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.

While Venmo has built a successful P-to-P payments service using its unique brand of user experiences — including the popular function of adding emojis — that is not the only business model for building a P-to-P franchise. Adobe Stock

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.

Michael Moeser

Michael Moeser

Michael Moeser is director of payments at Javelin Strategy & Research.

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