November 6, 2019
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Hundreds of U.S. banks have launched Zelle since the inception of the brand in 2017, and customers have been quick to embrace the person-to-person (P2P) payment product. Though banks are not directly profiting from their Zelle P2P service, Zelle drives customer engagement in their digital channels, attracts new customers, increases customer retention, and helps banks get to know their customers better by providing customer insights.
Over the past few years, I’ve worked with banks of various sizes to create their Zelle strategies, and I’ve seen tremendous customer adoption (if you’re considering Zelle, check out our implementation considerations guide). Banks have been able to leverage the product to become more tightly integrated into their customers’ social lives and gain contextual knowledge about their customers’ payments. The P2P space is a competitive landscape with fintechs and big tech companies competing with banks for wallet share. Zelle has strengthened banks’ abilities to participate in this market and has helped them maintain their valuable customer relationships.
As with any digital product, banks must work to maintain and improve their Zelle service once it is released into the wild. Banks must understand their existing users’ data to make the most impactful product enhancements and leverage the service to increase engagement. Common data collection methods, applicable across digital products in general, include behavioral metric tracking, usability studies, surveys, and page-level feedback. Many data visualization tools in the market can make the data collected more consumable.
Behavioral metrics can tell the bank where customers are spending their time and can directly influence where the bank should focus their improvement efforts. Product managers can use behavioral metrics to determine which user flows are being abandoned and which features customers aren’t using, highlighting key areas for re-work and improvement.
Free-format feedback, where a customer provides insight on their experience in their own words, can be the most valuable source of information because it can shed light on issues that the bank was not previously aware of. I highly recommend that Zelle product managers make a habit of reading their customers’ feedback every morning. Tracking and analyzing feedback trends can help them drive feature development and gain a clearer line of sight when building out their product roadmap. Additionally, code bugs can be caught and addressed in a timely fashion if customer comments are monitored regularly, making continual review a worthwhile endeavor.
Banks can evaluate Zelle payment memos to understand why their customers are using Zelle. By categorizing the information captured in memos, banks can understand what use cases are most frequent and then more effectively prioritize their enhancements. For example, if the top use case is paying rent, a bank might consider adding recurring payments as a feature. Additionally, the payment trends can give the marketing team inspiration, providing valuable targeting information for their ad campaigns.
In addition to evaluating customer data, I’d be remiss to say there aren’t some standard user experience guidelines to follow for Zelle to increase user engagement. First off, Zelle is a mobile-dominated product, and the majority of users are sending money using a phone number. Given this data, it is a good idea to prioritize mobile over online enhancements and to use text alerts when possible.
Second, the number of screens within the enrollment and send flows should be kept to a minimum since long, complex, detail-driven user flows are less likely to be completed. I have seen firsthand that reducing the number of screens can make a marked difference in flow completion rates. Lastly, Zelle functionality should be easy to navigate to within a bank’s mobile app. Banks should include Zelle within their app’s primary navigation toolbar or menu, to make it easy to find.
Even if a bank has done all of the above to ensure their Zelle experience is top-notch, they likely still have some work to do to make their experience “sticky,” meaning customers are unlikely to seek out other P2P platforms. Banks are competing with products, including Venmo and Cash App, which allow payment ‘likes,’ conversations about payments, and double as social media apps. While banks may not want to introduce a social media channel for their customers, they need to keep their experience engaging and straightforward.
I recommend that banks keep an open mind and introduce features that are more typical in social apps, whether it is canned memos, emojis, or emails with monthly activity summaries for power users. It is a transformational time for P2P payments, and as Zelle is still a relatively new brand, there is much room for improvement in the coming years. Banks leveraging their data will surely lead the pack since the value of data is second only to the currency itself.
To learn about opportunities to expand Zelle to additional market segments, check out my blog on Zelle for Small Business—A Worthwhile Investment.
Mary Meade is a Business Analyst Consultant at Levvel, where she works with Fortune 500 companies on strategy and execution engagements. Before working at Levvel, she spent 6 years at Bank of America working on payments business and software development teams. While at Bank of America, she led the launch of Zelle. She has a B.S. in Engineering from Virginia Tech and is a self-proclaimed payments geek. Mary resides in Charlotte, NC with her husband, two boys and French bulldog.