Zelle’s reputation has more silver lining than cloud

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In what could be considered a premature verdict, LendEDU has released results from a survey conducted in July to assess awareness of the Zelle payment platform that launched in June. The survey found that only 6.1% of interviewees had heard of Zelle.

However, this level of awareness after just over a month since the Zelle brand's launch shouldn’t give Zelle too much cause for concern given the survey targeted only Venmo users. The survey went on to highlight that 63% of Venmo users would not give Zelle a try and that 37% would.

However, this may be missing the point — Zelle, a product of the bank-backed Early Warning, isn’t aiming directly at Venmo.

Zelle has been clear that it doesn't want to be another millennial killer app. By operating within mobile banking apps, Zelle is designed for traditional, older bank customers. "For the customers who are enthusiastically participating in your network, to continue to expand out and promote that, you need to make it easy for them to do it,” said Brett Pitts, EVP and head of digital at Wells Fargo, one of the initial wave of banks supporting Zelle.

The survey goes on to flag what could be Zelle’s key value proposition — lag time between payment and settlement, with 39% of Venmo users stating that they thought Venmo withdrawals take too long. Zelle settles in real time, thus alleviating this particular gripe.

Venmo users were also asked about whether they would feel more secure making P-to-P payments with an app that was bank supported or independent, such as Venmo. Fifty-seven percent of Venmo users stated they would feel more secure using a bank's app.

Despite the low early awareness, the value proposition for Zelle looks relatively robust among Venmo users. The foundational elements for success — speed and the perception of security — already exist. Zelle needs to work on driving education and awareness, with reliance on its own marketing beyond that of its participating institutions.

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