Forget jingling bells. This holiday season, Rakuten wants shoppers to be serenaded by the jingling coins they’ve saved.
The platform, which offers cash back when customers shop at its 3,500 retail partners, recently opened its own pop-up store in New York to give shoppers a jump on the holiday rush, while giving their budgets a much-needed reprieve during uncertain economic times.
The Sleigh Your Shopping pop-up—open Nov. 12-13—featured a selection of fashion, beauty, wellness and accessories brands including Naadam, Ugg, Quay Australia, Fresh Beauty, JVN Hair by Queer Eye star Jonathan Van Ness, clothing brand Favorite Daughter, Patrick Ta Beauty and Inbloom, the holistic vegan nutrition brand owned by Glass Onion actor Kate Hudson.
Hudson, Van Ness and Ta were on hand to promote their brands during a pre-opening reception, along with Favorite Daughter’s sibling founders Erin and Sarah Foster, who were featured in Rakuten’s Super Bowl spot with Ted Lasso’s Hannah Waddingham in early 2022. Fashion and beauty expert, influencer and recent Target collection collaborator Kahlana Barfield Brown was also there, creating social content announcing the shop’s opening.
But while the shop and its kickoff celebration had plenty of high-wattage names to go around, Rakuten wants consumers to know the true star is the savings they can receive.
Each brand boutique at the activation included signage with price breakdowns, where shoppers could view the 10% reward they would receive after they made their purchases. QR codes were available to navigate users to the Rakuten platform, where they could order and ship items with ease while lounging on sofas and snacking on gourmet popcorn in an enhanced version of the at-home shopping experience.
Cash—and brand awareness—is king
The interactive pop-up is part of Rakuten’s attempt to increase awareness of the platform as the holiday shopping season ramps up and consumers look for more ways to save money.
It is also part of the platform’s overall holiday campaign, “Cash Back You Can Believe In,” which was produced in-house based on research that found consumers think the idea of cash back is “too good to be true.” The commercial for the campaign features a modern, skeptical Santa ironically confiding his disbelief in the platform even as he performs literal acts of magic, asking, “How do they give shoppers cash back on top of deals at their favorite stores?”
“We’ve been talking about this for a while, and even before we did the research, we had an inkling that [the skepticism] was true,” said Vicki McRae, Rakuten’s svp of creative, brand and communications. “That the cash-back platforms in general or that proposition [exists]… People are not necessarily convinced. They think there’s a catch.”
McRae told Adweek the team had two major takeaways from the findings: First, they still have work to do “on the awareness side” with consumers who are unfamiliar with the platform, and are subsequently hesitant to use it.
“That’s always a good reminder for us … that we can’t take our foot off the gas there,” she added. “We need to drive awareness as much as possible.”
Second, the research found consumers think the platform and proposition itself seem too good to be true.
McRae added, “For the TV spot itself, we thought it was a nice, fun twist to use Santa. He deals with skepticism every day, right? There was no better way to tell the story than to use Santa to deliver that information.”
The team felt the holiday season was the perfect time to convey its message, given fears of a recession and their confidence that merchants will offer more discounts than the previous year, which she said was “a bit soft.”
“Everybody is looking for an opportunity to really put cash back in their pockets,” McRae said. “We’re communicating the whole idea of really stacking the savings right now, and that we know that merchants are participating and consumers really benefit.”
‘Everybody loves a pop-up’
McRae noted the team wanted to be very thoughtful around the brands and categories featured in the pop-up and focused on “breadth and depth.”
“Fashion and beauty is a huge space for us,” she continued. “We kind of overoriented there. But there’s a ton of other categories on the platform, so we want to make sure we represent that a little bit in terms of accessories.”
Mostly, the company—whose U.S. operation is based in California and is an official sponsor partner of the Golden State Warriors NBA team—was excited to introduce itself to shoppers in real life.
“Everybody loves a pop-up, and you immediately get that it’s [there for] a limited time,” she added. “It leans into New Yorkers’ mentality of not wanting to miss out on anything.”