The app ecosystem has enabled payments to blend almost invisibly into the background of many cash-based services, such as ride-sharing and food delivery, but sometimes there is a need to let payments take center stage.

The secondary market for sports tickets is one such example, because the inherently social nature of stadium events makes it unreasonable to charge an entire party's tickets to whatever card is already on file. This is why the San Francisco-based secondary ticket market app Gametime is bringing in PayPal's Venmo as a payment option.

Gametime hopes that by tapping into Venmo's social and tech-savvy audience, it can gain an edge in a fiercely competitive and fickle market. Part of Venmo's appeal, according to Gametime, is the app makes it easy to split payments while keeping the whole process transparent to the group.

"With our millennial audience, usually it's one guy that's making a purchase and sharing that purchase with their friends," said Ben Kim, vice president of product at Gametime.

Gametime is in a very tight niche. It's a competitor to huge online ticket sites like Ticketmaster and Stubhub. Gametime tries to differentiate itself with a search algorithm that produces optimal seats based on location and price, a virtual view of the facility and a full mobile rendering; tickets sold through Gametime are delivered to the user's mobile app rather than printed out.

The strategy is to execute purchases simply and as close to the event as possible, keeping the entire transaction on the mobile device. Company founder Brad Griffith says he got the idea after nearly missing a San Francisco Giants playoff game because he had a hard time finding a place to print his ticket near the stadium.   

Once purchased, the tickets can be distributed to the to the buyer's friends via text message, providing a bar code to scan for entry to the event. Only a handful of major league sports facilities do not have the ability to accept mobile bar codes for entry.

Gametime handles payments by storing a card on file or through Apple Pay. The addition of Venmo is designed to make it easier for a group to buy, distribute, share information about meetups and pay for tickets.

In-app "buy buttons" are already finding an audience among mobile users. Panera Bread, one of Apple Pay's launch partners, disclosed in January that 24% of its in-app iOS sales are funded with Apple Pay accounts (the other options are a credit card on file and the much less popular alternative of keying in a card at the time of purchase).

Venmo, which enables people to share information about payments through an interface that resembles Twitter or Facebook, has built a following among young people. PayPal has made expanding Venmo a top priority, and recently began selling merchants on the idea of using Venmo as a payment option for their consumers, in addition to adding buy button technology through its acquisition of Modest, a Chicago startup that specializes in contextual commerce.

"Venmo is a natural progression for our userbase" of young people, Kim said. "They prefer to use the debit cards tied to their Venmo accounts because that allows them to avoid fees."

Consumers could, of course, just launch the Venmo app to split costs, but there is an advantage to handling the payment entirely within the Gametime app, Kim said.

"It's a richer experience," Kim said. "Instead of just saying 'Bob paid John,' you know who is going to game, where it is and how much it's going to cost. And it's easy to pay."

For business users, Venmo has added features such as a split option for group payments, a private purchase history for users and a wallet with tokenized, encrypted in-app payments. But its foray into business payments at this point is still limited to iOS apps and only two merchants including Gametime (the other is San Francisco-based meal delivery service Munchery).

"We need to offer a suite of payment options that brings flexibility and ease of use to our diners," said Michelle Ohlemeyer, head of marketing for Munchery, who said the bill-splitting option will be particularly useful. "We love that Munchery's Venmo charges can be shared on our diners' social channels and Venmo feeds."

Subscribe Now

Authoritative analysis and perspective for every segment of the payments industry

14-Day Free Trial

Authoritative analysis and perspective for every segment of the industry