Do B2B payments need their own Venmo? Bill.com takes notes
Bill.com has implemented a strategy to make B2B payments more like Zelle or Venmo, removing the same pain points that those P2P apps do for consumer payments.
The company is targeting the manual entry of account numbers and other details that often deter organizations from digitizing their payments. The company likens the problem to the early days of P2P transfers, which still required users to know the recipient's bank account number.
"The banks said just type in the account and routing number and we'll take care of the rest," Sanjeev Kriplani, senior vice president of marketing and product management for Bill.com. "People didn't want to type that in. So today the banks ask for an email or a mobile number, something everybody knows, so P2P has taken off."
Since it designed a consumer-bank style experience for business payments, half of Bill.com's business payments are now electronic, up from 44% last year. By most estimates, nearly 80% of businesses overall still rely at least partly on paper checks across the entire market.
Essentially, the company built a cleaner interface for ACH payments, Kriplani said.
"We view ACH in the context of the small business world as not fully developed," Kriplani said. "But it's for reasons that are different than most of the industry believes."
The reasons often given for business' tepid embrace of innovations such as online payments or or digital transfers are businesses want to maintain older cash management models, or simple inertia—the businesses are accustomed to using paper checks and are uncomfortable with change.
Requiring businesses to navigate to different systems, or enter full registrations or logins to digitize payments is also a problem that hinders business payment automation, according to Kriplani.
Bill.com was not immune to these issues. About eight months ago, Bill.com partnered with Intuit to allow users to pay vendors and other suppliers without logging out of their accounting program. Prior to that integration, users had to sign up for Bill.com through its website or through another accounting software program, and then synchronize with Intuit for bill payments.
While integrating with Intuit, Bill.com is also building a network of small businesses that can pay each other by typing in a name or address instead of more "financial" information such as an account or routing number, similar to a P2P app—Bill.com provides a secure wrapper around the payments information that powers the transaction. Bill.com has about 3 million users in its network.
The company's next step is to build in faster processing to enabler payments that are close to real-time.
"The problem is really not about making the payment faster but about making it simple and accessible to move to ACH from checks first," Kriplani said.
Bill.com first linked directly to online banking portals at the end of 2016, which helps it power consumer P2P-style transfers for business payments, as well as access to cash flow portals and other business management services that benefit from a link to a bank account.
"That reduces the need to collect bank account information from payees and the need to deal with the associated data security issues," said Rick Oglesby, president of AZ Payments. "Overall, these services are strengthening the value proposition of online bank transfers which will help reduce check volume. Businesses are the biggest check users, so they are the right target market for these services."