Two years ago, I refused to use Venmo.

Today, I don’t go a week without it. Most weeks actually involve five to six Venmo transactions.

My personal change in thinking reflects what many credit union and bank marketers will find when marketing to millennials and their tech-native successors, Generation Z: convenience is everything.

A recent FIS study found that 72 percent of all banking interactions today are digital, with millennials carrying the majority of that lead. Global Web Index says 68 percent of millennials prefer their mobile phone as their most important piece of technology, with nearly all online millennials owning a smartphone. Millennials want constant on-the-go access.

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t fit most millennial stereotypes. I still keep my budget on an Excel spreadsheet and would prefer a personal life without social media. So, when Venmo came on the scene a few years ago, I didn’t want anything to do with it.

What flipped the switch?

Quite frankly, everyone else was using it.

Zelle found that 75 percent of millennials are using P2P—most of which adopted the service initially due to a family or friend recommendation. Of those, 49 percent use P2P at least once a week. Credit Union Times reports that P2P payments are increasing 250 percent.

As a consumer, here are three things Venmo offers that make the app almost essential to the millennial life today, and what your credit union or bank marketing strategy can learn from it.

Freedom

Why pay friends with cash when you can just tap a button? And, more importantly, why wait for someone else to pay you back when they too can just tap a button? Venmo, similar to other P2P platforms, gives the user freedom to enjoy life in the moment.

Takeaway: Use journey mapping to put your member or customer in the driver’s seat. What do they need? It’s usually not a checking account. That might be the solution to their need, but what they’re really looking for is the freedom to make purchases hassle-free so they can focus on what they value most. Emphasize that in your marketing and social media materials.

Fun

Again, P2P apps like Venmo have the unique ability to make payment fun. For example, I take pride in how clever I can make a Venmo caption when paying a friend for taco night. Others have used Venmo to have entire conversations…in emojis. The app has creatively taken a mundane and sometimes awkward interaction (giving and asking for money) and made it fun.

Takeaway: Make your credit union or bank’s mobile app and website fun to use. Offer a joke every time a member or customer logs into their online banking, give points for every action taken on a mobile app, or let users interact with each other. The more fun you can make it, the more millennials and Gen Z will use it.

Socialization

It’s one thing if everyone is wearing Levis and you’re the only one still in Lees. It’s a whole other matter if everyone is using P2P and you’re still writing checks. Venmo makes socialization easy, and socialization makes Venmo necessary. It’s like the telephone in the 20th century. The more people who got telephones, the more you needed one to communicate. It’s the same with Venmo. The more people have it, the more necessary it becomes.

Takeaway: Study the behaviors of the millennials you’re trying to reach. Use an outside team to conduct demographic research if necessary. What are they doing that you can be part of? Go where they are, and don’t just think physical locations. Invest your social media dollars on the platforms they spend their time (hint: it’s not Facebook).

Your credit union or bank doesn’t have to compete with Venmo. In fact, I’d argue that you can’t. However, those of us in the financial marketing world can learn from their millennial marketing strategy, grow our brands and better position our financial institutions for years of stable growth.

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