Facebook Needs e-Payments

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Although there are a bevy of options for sending money across the globe, my friends can't seem to settle on an acceptable method to get their fantasy football league fees into our commissioner. A Facebook (NASDAQ: FB  ) e-payment option would have settled this discussion back in week one, but here we are, one-third into the season, and these guys still can't get their dues in.

Aside from settling fantasy football fee issues, Facebook could capitalize on the growing market for friend-to-friend transactions and leverage that into a true e-payment competitor to eBay's (NASDAQ: EBAY  ) PayPal.

In the last six months, mobile payment app Venmo has quickly grown in popularity. According to App Annie, it has gone from a download ranking below 1500 to cracking the top 300 apps in the iTunes store. More impressively, it has grown to become a top 10 app in the finance category. It's this growth that led e-payments leader, eBay, to snatch up the company last month.

What makes Venmo different from other e-payment apps, however, is the focus on peer-to-peer payments. As more young people adopt credit and debit cards for payments, splitting bills and checks has become more difficult. As a result, it's not uncommon for friends who go out together or live together to need a handy way to split expenses. Venmo provides a solution for all sorts of payments.

See "fantasy" at the top and slightly left? Source: Venmo Blog

Facebook should be able to capitalize on this growing market quite easily. It's already on most everyone's smartphones. Last quarter, Facebook had over 800 million monthly active users accessing its platform through mobile devices. That's a scale Venmo can only dream of.

Scale isn't everything
Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) has it's own e-payment platform, Google Wallet, which has yet to catch on despite the hundreds of millions using Googles other products. The company added it as a feature for Gmail in May, and released an iOS app last month, but it still hasn't moved the needle as an e-payment platform.

What went wrong at Google is its strategy. Venmo's popularity stems from its social consumer-to-consumer nature. Google didn't capitalize on this, and instead went for the consumer-to-business payment option. For one, this wasn't a problem that needed solving; swiping a credit card is pretty darn easy. Two, one person signing up for Google Wallet won't compel his friends to sign up for it.

Facebook, a social network company, can easily capitalize on the same social strategy Venmo took while learning from the mistakes of Google. Once it becomes a popular payment platform for consumers-to-consumers and mobile shopping, it can tackle the potential for in-store payments.

Can it really beat PayPal?
As of last quarter, PayPal had 132.4 million active user accounts.With eBay's recent acquisition of Braintree, Venmo's parent company, the company is making a strong push into mobile payments.

But PayPal itself is still focusing largely on the consumer-to-business payments. Its recent developments include a device for retailers to recognize PayPal users as they walk into their stores and a QR code for customers to scan at checkout. Again, this is not a problem that needs solving, and there's no compelling reason for PayPal users to use their account in stores.

Facebook has a significant user-base advantage, and the social aspect that made Venmo so popular. PayPal may maintain its status due to its connection with eBay's marketplace, but Facebook can tackle nearly every e-commerce site outside of eBay and That's in addition to the growing peer-to-peer payment market Facebook is ripe to capitalize on.

Act fast!
If Facebook wants to get into the e-Payments market, it needs to do so sooner rather than later. People don't really need more than one mobile wallet to send money to friends and vendors. As smaller companies like Venmo grow in popularity, the ability for Facebook to penetrate the market is fading. I believe Facebook could easily squash Venmo and diversify its revenue, of which advertising makes up 88%.

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