Product Testing for the Payments World in the Digital Age with Zeb Winzenried of Applause | Soar Payments LLC
Zeb Winzenried of Applause; Product Testing

Product Testing for the Payments World in the Digital Age with Zeb Winzenried of Applause

Are you a business owner looking to ensure the success of your payment system? Look no further than Applause testing. In this episode of PayPod, host Jacob Hollabaugh sits down with Zeb Winzenried of Applause to discuss the services they offer you as a business in the world of fintech. Applause is the world leader in testing and digital quality. If you’re interested in learning more about Applause testing and how it can benefit your business, this is an episode you won’t want to miss. 

Payments & Fintech Insights In This Episode

  • How Applause testing helps businesses ensure payment system success
  • Why Applause testing is crucial for payment systems
  • Applause studies their clients thoroughly to offer them the best testing solution
  • The businesses who approach Applause
  • Zeb’s Expert Advice for businesses when reaching out to clients 
  • And so much more!

Today’s Guest

Zeb Winzenried : Applause

Applause is the world leader in testing and digital quality. Brands today win or lose customers through digital interactions, and Applause alone can deliver authentic feedback on the quality of digital assets and experiences, provided by real users in real-world settings. Their disruptive approach harnesses the power of the Applause platform and leverages a vetted Community of more than one million digital experts worldwide. Unlike traditional testing methods (including lab-based and offshoring), they respond with the speed, scale and flexibility that digital-focused brands require and expect. Applause provides insightful, actionable testing results that can directly inform go/no go release decisions, helping development teams build better and faster, and release with confidence.

Featured on the Show

About PayPod

PayPod is the leading voice in the payments and fintech industry, covering payments, risk management and new technology. Host Jacob Hollabaugh interviews leaders who are shaping the payments and fintech world, as they discuss the latest developments in the payments and fintech industry.

Episode Transcript

Jacob: Welcome to PayPad. The Payments Industry Podcast. Each week we’ll bring you in depth conversations with leaders who are shaping the payments and fintech world from payment processing to risk management and from new technology to entirely new payment types. If you want to know what’s happening in the world of fintech and payments, you’re in the right place. Hello, everyone. Welcome to PayPod. I’m your host, Jacob Hollabaugh. And today on the show we are talking about product testing, why it’s important, how to do it right. The whole scope of getting authentic, real world insight on how your digital assets perform with an eye, as always on the financial services industry specifically. Now I’m someone who absolutely loves being a beta tester. I will put that out at the very beginning. I join any and every app beta that I can because I don’t really know exactly why. I guess I just enjoy utilizing something new that also is probably broken. So I don’t know where that urge comes from, but I imagine by the end of this conversation today, I’m going to be asking our guest about how to maybe get a part time job with his company, which, speaking of joining me to explore all of these topics is Zeb Winzenried, director of testing services within the payments division of Applause, a world leader in testing and digital quality that allows you to build faster, better giving you the ability to release with confidence. Zeb, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for being here.

Zeb: Thank you for having me Jacob

Jacob: Yeah, let’s start here a little bit, kind of high level product testing. It has changed dramatically within the digital age and become its own whole industry and has all this importance. When did modern testing of technological products really kind of start and how has the industry grown or changed in the last few years?

Zeb: Yeah, totally. So I think it really started right when the developments began, really, somebody was creating an application or a website and generally they would test it themselves before there was a quality assurance portion of their company, or maybe they weren’t big enough to bring those kind of folks on. So it really just started from, Hey, I created something. It’s not working, right? I got to figure out what’s going wrong. And as more and more tools became available so that people could do this themselves, large corporations started getting into the Apple I Store and things like that and creating their own applications to monetize and sell their goods. It just started branching out exponentially, right? So were Applause kind of came in was they saw the need way back in the days probably. I think we started 15 years ago or so for testing in the wild. And what that means is that you can test all you want in a lab environment and you’re probably going to get some very happy path type results, meaning that everything might just work as expected. But when you get your application in the hands of a real end user, they’re going to find problems with it. Like you said, you love beta testing at the beginning. I myself love beta testing as well, and that’s kind of how I’ve found myself in this role. So what Applause does is we take a community based approach towards quality assurance. So we have a service that where anybody in the world can sign up. They go through some courses to learn about how to test, how to report a bug, what the best practices are across different testing types, and then they start jumping in and getting invited to test on various projects.

Zeb: I was a stay at home dad watching my kid grow up. She was about to hit kindergarten and I’m like, I need to do something now, right? And I love technology. I’ve got all these phones and devices. What can I do with this? And I had a friend say, Hey, there’s a site where you can actually sign up and do this yourself and make some decent money at it to finding issues with things. So I just dove in and really had an aptitude for breaking things, which was great and kind of worked my way up through it. And what I found was that it was really exciting helping companies find issues with their products and then actually seeing them fixed over time. So you’d go in and test a mobile order ahead application and your coffee was hot when you got there, but it was a cold drink or things were just wrong. You tested again two weeks later. Everything’s working as expected now and you know that your help had a direct impact on the end result. So it’s a great way to go. I think more companies need to consider testing in this manner because you really you put your applications out there, you put your website out there, you need to build trust with your potential customers and users. If you have something that’s shaky and buggy, if your payment flow, which we’ll talk about plenty in this conversation, isn’t working correctly, nothing’s popping up when it’s supposed to. I’ll just go to another service. There’s million options out there nowadays for the end user, so building a quality product that is well tested is key to success.

