re spending is going to just continue to increase. And at the end of the day, the pandemic gave retailers a reality check that they need to be everywhere. They really need to walk the walk and talk the talk, so to speak about being omnichannel. Marni Schapiro: And one of the biggest takeaways, to bring it back to what I’ve experienced in my previous companies and now, is that most brands, or lots of brands, let’s say, will think that in order to be seen through the clutter and be seen by this generation, that is so savvy, so smart, they are onto all of us, that they need to be on social media and they need to be all of that. And that’s actually not only the case, brands don’t have to rely solely on what I say, finding a way in to consumers on social media. That is a tricky, tricky step. Marni Schapiro: They actually can show up in shopping apps all over the place. Brands need to be seen everywhere. They need to be on social, they need to be everywhere that their consumers are, but they’ve got to be part of these shopping apps because these consumers are coming to the apps for one thing. And that is to shop, it is to be inspired to shop, to find what they want, how they want it and when they want it. And I think that, that is the biggest thing that I’ve seen in a shift from this generation, is the idea of what they will be to how powerful they are now. Julia Hare: Yeah. And some of the stats you shared Marni are incredible, just in the sheer buying power of this cohort and how much it’s going to grow over the next few years. And are you saying, you said in terms of social, it’s a tricky step. I think any retailer listening would agree with that. It really is. And you have to have a lot of things aligned and going right to know how to reach them in a natural, authentic way on those platforms. Are you saying maybe that isn’t the first step, like some brands perhaps go straight to, how do we make a splash on social media versus maybe the steps should be, how do we get on all these shopping apps? Marni Schapiro: That’s a really good question, and not one that I would blanketly answer, because every brand has its own strategy of what they are, how they want to show up and where they want to show up. What I think is really interesting to consider is when a brand is on social media, they have to be authentic. They’ve got to be there authentic to the platform where they’re showing up. I do not believe that a brand can take one type of creative and run it on every single social platform out there, because these consumers, gen Z and millennials, they are, like I said, so savvy, they know they’re being marketed to, and they believe in authenticity. So the reason I say it’s a tricky step is because a brand just needs to really own their voice, and know what they stand for on any given platform. Marni Schapiro: However, when you think about shopping apps, there’s nothing that a consumer is doing there, but going there to find a brand to shop from. So a brand is natively authentic in that environment. And it isn’t about creating storytelling all the time and figuring out the entire funnel all the time. It really is about being present. And so what I would say is it is not up to me to tell a brand where they should show up first. I don’t know their marketing strategies. I don’t know all of that, but if they are not also on shopping apps at the same time as they’re trying to reach these generations elsewhere, then they should maybe consider checking out what’s going on, on the shopping apps. Julia Hare: So super smart, Marni. Thank you for sharing your perspective on that. I want to jump into specifically payment options, like Afterpay, because we’ve heard throughout the pandemic that some generations, or all shoppers actually, are more open to trying new things that maybe they haven’t in the past. Would you say that’s true with specifically gen Z and millennial users? What does your data show? Marni Schapiro: Yeah, they love buy now, pay later. The growth of buy now, pay later has been really fueled by this generational shift in spending preferences. And I have been really floored by the data that I’ve seen coming to Afterpay and really learning about how these younger consumer are choosing to use Afterpay and buy now, pay later in general, and how they’re shifting away from what I grew up with, which is credit. They are credit averse. And I think that, that’s the big takeaway. They are wary of high interest and revolving debt cycles, and they favor debit cards above all else. These younger generations, they tell us that they want to pay for things that they want and they need using their own money. They don’t want to turn to expensive loans. They don’t want to turn to credit cards with mounting interest. Marni Schapiro: I read time and time again that this, especially gen Z, they see their gen X parents saddled with debt. They are just in it up to their eyeballs and they don’t want anything to do with it. And so they want and need the flexibility of being able to pay over time, but they do not want to deal with traditional credit. And so enter, buy now, pay later. It’s been such an incredible gift to see how we empower customers and this generation to use their own money, to use their own money to enjoy the purchase that they want to make. And they can make those purchases right away while paying over time. And consumers effectively