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Introducing Nearby Payments

· by Chris Maddern

We're really excited to launch nearby payments for Venmo today. Nearby payments let you do exactly what it sounds like — pay other Venmo users who are close to you.

How it works

Modern iPhones have a new standard of Bluetooth called Bluetooth LE (or low energy). This makes leaving bluetooth on and discovering devices around you much friendlier to your battery. Devices coming in to close proximity with one-another (a few meters) 'ping' and exchange information to let each other know that we're there.

Venmo Nearby Payments sits on top of this and, if you enable the feature, adds to this 'ping' and lets the other device know what your Venmo username is — then your Venmo app can show you Venmo users who are nearby.

Why Nearby Payments

With iOS 7, Apple brought a whole host of new capabilities focussed on local device discovery & communication. iBeacon, which is based on the same underlying technology has received a lot of attention for enabling 'next-level' retail experiences. With Nearby Payments, we wanted to create a 'next-level' payment experience.

The path that led to nearby started when we removed the 'Recents Bar' in our iOS 7 redesign.. and received significant user feedback. As we were exploring options to bring back some concept of recent / frequently payed users, we tried to get to the bottom of 'what we broke'. In practice 'we removed a bar with faces on it', but what we'd actually done was increased the time it took to pay your most frequently paid users. This led to a hypothesis about one quality that users want in Venmo:

It should be faster and easier to pay the people you pay the most, than it may be to find and pay a new user.

This seemed sensible and users loved the new Recents Drawer which we shipped in December.

Qualities users want in Venmo

We were happy to have made the users who missed the recents bar happy, but more importantly, we'd slightly shifted our way of thinking about product development towards user-cases — asserting a user wishes the product to have a quality and then building in to that quality.

As we looked at the way people used Venmo, we came up with lots of hypotheses, but one that really stuck out was:

Users care more about being able to quickly pay someone that they are with, than they do about paying someone they are not with

This is phrased a little oddly, but for a reason. It covers two distinct assertions:

  • You're more likely to transact with somebody you're with (e.g. splitting a check)
  • You're more sensitive to time spent making the payment when you're physically with somebody. (it's rude to have your head in your phone!)

The combination of these two ideas made Nearby Payments seem like an instant winner. After building an initial version, we released it internally & to a limited beta group a month or so ago and watched how people used it.

  • Time spent in-app when paying a nearby user reduced dramatically
  • We got more positive feedback about it than any other beta feature ever

Score!

We love feedback

We’re really excited about bringing the first nearby payments experience to the App Store & hope that you love the feature as much as we do. As always we love getting user feedback — whether good or bad, so let us know what you think!