Why Do You Stalk People On Venmo? | You Should Listen To This

December 5th, 2017

Topics: eCommerce Finance

Today there are many different mobile apps that we mindlessly scroll through to because for some reason, we find it interesting. Venmo is a wildly popular mobile payments app that allows you to pay friends virtually and “send money, and make purchases”. The differentiator of this app, and really how it is different than PayPal, is that it has a wildly controversial social feed aspect. Kaitlyn Tiffany, from the Verge, talks about how “we’re getting into one of the real soap operas of modern life: Venmo’s public activity feed. Some people never look at it; some people scroll through it during their daily commute, inexplicably curious about why their friends are exchanging money.” The podcast hosts, Kaitlyn and Ashley, bring in an expert who works in product design at Venmo and gets into the nit and gritty on how Venmo employees actually think about the social feature to their application. The hosts bring up conversations about human psychology and why we are naturally interested in what other people are doing and spending their money on. This is why many argue users browse the social aspect of the app.

If you are not a Venmo user, here is a quick synopsis of the social feature of the app. You can scroll through a news feed and see details on every purchase (that is marked as public) made by your friends – but furthermore you can also scroll through the live feed of every single public purchase made by anyone. As you can imagine, this has the potential, at any given moment to be extremely interesting, creepy, and fun, all at the same time. In the podcast, there are recordings from Venmo users saying that they mindlessly scroll through the public feed all the time, just to keep themselves entertained.

So – why do we care about this? A few reasons:

  1. Venmo has designed a new model of ecommerce, through an app driven by social media and sharing. (new digital business model that has been proven to be wildly successful)
    1. Additional point to think about – how can Venmo make money? They obviously can’t charge a transaction fee, because there are so many other apps that already don’t.
  2. With so much personal information being shared at an instant, there are obvious privacy concerns, one of which is that it seems that users are defaulted to a public account – which means all transactions are automatically posted to the public news feed unless a user goes into their settings to change their preferences. Is this ok? Is Venmo doing enough to let users know exactly where their transaction history is showing up?

I’ll leave on this note, a quote on the podcast from Melanie Alperti, Product Lead at Venmo – “One of the interesting things we see a lot when we talk to users is that when you first ask them they say they think of Venmo as a utility and they never look at the feed and they don’t really get the social aspect, but when we actually look at the data, you’ll see that most people do scroll the feed pretty frequently and on average our most active users are logging into Venmo every day and looking at the feed and not necessarily making payments, maybe sometimes making payments, and then checking the feed. On average, most Venmo users are logging in two to three times per week. We think it’s something users understand and appreciate and value, even if it’s not the forefront of what they think about when they use Venmo.”

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