get the flexibility that traditional credit afford without the downside and the risk of all of that revolving debt. And it’s important to know that Afterpay is not alone, and we never try to upsell our customers on interest [inaudible 00:18:52] products. It’s not what they want, and it’s not what we want for them. Marni Schapiro: So, that’s where you’re seeing this adoption of buy now, pay later and of Afterpay. If you compare, buy now, pay later to debit and credit card use, spending has increased so dramatically. And we, I’m looking at some stats here since January 2020, spending across all generations on BNPL has increased 660%. And if you look at just gen Z, it’s up by almost 1000% since January 2020. It is highly adopted. It is a way that this generation has been able to spend their own money in their own way, without the risk of all of that revolving debt. And they have really, really run to it. And the other cool thing to know, Julia, is that our customers also tell us that they prefer to use Afterpay as a budgeting tool. Marni Schapiro: This was another insight coming to the company. Again, I’m older, I’m part of the credit card world, which not anymore, because I use Afterpay for everything. But I didn’t realize how many people are using Afterpay as a budgeting tool. And it’s helping them pay for things they want while being fiscally responsible and saving on all of those credit card fees. So that’s been really interesting to see and to learn about. So if you think about our user base, approximately 90% of our global customer base uses debit cards when making a purchase. And that just goes to prove that they are avoiding that cyclical revolving debt that they know of from credit and loans. And we’ve really just been able to flip that model, that traditional credit model on its head. In fact, our consumers, or consumers in general, can save up to $459 million in credit card fees by making purchases with Afterpay. That’s equivalent to $6 an order. That’s huge. Julia Hare: That is. Marni Schapiro: Yeah. Right? Let’s talk about that. $459 million in credit card fees they are going to save by making purchases with Afterpay. It’s wild. Julia Hare: And the credit card companies must be shaking in their boots because these stats are not looking in their favor. I am surprised, I’m learning a lot from you because I had no idea. I would not have guessed 90% are using debit cards from your data. That is really surprising to me, because I’m also Marni Schapiro: Yeah. Julia Hare: … credit card, get the points, all of that stuff that they used to teach you. Marni Schapiro: Oh yeah. I’m a gen Xer. So I was basically told by my parents, graduate college, get yourself a credit card to get what you need, figure it out later. Julia Hare: Absolutely. Right. Marni Schapiro: This generation, no, they’re so much smarter. They look at that and they say no way, I’m not doing that. And the rise of debit cards is, it’s phenomenal, because it does give them the opportunity for financial freedom and to spend on their terms with their money. So you just see that this trend is only growing. I have another stat, between October 2021 to November 2021, BNPL sales grew 52%, 52%. It is huge. And the big point here is that they are using this tool to budget themselves. And I believe, in Afterpay we all believe very firmly that budgeting via buy now, pay later, is and will continue to be the way that young shoppers pay for things in their lives. They have found the way that it works for them. And I believe firmly that they will continue this. Julia Hare: Thank you for sharing all of the stats also. I love when guests come on and they’re able to share these things, I think it illuminates the topic really well. And for all of our retailers listening, can you speak a little bit, it’s really difficult to capture attention nowadays. So how do you help retailers solve some of the product discovery challenges they face? Marni Schapiro: It’s a great question. And it’s so true. It is difficult to capture people’s attention. Afterpay is a buy now, pay later platform, we are a great financial tool. We are also an unbelievable marketing platform for a brand. And what you can see is the app, the Afterpay app. It has very quickly turned from a directory of stores that accept Afterpay, which is what it was a few years ago, to a top shopping destination for consumers to not only discover new brands, but to literally shop, to take action and shop. We send, Julia, this is one of my favorite stats. We send over a million leads a day to our merchant partners from our app. Julia Hare: I had no idea. I feel naive like why don’t I know this, but I had no idea that your shopping app was that huge. This is crazy. Marni Schapiro: Yeah, it is super powerful. And these merchants, these brands have really quickly learned the value that we bring in helping them tap into this highly engaged audience of next generation shoppers. It is something that I have yet to see in my media career, in terms of the engagement, the conversion, what this app is for so many people. And once I started talking to Afterpay, I would ask a bunch of friends or friends’ kids, or whoever was around me, do you use Afterpay? And it is right there, front and center on their phones. They open up that app all the time, every time they want to shop. And what Afterpay has been able to do, again, is