You’ve probably read the news in the Wall Street Journal or heard from a colleague that the big bank consortium with clearXchange/Early Warning is rumored to announce their “Venmo-Killer” P2P service, Zelle, at a payments conference in October (likely Money 2020).  Early Warning has not verified this announcement.

Let’s talk about the tough road ahead when contending with the market leader, Venmo (which has become a verb for P2P payments).  Typically a function of having a well-adopted and thoughtfully designed product, when the name of a company or product becomes a verb and enters into social lexicon it does a couple of things.

  • First, it gives the owner of the name an immediate boost in recognition and has a positive impact on the use of their product. 
  • Second, it makes all competitive names, products and services an after-thought.  That is, you have to want to use the #2 service or product because the #1 brand name is the verb. 

Besides contending with the name recognition of Venmo, there are many open questions that remain to be answered in the coming weeks.  For example, how will the bank P2P service, ZelleSM, work?  What will happen with Chase’s QuickPaySM and Wells Fargo’s SurePaySM?  Will those disappear or be renamed?  Will ZelleSM be a standalone app, separate from QuickPaySM.  How will the Venmo/PayPal deal to use Visa Direct affect the competitiveness of Zelle?  And how will ZelleSM ( manage and promote itself as a name brand in the face of other companies currently using similar branding, such as the fitness magazine Runner’s World (, the law firm Zelle LLP ( or the real estate company Zell Associates (, just to name a few?

So how does ZelleSM overcome early headwinds and respond to the aforementioned questions with a product that puts them in a position to be the market leader?  Here’s how:

  • Develop a killer standalone P2P app.  The user experience needs to “one-up” Venmo, integrate with the contacts on your phone, or use your Facebook friends like Facebook Messenger does when you use that service to send money. 
  • Require the banks to place the service on their online landing page or mobile home screen.  Avoid burying the service three or four clicks deep in a digital banking platform.  Since not all consumers will want a standalone app, preferring to use their bank’s digital platform, they should not be forced to search for the service.
  • Mandate “free pricing” across all banks.  Do not allow individual banks to determine whether or not they will offer the service for free or for a fee as this will result in an uneven consumer experience and lower adoption.
  • Require banks to adopt the brand strategy that integrates Chase’s QuickPaySM, etc., eschewing their existing service marks.  This will reduce brand confusion that could occur if some banks adopt the brand while others maintain their existing brands.
  • Integrate the term “Pay” within its branding such “Zelle Pay” which is the current website address. This will help differentiate itself from other companies actively using similar branding and clearly identify itself as a P2P payment service.

Despite Venmo’s place as today’s name brand in P2P payments, the market is still very fluid with significant growth ahead – opening the door for new players, and possibly a new leader.  Name brands come and go.  Maybe Venmo will be next name brand to be displaced?  Or maybe not.  It can be done, but it won’t be easy.

For further reading, checkout our latest report Mobile P2P Payments 2015: The Growth and Adoption of Mobile Money Transfers.


About Michael Moeser

Michael Moeser advises clients on improving the payments experience by anticipating customer needs amid the changing landscape of banking and retail shopping. His areas of expertise include cards, checks, P2P payments, B2C transactions, remittances, faster payments, digital commerce, mobile wallets, and merchant acquisition.

Before joining Javelin, Michael held executive positions at Visa, McKinsey, Capital One, and Ondot Systems. He has given presentations at conferences such as NACHA Payments, BAI Beacon, Card Forum, Power of Prepaid, and Mobile Payments. Michael has been quoted in many publications, including Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, American Banker, Chicago Tribune, Bloomberg, and Washington Post.

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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