When did a pizza emoji become a requirement for a successful peer-to-peer payments business?

Some of the media stories covering the launch of Zelle have been asking whether the P-to-P payments service developed by the big banks will contain many of the user experiences — such as emojis and social sharing — provided by Venmo. This train of thought follows the belief that a company needs to be like Venmo to compete with Venmo. The reality, however, could not be further from the truth.

Many banks and money transmitters have built successful billion-dollar businesses around P-to-P payments without offering users the ability to share their transactions on Facebook or use emojis to describe purchases. They include Western Union, Pop Money and JPMorgan Chase’s QuickPay just to name a few.

These businesses have offered P-to-P services to their customers for years. The incumbents leverage the strength of their infrastructure, such as Western Union with its agent locations or Pop Money with its ease of use to send and request money or Chase’s QuickPay with its ease of sending P-to-P payments from a checking account.

While Venmo has built a successful P-to-P payments service using its unique brand of user experiences, that is not the only business model for building a P-to-P franchise. In fact, when we surveyed consumers in 2016 about what features are important to them for using a digital P-to-P service on a PC, laptop or mobile device, the top features they listed were: ease of use, pricing and the ability to request/pay money. Social sharing and finding friends on Facebook were much further down the list of needed features.

Translation: a new P-to-P service such as Zelle will not be handicapped by the lack of social media integration or failing to offer users the ability to paste pizza emojis into their payment transfers. It will, however, require Zelle to be successful in other areas, such as cross-bank ubiquity, ability to send money in real time to almost anyone and providing an intuitive experience within online and mobile banking applications – all features it has built into its launch product.

In the long term, Zelle may choose to add user experience design features popularized by Venmo to improve customer satisfaction. However, these are not elements that will be required for it to achieve success on day one.

This blog was originally published on American Banker BankThink on March 13, 2017. ​


About Michael Moeser

Michael heads Javelin's payments practice. He advises clients on the rapidly changing payments industry. Michael is focused on tracking the evolution of the payments industry, covering specific areas such as person-to-person payments, U.S. and global EMV card migration, digital wallets, merchant acceptance of different payment forms, cross-border payments, real-time transactions, and digital payments.

Michael specializes in assisting clients in developing new payment products or repositioning existing services to capitalize on market opportunities, understanding how to market to particular consumer and small business market segments, and developing new corporate strategies that can transform an existing payments franchise.

Michael brings over 20 years of experience from the payments and consulting industries. Before joining Javelin, he led the international small business card portfolio at Visa, launching new and growing existing debit and credit card programs with banks and financial services companies across the globe. Previously, he was the Head of Competitive Intelligence at Capital One, a Payments Knowledge Expert at McKinsey’s Payments Practice, and the Head of Product Marketing at Ondot Systems, a Silicon Valley mobile card control startup. He has presented to audiences around the globe, primarily at Visa and McKinsey client and public audiences.

Michael holds a BBA in finance from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan and an MBA in marketing and entrepreneurship from the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business at DePaul University.

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