by tuning into that desire for the app to be a shopping destination, we’ve really been able to create an environment where brands can connect at exactly the right time in exactly the right place. Marni Schapiro: So it’s pretty cool. And then we also have unbelievable marketing programs. So I mentioned Afterpay day before. This is a highly curated event and it requires a full funnel approach. Global mobilization and merchants have really just been able to tap into these moments that Afterpay creates for them to acquire new shoppers simply by participating. Last year during Afterpay day, we experienced a 35% jump in the average number of new customers, just from that program. So when I say that Afterpay really does operate as a marketing platform for our partners, it is absolutely true. They will reap the benefits of how much consumers love Afterpay. And we have an unbelievable marketing team, an organization that helps connect the dots even further. Marni Schapiro: And then last but not least, my favorite part of the conversation is we now have an advertising platform at Afterpay, and we are able to bring these advertising solutions to our global merchant partners. And what this does is it increases their brand visibility on the app and it allows them to capture more of this gen Z and millennial consumer attention because these people are coming to our app every day to shop. Julia Hare: Right. They’re coming with intent. So, they know they’re being sold to, but it’s a value add for them because they’re shopping, it’s a marketplace, it sounds like. Marni Schapiro: Absolutely. And like I said before, it’s natives. For a brand to show up in a shopping app, that is a native experience. A consumer is coming to the app to shop. They are coming to the app to be inspired by something, to discover something, to see a good deal and to take action. And when a brand can show up in that environment, it’s a golden ticket. It is not interfering with a consumer’s experience. It is adding value a hundred percent, and it is a brand literally being in the right place at the right time. And we actually have heard that across the board. So we launched our advertising platform last August, we have heard from a 122,000 merchant partners across the board that it’s critical to see and be seen on our shopping app. They want to be on that app. Marni Schapiro: And so what we did is create a really smart performance based media platform, where merchants right now, they only pay when a consumer makes an action. It’s a huge benefit for a retailer, and it gives them control that they’ve been wanting and looking for on the app. And it gives them an opportunity to understand exactly how to connect and what connection they need to make with this audience in order to drive purchase. And in order to give this consumer what they want when they want it. Which again, when we talk about gen Z millennials, that is the key. They don’t want to have to search around. They don’t want to have to go through a whole lot of work to get what they want. So when they come to Afterpay, front and center, they’re going to see brands that they love. They’re going to see brands they might not have heard of before. They’re going to see things that are trending. And we have an ad platform that allows brands to really tap into that in the right way. Julia Hare: So it sounds like, and this is maybe, correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds like you guys give a lot of data back to your advertisers so that they know what’s working and what’s not, which is an area that I know Amazon got a lot of heat for not doing for many years, and I think still does. Marni Schapiro: We try to be as helpful to our merchant partners as possible. So when a brand wants to advertise on the platform, we want to make sure that it is driving the best results possible, and we work hand in hand with them. They know exactly what we’re doing. They know what their dollars are doing on the platform. And like I said before, I’ve been in advertising for longer than I care to admit, 25 years I believe at this point. And I have never seen the conversion rates that I see on Afterpay, the ROI that I see on Afterpay. The roll out across the board. It is unbelievable to me. And there is nothing that we want to hide from our merchant partners. So we are as transparent as we can be. And as we build the platform, we’re excited to see where it goes. Julia Hare: Well, I am too. And when you talk about the retailers, is it span many categories and also size? Are you reaching SMBs too? Are they a big part of the mix? Marni Schapiro: Oh yeah, absolutely. SMBs are actually, personally, Julia, very close to my heart. Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy. And they are so critical to our day to day lives. And I actually don’t think a lot of people realize on a day to day basis, how small businesses make up our economy, and we support small, medium businesses so tremendously at Afterpay. We have a huge growing network of SMB merchants and they get immediate value from using Afterpay as they tap into, or excuse me, to our consumer base. So when we work with SMB retailers, they are going to see all of the same benefits that we’ve been talking about, access to these very in demand shoppers, this gen Z and millennial shopper. In fact, two thirds of all spend on small businesses come from gen Z and millennials. So it’s so important that they show up on the number one shopping app. It’s so important that they are being supported by Afterpay in order to connect with that group. Marni Schapiro: And what we’ve also seen is BNPL spending for small businesses has already increased by 300% for gen Z since January 2020. It is a massive part of this journey. And I also think it’s good to think about gen Z and millennials. They also care very much where they shop and who they support, and knowing that they’re supporting small, local, medium sized businesses is very important to this generation of shoppers. And so we are super proud to be able to highlight them, showcase them on the app, offer add solutions to them, offer all the marketing support that we can, and really give them this connection. Julia Hare: I love that. And I love your support, Marni, for the small businesses of the world and how important they are to our economy. And I wanted to ask, Afterpay, it sounds like is more than a financial tech company. You guys are doing a lot. Are there any things that you can share on the radar, or things that you’re excited about for the near future? Marni Schapiro: Well, there’s a whole lot to be excited about. We are the newest addition to the absolutely incredible Block ecosystem. And there is just a huge opportunity ahead to combine Afterpay with Square and with Cash App. And that combination, that integration has already started and will continue to grow in the coming months. Honestly, we could not have imagined a better combination or complimentary business portfolio join. We are really part of the same DNA. We want to help consumers unlock opportunities for economic empowerment and financial inclusion, and being part of the Block ecosystem is so aligned with our values there. Marni Schapiro: And we are at the very early pages of that integration process, but we’re really excited about the reach that we’re going to get, and really the ability to touch more people with more solutions to make their lives and their economic freedom even bigger and better. And Afterpay has always believed, and it’s a mission to power an economy in which everyone wins. And as we join Block, and join that ecosystem, we just see that magnifying. So a lot will happen in the future. There’s going to be a lot of fun and exciting things coming that you’ll have to wait and see. Julia Hare: Well, congratulations. The Block news sounds really exciting and recent. So looking forward to all that, and I do have to throw one question at you just because it’s a fun one, and this could be a whole separate podcast, but just in a nutshell, what is your take, Marni, on crypto and where cryptocurrency could play a role in the future? Marni Schapiro: Wow. That is a whole other podcast. Julia Hare: I know it is, but I just want to… Your high level take. Marni Schapiro: My high level take on crypto is that we should be embracing the opportunity for new things all the time. I think that crypto is a game changer, and I think that the ability to have that type of freedom, right from institutional finances and be able to give humans a new way to control their money and to spend money is going to be absolutely fascinating, absolutely fascinating. Fun fact, my husband bought a piece of property in El Salvador forever ago, 25 years ago, and we still have it. And that little piece of property is now in a town that is known as Bitcoin Beach. Julia Hare: Oh my gosh. Marni Schapiro: … It’s all, it is wild. He’s actually there right now. I am a single mom of three for this week, but he’s down there right now. And I had to say, are you ready to use Bitcoin? Because it is a norm down there. And it’s really exciting to see how we are watching this shift right in front of our eyes. And it makes sense that there’s going to be people who don’t believe in it, of course, because it’s new and it might be scary to some, but we’re watching it happen. We’re watching a massive, the only way we’ve known to spend money change right in front of our faces. And I just think that the empowerment that, that’s going to bring to humans around the world is going to be unbelievable. So I’m super excited. I can’t wait to actually use it more often. I want to go down to El Salvador and spend money, spend Bitcoin, but we’ll see when I can get down there. Julia Hare: Me too, I’m like maybe that should be part of my summer plans, head down to Bitcoin Beach. That sounds like a good time. Marni Schapiro: Yeah. Then you could do the podcast from down there. Julia Hare: Exactly. I love it. That’s really cool. I had no idea. That’s a cool connection. So for anyone who’s listening, Bitcoin Beach, you heard it here first. Also, where can retailers go if they want to connect with you, or really anyone who’s listening, connect with you or learn more about Afterpay? Marni Schapiro: I would say just go visit our website, afterpay.com. And if you want to follow any of our news, just follow us on LinkedIn. Download the app, if you do not already shop using Afterpay, do it today if you’re listening to this podcast, you will not regret it, because you’re going to love shopping using Afterpay. And just keep up with us. There’s going to be a lot of cool stuff ahead. Julia Hare: I look forward to it. Thanks Marni for coming on the show and I hope to have you on again. Marni Schapiro: Thank you so much, Julia.