Given how much time we all spend on social media, it’s surprising that the idea of merging payments with the likes of Twitter, Facebook and Whatsapp is not the biggest trend right now.
That’s not to say that these social media giants are oblivious – quite the opposite. For example, Facebook users in the US can send and receive money over Facebook messenger and the service has been running since July 2015. In the US again (they are so lucky!) Snapchat users can send money using Snapcash. All you need is a Visa or MasterCard debit card. Even troubled company Blackberry, is trying to reposition itself as a fintech service by integrating PayPal payments into its messaging service, BBM. The company has even taken this payment capability to Britain, partnering with Barclays Pingit service.
But despite all these social media giants (and Blackberry) implementing payments features, the buzz feels more like a slow-boil at the moment, with the majority of people being mainly preoccupied by contactless cards and mobile payments.
However, just because it’s not currently stratospheric and shiny enough to distract everyone, doesn’t mean companies can’t plan ahead or make inroads. Lendstar, the app that allows people to collect money, divide bills and pay directly into groups or send money to friends, has released a new update that features a special payment link that can be shared on Facebook and Whatsapp. This link allows people to pay you back without even accessing the Lendstar app.
So if someone has organised a trip to Barcelona and wants to collect money from everyone going, they can create a group on Whatsapp and post the payment link on it. Now everyone can transfer money with just a few clicks from their bank account. The invited friends must authenticate with their mobile phone number and online banking login, which are not stored by Lendstar.
We spoke to the Christopher Kampshoff, the CEO and founder of Lendstar, to learn more about why they are focussing on social media and what is in store for the rest of the year.
What was the thinking behind bringing payments into social media?
The idea of Lendstar is to make payments as simple and easy as possible, but also to add the communication, which comes with every payment (think about your mum wishing you a great birthday while sending you money – she did this before online-banking was used by putting money and a letter into an envelope). That’s why we like to call Lendstar a social financial network (which links your IBAN to your phone number). The next logical step of this vision is the PayLink, which allows you to spread your payment requests as easy as a chat message on all social media channels you like to use. From now on its all about getting paid with just a personalized link (you can still use your phone number). We also offer a group link, which enables users to collect money along their friends for a birthday present (e.g. on WhatsApp) or from a broad audience for donations (e.g. on Twitter/Facebook).
How important do you think social media will be for payments in 5 years’ time?
Payments happen where people are and where they interact. As social media is exactly doing this, bringing people together and make it easy for them to interact, it is therefore clear that payment and social interaction belong together. This can happen in classical social media channels but also in specialised apps such as Lendstar. We allow people also to easily create group transactions and interact with chats and pictures via our app. With the paylink we are now connecting both worlds, hence people can use our service even without the need of our app.
I think that in general the idea of mobile P2P transaction is still in a very early stage and the market needs to be educated more on this. This will then for sure increase volumes and adoption.
There’s been a rise in voice-activated and hands-free payments, is that something you are interested in?
Everything that makes payments as intuitive and easy to use as possible for the end-user is great. Still security is also something we always should have in mind. Finally not everything that is technically possible is also attractive for the end-user. To find the right balance is for sure one of the main challenges of every start-up.
What’s in store for Lendstar in 2016?
2016 will be a great year for us. We will start with many new and exciting features. The paylink was just the first big thing. We will also increase the number of bank partners significantly. Europe-wide internationalisation is also on the agenda for 2016. So lots of to dos, but we live in exciting times and this is what drives us.
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