Digital person-to-person payments, also known as social payments, have proliferated in the last few years, with the often-heard promise of providing an easier and faster way to split the dinner check.
However, real-world analysis of transactions made via Popmoney, the social payment service from Fiserv, has shown that splitting a restaurant check is unlikely to be the primary reason for using such a service. Social payments today look quite different than the industry initially expected, yet as they evolve they are likely to include more of the casual, small value payments that were touted as early examples.
Analysis of Popmoney use has shown that rather than low, two-figure payment amounts, transactions in the three-figure category are the norm. In fact, the average Popmoney payment amount is more than $400.
We think of social payments as falling into two main categoriesformal and casual. Formal payments, which typically reoccur on a regular basis and include things such as rent, bills or childcare, far outweigh casual payments for things such as shared meals or movie tickets. Todays top five payment categories are rent, shared bills, vacation/travel, gifts and household services.
Rent includes two primary types of transactionsrent being paid directly to a private landlord, as well as roommates reimbursing each other for shared rent. The most common shared bill reimbursed through Popmoney is a family cell phone bill. Other frequent uses include roommates clearing monthly expenses and couples sharing household costs. Casual payments account for only about 20 percent of transactions.
One thing in common across all transaction types is that they are typically accompanied by a personal notean itemizing of a transaction will often be followed by personal endearments such as Thanks, Honey and Love. Its this ability to send a personal message along with a seemingly impersonal payment that has led us to refer to these transactions as social payments.
What is perhaps not so surprising about social payments is that Millenials (ages 22 to 32) are the largest group of users. This age bracket includes young college graduates, roommates and young couples who are likely splitting rent, bills and other shared expenses. Given that this group grew up using computers, it is no surprise their preference for the digital channel extends to their financial behaviors, including making personal payments.
The next largest age group using social payments is consumers ages 44 to 54, who I refer to as digitally active harried parents. This group includes parents who are using the service for household expenses, to pay for their childrens after-school activities or sending money to their elderly parents or older children who live outside the home.
While the transition from cash and checks to digital social payments will not happen overnight, adoption is accelerating as consumers grow more familiar with these services. And as new features and functionalities become available, such as real-time payments, social payments will also continue to evolve.
Payments made via most digital person-to-person payment services today take at least a day to settle. The availability of real-time capabilities will result in more of the casual, smaller value transactions that were initially expected, such as splitting the dinner check. As payment times speed up and recipients have the same immediate satisfaction as having cash in their hand, social payments will replace more of todays cash-based transactions.
The evolution of mobile payment technologies will also impact social payments. As mobile wallet technologies advance, the road will be paved for social payments to advance as well. Mobile wallets today primarily facilitate card-based payments, yet as they evolve, mobile wallets will hold more information and enable a wider variety of funding options. It is easy to envision digital person-to-person payment services as the cash in the mobile wallet, used to make the types of immediate, person-to-person payments typically made in cash today. And mobile banking users can already use integrated social payment services to pay friends and family right from their phones.
The use of cash and checks to pay other people is set to wane as digitally savvy young consumers, and their older counterparts, become more familiar with personal payment services and their benefits. Financial institutions that offer these services and educate consumers about their usefulness today can foster adoption and long-term growth fueled by the faster, more mobile technologies of tomorrow.
Tom Roberts is senior vice president of marketing for electronic payments at Fiserv