Product Leader
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Venmo: Checkout on Mobile Web

Integrating Venmo checkout into millions of PayPal-enabled merchants

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Product Case Study

Venmo Checkout on Mobile Web, via PayPal

Following a successful native launch, my team began efforts to really scale Venmo checkout by connecting to merchants already using PayPal’s web checkout platform. At this early stage in the product’s lifecycle, our primary goal was to avoid fragmenting the experience across implementations. We believed firmly in the value of consistency, so in mobile web we aimed to connect to or match the native experience.

(If you haven’t already read Part 1, please start there. It sets the stage and demonstrates the native checkout experience.)

Human-Centered Research

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Lines of Inquiry

How might we present both payment paths clearly to shoppers?

How do we ensure the new Venmo option doesn’t diminish conversion for merchants?

How do customers perceive the relationship between PayPal & Venmo?


Connecting Venmo Consumers to PayPal Merchants

Collaborating with PayPal’s product development teams, we found a low-risk path to connect Venmo payment credentials to PP transaction processing. This addressed the payment processing mechanics and merchant tools, but not the customer experience. We designed and prototyped an activation flow so existing users would know they could pay with Venmo whenever they saw a PayPal button. The experience guided users through setting up their wallet to use with PayPal merchants.


Brand Sophistication

The path to co-branding was riskier: Venmo’s mobile web checkout experience was about to be the first tangible instantiation of the corporate relationship between PayPal and Venmo. Both teams worked together to dig into the consumer and merchant perceptions about paying with Venmo via PayPal.

We developed a user research program to learn how each segment — PayPal & Venmo consumers, and PayPal merchants — reacted to the two brands presented together. We set out to discover how presentation order and visual hierarchy effected perception. We also tested whether each path would make sense to its users.

Our user research validated a hypothesis we had about overlapping user bases: they are sophisticated consumers who purposefully choose which product to use based on what they’re buying and who they’re purchasing from.

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We pursued this stacked pattern

It presents both options together, allowed users to choose their path without an additional tap.

Presentation order and default path adapts to preferences of recurring users.


Usability Research

Assessing Button Discoverability

With a high-level approach in hand, the teams refined the scope of our research, testing variations on the stacked design to assess whether Venmo users would easily discover the new option.

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This design performed best

Most users discovered the Venmo payment option

They showed less confusion than with other variants

They understood how to go back and select another option if they didn’t wan to pay with Venmo


Operational Scale via PayPal Integration

As we designed and built this checkout experience, we also began defining how Venmo would integrate with PayPal’s operational platforms (like fraud detection). Venmo’s participation helped these investments evolve from a monolithic stack to set of more flexible microservices.


Initial engineering-led integration plan

Replace Venmo’s services with existing PayPal platforms: identity, risk evaluation, payment processing

Supplant Venmo’s identity data with PP user identities

Evaluate merchant and buyer risk solely in transaction flow

Adopt PP payments processing (including business logic for funding instrument preferences)

New customer experience-led integration plan

Portfolio of interoperable micro-services that respect unique offerings of subsidiaries & third-parties

Multi-tenant identity service usable by apps, risk evaluation, customer support (account overlap maintained)

Assess transactional risk through background monitoring & new checkpoints at natural breaks throughout the Venmo experience

Retain Venmo payments engine with pre-existing business rules that customers are familiar with


Helping these established platform services benefit from Venmo’s additional behavior data and use cases required evangelizing for Venmo’s unique usage and educating other teams why these experience differences required unique technical solutions. Through a series of “roadshows” I defined the technical integration and business goals for the program. I helped dispel the notion that Venmo was a PayPal clone with a different logo and invited PayPal staff to join in as champions for Venmo’s success.


Product Experience & Launch

Pay with Venmo at Millions of PayPal Merchants

Venmo launched in 2017 as a payment method for all domestic PayPal merchants. The experience dynamically presents the most relevant payment brand, adapting to user preferences. Payment authorization matches the native checkout experience by using the Venmo app to pass tokenized credentials.

Code-free integration via PayPal’s existing portal connects Venmo users to web merchants. It affords users the ability to pay with Venmo at millions of merchants large and small who already allowed checkout via PayPal’s Express Checkout platform. Behind the scenes, Venmo also scaled and matured our fraud detection, consumer protection compliance, customer support operations by connecting to PayPal’s existing services while still meeting our customers’ expectations for simple and fun social payments.

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As of 2018, 2 million+ merchants can now accept Venmo in native apps and on mobile web and 17% of Venmo users have made a purchase with Venmo.

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Checkout Personalization

Our first mobile web experience has since been refined into more siginificant personalization capabilities in PP’s core checkout platform. Though this launched after my departure, I’m really proud that the teams delivered on the product vision they defined jointly through our research and design process.

My Contribution

In this effort, I led the product definition for the consumer experience, which meant creating use cases, writing user stories, sketching wireframes, and defining presentation-layer logic. I was personally responsible for representing Venmo’s experiential and technical requirements as the products were adapted for PayPal’s platform. In addition, as Head of Product at Venmo, I supervised ongoing user research programs, directed the product management and design teams, and led the collaboration with PayPal’s product development teams.