Venmo just beat banks at their own game. The mobile payment service turned viral sensation is officially the most popular financial app in the nation, counting over 40 million users in the past year—more than some of the biggest names in the business. Here’s what brands can learn from Venmo about how to get online consumers to pay attention in one of the most offline industries.
The world is Venmo’s playground. Millennials and Gen Xers (some of the most mobile consumers around) will represent the plurality share of national wealth by 2030. Delayed entry into the workforce, high ratios of student debt, and limited prioritization of retirement savings among younger segments of the population have created a truncated period of wealth transfer, according to Gartner L2’s Digital IQ Index: Wealth Management. While wealth management brands face a narrowing window of opportunity to adapt their conventional customer acquisition strategy to this young, newly profitable group, fintech disruptors have stepped in to court the cohort and fill in the growing gap between customer expectations and existing service offerings.
Enter Venmo. The app taps into the new consumer’s need for a quick way to manage money on an interface familiar to its users—a social “feed”—flush with friends and a language they already know and love: emoji. As such, users can leave comments along with their transactions, which helps track money more clearly (since it’s in the users’ own words), makes for more time spend on the app, and allows users to scroll through “just to see what their friends are doing.”
Brands are responding by launching tech-centric offerings with abandon, especially now that over 40% of Americans express comfort with consulting artificial intelligence engines for financial guidance. But deploying “high-tech, high-touch” offerings as a hedge against the perceived threat from fintech disruptors obscures deeper, more systemic issues specific to the digital marketing apparatus of these legacy players versus their potential usurpers. Others are realizing that tech alone won’t attract users. Capital One, for example, is capitalizing on the experience appeal and the social networking appeal via its Capital One Cafe and its new influencer marketing strategy. To keep up with the evolving financial fandom, brands need to keep the new consumers’ habits at top of mind, even if it means swapping a few financial traditions for a bit of fun.