Here's how PayPal's $800 million secret weapon is building a 'massive arsenal' to fight off its billion-dollar rivals

Juan benitez braintree paypalPayPal/BraintreePayPal Braintree General Manager Juan Benitez

It seems like it should be pretty easy for an app to take a credit card, right?

It’s just a bunch of letters and numbers, after all, and it’s something you only really notice when it doesn’t work. It’s about as vital as your bathroom plumbing  — and also about as interesting.

“This perception of plumbing is something we’re trying to overcome,” says Kasia Leyden, head of marketing for Braintree, the payments company that PayPal bought for $US800 million in 2013, and which also operates the popular social payment app Venmo. Braintree primarily competes with $US9 billion Stripe and $US2.3 billion European startup Adyen.

In 2016, PayPal says that it processed $US354 billion in payments, $US102 billion alone of which were on mobile. But from Braintree General Manager Juan Benitez’s perspective, that’s only partially because of that “plumbing.”

There are also “offensive weapons,” Benitez says.

These are tools like fraud detection, Amazon-style one-click checkout, and support for rising-star technologies like Apple Pay or Android Pay. Benitez says that with these, Braintree can provide a “massive arsenal” of tools that can boost a customer’s bottom line, beyond just letting them process credit cards.

To get that message across, Braintree is actually introducing a series of TV commercials, which begin airing nationally today:

It’s not typical for a company like Braintree to take out ads, Benitez acknowledges, but it’s because the company’s own research found that even people relatively in-the-know about payments and commerce didn’t know that these tools were available.

“After a while, it’s like, whoa, I didn’t know I can do all that stuff,” Benitez says. 

These commercials also signal a subtle shift in Braintree’s focus: Where Braintree, Stripe, and Adyen have historically sold straight to the software developer, Benitez says that these commercials reflect a “broadening” of the message to go after ever-larger customers.

Braintree commercial paypalScreenshot/YouTubeA still from one of the new Braintree commercials.

“Developers always have veto rights” over the technology that gets used in their apps and websites, Benitez says, so appealing to that crowd remains important. Now, though, Braintree is talking directly to merchants, saying “here’s what we can do for your business,” Benitez says. 

And unlike its upstart rivals, Benitez says, the fact that Braintree is a PayPal company gives it another advantage, too: Lots of businesses already use PayPal, giving Braintree an in with those customers. By the same token, if you use Braintree, it’s easy to hook into the familiar PayPal network of merchants and consumers. 

“Now, when you go to PayPal, you get all of PayPal,” Benitez says.

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