PayPal today is launching a new take on peer-to-peer payments with the debut of a platform it’s calling PayPal.Me. For the first time, PayPal customers will be able to set up their own user profiles which are associated with a personalized URL (e.g. paypal.me/username), which can then be shared with others via text, over email, on instant messenger, via social media, or anywhere else, as a way to request money.
This is not PayPal’s only entry into the peer-to-peer payments space, of course. In addition to offering a “request money” feature on its website, the company also operates Venmo. That social app is especially popular with a younger, highly mobile demographic who uses it as a way to do things like pay back friends for money borrowed, or split a check at a restaurant, for example.
So it may seem odd that PayPal is launching what at first appears to be something of a competitive product to Venmo. But the company explains that, unlike with Venmo, which only works with U.S. banks, credit and debit cards, PayPal.Me is targeting the company’s much broader global user base.
The company today has 170 million active users worldwide, who already take advantage of PayPal to send and request money. With PayPal.Me, however, the idea was to create a mobile-first user experience that makes doing so simpler and faster than with the company’s traditional tools.
The company found that people’s smaller debts – the IOUs between friends and family – actually add up to a sizable number when totaled. Globally, adults are owed some $51 billion in total, but most tend to feel uncomfortable asking others to pay them back.
PayPal.Me doesn’t eliminate the need for the ask, of course, but it offers an easier way for those who owe money to send a payment.
“As conversations became more digital, we needed to find a way to contextualize peer-to-peer payments, and make it easy and intuitive across any different channel, any different device, and any communication means, be it email, text message, instant messenger, etc.,” explains PayPal’s Senior Director of Global Consumer Products, Meron Colbeci, of why the company headed in this direction.
According to Colbeci, PayPal.Me will not replace the older experience offered via the web, but instead will just be another option for users.
Unlike the traditional online experience, using PayPal.Me is designed to take far fewer steps. In the past, users would have to login to the PayPal website, access the “request money” feature, then enter in another user’s email address to create the request. But PayPal.Me lets you simply share a link.
The link itself is easy to remember, as users will claim their own usernames on the service. (E.g. mine is paypal.me/sarahperez.) After setting up your username, you can also customize your profile theme and specify whether you’re using the link for payments between friends and family, or for more professional purposes, like goods and services. Afterwards, to get paid, you just send your link to a friend who clicks it, logs in with their own PayPal information, then reviews and completes the payment on one screen, optionally adding a personal note, if they choose.
To make it even easier on those paying, you can also append a number to the end of a personal link to pre-fill in the correct amount. For instance, paypal.me/username/50 would ask for $50.00.
Though accessed via the web instead of a native mobile app, the site is mobile-optimized, and alerts about payments are sent out through email as well as via push notifications for those with the PayPal app installed. Payments from one PayPal account to another are immediate, though extracting funds to a bank account will take more time, depending on your bank and your location.
In the future, PayPal.Me will also integrate with PayPal’s instant checkout service OneTouch to eliminate the step where users fill in usernames and passwords, assuming they’ve already logged in using PayPal elsewhere on the web or mobile web. (OneTouch lets PayPal users stay logged in across sites.) That will make the payment process even faster.
The company says the PayPal.Me service is launching in 18 markets, including the U.S., Germany, U.K., Australia, Canada, Russia, Turkey, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Sweden, Belgium, Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, Switzerland, and Austria.
The service is intended for now as a “1.0” product,” the company says.
“We’re trying to understand how users will want to use this. We’ll collect feedback, and based on that we’ll iterate and make product improvements and features,” notes Colbeci.
Those features could include things like bringing in a more social element to the service, where users could perhaps have easier access to a friend list of sorts. Or it could roll out features meant to enhance the business user’s experience. But nothing like that is in development yet, we should clarify.
PayPal.Me competes with a handful of peer-to-peer payment apps, including Square Cash, as well as payment options offered by Facebook (in Messenger), Google (in Gmail and Google Wallet) and Snapchat (powered by Square Cash, in the app).
Users can sign up for their own username at PayPal.Me starting now.