Jacob: Yeah, and there’s a bunch I want to follow up on that and I will save it for a little bit later, but I will come back to then either within our conversation or even more after how someone who your testers are and how to possibly become one. If there’s other nerds out there listening like myself that are like that actually sounds really cool. But before we get to that, a couple other follow ups there. Then you kind of reference the first stages of it or doing it in house. And I think with product or digital testing, most people like myself anyone listening that from a. Consumer standpoint, working in a business standpoint, their first probably where their mind jumps to when they hear a product testing would be that in house or that lab testing, someone sitting in a room within your company employed by your company using the app, the digital product, what have you, and trying to find the bugs, maybe a team of them, 4 or 5, whatever, and hopefully not one individual in a room by themselves. That sounds a little lonely. It’s not my version of totally nerding out on this, but what is it? What are the kind of friction points or the pain points when with in house or lab testing that make it quite not quite good enough for today’s landscape? And give what are those extra advantages that having this huge global team that you have the difference between those two?

Zeb: Absolutely. Environment coverage is probably the the biggest pain point for any lab environment. So you imagine QA department might have four testers, they might have five phones between them and a desktop or Mac to do all their testing on. You look at something as simple as the Android landscape out there. Consumers can have everything from an Android device that doesn’t even have an internet connection. It’s still simply, you know, SMS and phone calls to Samsung Fold that has unique challenges with its screen bending and how that your application would display in that. So it’s almost impossible without using some automation tools and some kind of fake environments to really get full device coverage as well as when you start thinking globally, if you’re in-house or your teams in India, they’re not going to have the same devices, same applications that somebody in the EU would have or somebody in the US. So think what? Where our company really comes in is the coverage wise and the globalization to make sure that every possible outcome is uncovered.

Jacob: Yeah, certainly. And I can already start the global part definitely stands out. And as we’ll get into here at some point, a little more specific to the financial sector, that’s definitely the one that stands out to me is now the more and more business that’s being done across borders and everything, different currencies, different payments, different rails, the whole thing that there’s going to be the possibility of a lot more errors that you sitting in, wherever your company is headquartered is not going to be able to find. Before we go any further, you kind of gave a little bit of it, but could you give a broad overview of who and what Applause is and kind of the rundown of the services that you offer?

Zeb: Yep, sure thing. So we are a global app company. Global app testing company, I should say. Using our community of testers to test functional issues, security, usability payments, accessibility, inclusive design, you name it. We’re kind of getting into Voice and AI, we’ve started getting into in the last couple of years as well. So we really help all of our customers just ensure that whatever they need testing on whether it be in-person testing for moderated studies or onsite testing for payments, we can do it. We’ve found a way and we’ve really grown over the years. The landscape was way different when we started. It was websites and applications, pretty basic stuff. But now as we’ve grown as a company, we’ve covered pretty much every type of testing under the sun. And if we don’t currently offer it, we’re probably exploring options to offer it and coming up with unique ways to get everything tested.

Jacob: Yeah, and the one kind of super specific question I have like within that, are you actually doing any of the like building of the solutions yourselves or are you simply like identifying the issues, passing that report back to the clients engineer team to work on? Are you like doing any of the development after or just the purely the identification and kind of reporting?

Zeb: Primarily it’s the identification and reporting, but we do for certain practices. Accessibility, for example, is one where a lot of customers come to us and aren’t quite sure how to fix any issues that we find. So for those specifically, we have accessibility experts that go through and validate, Hey, here’s the issue as well as suggest ways to fix it, but primarily for our bread and butter like functional testing. We don’t really do the development end, but we understand the endpoint so that we can fully describe any type of issue that that comes. Because, you know, if you take a customer that is using their iOS reviews as a customer service kind of arm, you know, they’re like, Oh, had the application crashed? Well, that’s great. I don’t know what application or what iOS version you were on. I don’t know what device it was. I don’t know what you were doing when it happened. So when we go in and test these things, we find, you know, we capture all the device information, location, anything that’s needed to identify and actually fix an issue. Detailed reproduction, steps, screenshots, videos, voiceovers, whatever the case may be, we capture to make sure that we can cover those end to end reproductions of any issues we find.

Jacob: Yeah, makes perfect sense. And the other thing I picked up on when you said, you know, originally in the digital age, it was testing websites and then apps and moved and moved. It strikes me that it also I’m assuming a lot of I would guess maybe a majority of what you’re testing now is all mobile based. Anything but everything is kind of on mobile based, which to me would say that it’s also greatly expands the accessibility of building a tester group because like you said it before, if it was like we need to test something on a desktop, not as many people have a desktop as nowadays, as the billions of people that have an iPhone or an Android device. Am I kind of correct in? Yeah.

Zeb: Absolutely.

Jacob: That’s happening because of that.

