With Zelle’s launch this morning, banks are poised to take a swing at Venmo, Apple and Square Cash with the offer of free instantaneous payments between members of the network.
Zelle is a bank-backed peer-to-peer payments network whose functions can be carried out within mobile banking apps of 30 participating banks. For customers whose bank is not part of Zelle, a standalone Zelle app that will launch later this year will let them use Zelle with their bank account. But banks entering the peer-to-peer payments world have to contend with an area that’s getting increasingly crowded with strong competitors like PayPal-owned Venmo, which processed $6.8 billion in payments in the first quarter of this year and $17.6 billion in payments last year. Marketing efforts are focusing on the advantages of instantaneous, secure payments without having to leave a customer’s mobile banking app.
“We conducted research on the critical pieces of peer-to-peer payments, and some of the things that came out on top were speed — the convenience of going directly from your bank account — and security,” said Melissa Lowry, vice president of marketing and branding at Early Warning Services, a bank-owned company that runs the Zelle network.
Lowry said banks are taking the lead on marketing Zelle, which is a rebranding of the banks’ clearXchange payments network. Banks that are participating aren’t saying much publicly about marketing efforts, but at least one large player contends that the focus on speed and security, rather than a fun social media feed, will appeal to larger customer set. Banks that are part of clearXchange processed $55 billion in payments last year.
“Zelle brings person-to-person payments into the mainstream — it’s not just for millennials,” said US Bank spokeswoman Teri Charest. “Zelle will be valuable to customers because it offers speed, convenience and a consistent user experience across banks,” noting that the company will be ramping up marketing efforts in the coming weeks.
Participating banks that already have peer-to-peer payments within mobile banking have a head start. JPMorgan Chase’s QuickPay, which the bank said processed $28 billion of payments last year, is being branded as “QuickPay with Zelle.” QuickPay has a jump on marketing through its own spring advertising campaign called “Battle of the Paddle,” which featured sports stars Serena Williams and Stephen Curry dueling in ping pong.
“We’re going to continue our marketing campaign [for QuickPay] that we’ve had since the spring — we’re a natural leader in this space,” said a JPMorgan Chase spokeswoman. “We’ve done social media and snackable videos tailored across the spectrum, both from millennials and the average demographic.”