The app economy has grown big enough now that many of the early rules no longer apply.
The audience itself is changing, said Dwolla's Jordan Lampe. In the early days, real-time payment capabilities appealed most to companies paying freelancers and contractors. Today, the audience consists of many businesses that have broader needs and less expertise.
"It's not just 'emergency' payroll services," said Lampe, who's a spokesperson for the Des Moines, Iowa-based Dwolla, which offers digital payments and merchant developer tools. "One of the things you find is there are a lot of businesses with new payment needs. We spotted a company that authenticates luxury handbags, for example. They buy the handbags, authenticate them and then sell them on the other side. They have to get payouts to sellers very quickly."
The proliferation of real-time payment needs, and the growth of technology providers chasing merchant marketplaces, has led Dwolla to remove some of the barriers to using its application programming interface. It's also taking its faster ACH payments product out of pilot.
Dwolla's app Transfer is designed to require less technology knowledge at the onset. A tool for small to medium sized businesses, Transfer does not necessitate coding skills to set up payments rails, and works with existing small-business commerce software such as JotForm, Shopify and Due.
The move also follows a strategic evolution away from consumer-facing products toward business services at Dwolla.
Part of the strategy is targeting the digital marketplaces that are increasingly popular because the model allows fulfillment and cross-border transaction issues to be digitized, enabling a very small business to sell across the country, or outside of the country.
It's an industry that's also attracted WePay, which uses its API tools to enable these marketplaces to power payments for sellers.
BlueSnap in January introduced Payments for Marketplaces, which is designed to execute payments quickly, manage sales reporting and onboarding for new sellers. BlueSnap's platform also manages commissions for sellers.
"We see digital marketplaces using this, but operations without a developer on staff that don't immediately have the payments volume to require a larger system," Lampe said. "But they do need a way to pay out funds quickly in a way that's compatible with their current tech stack."
Dwolla's Transfer costs 0.5% per transaction, with a $5 maximum fee. Once the merchants' volume reaches a critical mass, it can upgrade to a $250 monthly package without transaction fees. The vendor has taken its Same Day ACH product out of pilot and making it available to all approved Access API users.
During testing, Dwolla found same day ACH credits aid cash management internally and allow businesses to sell expedited payments to their own clients, Lampe said.
"The expectation is that ultimately there will be opportunities for a broader set of alternative digital providers of faster real-time payments, particularly on the consumer side," said Linda Coven, a senior analyst at Aite Group, adding the banks will continue to dominate on the wholesale side though there will be opportunities for financial supply chain providers that can provide value-added messaging to the real-time payment.