Zeb: The coverage map has certainly changed and we’ve kind of grown along with that, that you’re right. Desktop or desktop web especially might not matter as much any any more to most of our customers. But the mobile piece of everything is certainly the biggest aspect of what we do.

Jacob: Yeah, certainly. Let’s then let’s go to the payments and financial services world specifically, which is the division. You head up there with applause. Where has the testing in those industries kind of failed traditionally? What have been the pain points or the, you know, within that industry? I kind of referenced earlier thinking of like just currencies in general, doing global trade, that type of thing. What have been kind of the traditional pain points that you’re testing is kind of pointing out within that industry.

Zeb: Yeah, I think one of the biggest problems we solve for I’ll start there and kind of work back through how the pain points don’t quite cover those is if you’re a merchant accepting any funds and your payment system doesn’t work, you’re losing out on revenue. That’s just the case you’re losing. You can tie that 1 to 1 back to a dollar amount that you’re not receiving. So in the past, one of the biggest pain points was that in-house QA would often use tests or dummy cards or not do testing that’s not actually tied to production, just goes to a staging environment and everything is kind of happy path from there. You’re just going through the flows. My my credit card that’s for 11111111111 works every time Like I get the success thing it’s good I release that out to the wild users are saying they can’t complete the payments. What did I do wrong? Well, you were testing on cards that were meant to give you the same result every time, whereas the breadth of banking institutions, mobile banks, e-wallets alternate payment methods out there that can possibly be used and can possibly go wrong is just it’s just huge.

Zeb: So that was a big pain point for a lot of our clients early on, as well as if they were testing. They might often dogfood where they would have their employees actually use their own payment instruments or get friends and families to provide on their cards to use, which a smaller company might be able to get away with. But a larger company, you start getting into a lot of compliance and risk issues there. Are you buying your own products and cooking your books essentially By by doing that, there’s just a lot of risk there. So. So that’s been a big no no. And then the final pain point I would call out is just that coverage. Again, there are so many variations of car types out there alone that anything can go wrong at any point. This bank has three security while this bank does not. So testing a visa and one one instance might not have the same result of testing another visa from another bank. So you need to have as much coverage as possible and that’s something that we definitely strive to provide.

Jacob: Yeah. Could you walk me through like a hypothetical what the process would look like for a company coming to you to work with you, for instance, like maybe a company wanting to implement a digital wallet as like kind of a hypothetical. What are the steps of the process for them to come to you and to kind of put together this testing project for them?

Zeb: Sure thing. So they would typically engage with our sales department to get that foot in the door, in that conversation going, at which point somebody from our delivery team, like myself for payments, would come in and analyze where this customer is at. Like you’re saying, if they’re enabling a new wallet on their service, one of the first things I would check for is, is that wallet even popular in the markets they offer? Because we have customers that come to us sometimes and say, I want to do some discover testing in Germany. Well, Discover Card is not issued in Germany, but my provider I work with says that we accept it and we have to kind of reverse educate the customers on what they actually can accept and what will work. We found with some e-wallets in the past that they were popular five years ago and now they’re not used in those countries at all that things have just moved on. The landscape changes so incredibly rapidly. Like anything in the tech world, the the fintech world is just as rapid. So we do a little investigation there trying to figure out what they actually need and what we can provide. So if we go, yes, that is something that we can absolutely do. We formulate some general test plans around that. New payment enablement is one of our bread and butter is trying to do, especially as a company rolls out globally. They might be US based and not have a whole lot of context on how the European market works, so we can provide that information along along with here are the things you’d like to test in those countries. This e-wallet has some variations you can do. Say it’s like a klarna where it has an e-wallet portion but also a buy. Now pay later being a portion to it. This is what we suggest that you go with. And from there we kind of build a structured pilot that we would offer and run through to really showcase our abilities and get those results back to them.

Jacob: Love it. And something that kind of struck me that I don’t know why I hadn’t even thought of this or realized it before is you’re collecting all of this information, but you also then have that for everyone else in the future. So I wonder how much seeing repeat, not repeat customers, but the same types of businesses, same types of products. How quickly are you able to, you know, someone comes to you and says, I want to initiate a new payment platform? And you’re like, Do you have kind of a well, here’s the before we even look at yours or start testing yours, here’s the first things we’re going to look at. Based on all of this data we’re collected, I’m guessing that’s a pretty powerful tool for you as well.

Zeb: Absolutely. And I think that’s something that we’ve managed to do very well at. Applause is especially on on the payment side, is that it’s kind of grown organically. And frankly, I’ve been here from the get go and kind of seen how things have gone. And part of what I wanted to do when I got this role was really create a practice around it and make sure that when we have these situations come up, we’re not starting fresh every time. There are certain certainly things that a customer have come to us and we need to start fresh. That’s something we’ve never done before. Generative AI was not a buzzword a year ago and now it’s off the charts and we had to jump in and figure out how we’re going to test and be valuable in that spot. But we’ve had some opportunities early on with some early customers to really go through. And what we found through this practice is that it’s shockingly similar across all instances depending on what type of customer you are. If you’re a merchant, you’ve got probably the same merchant needs as every other merchant out there. You’ve got to deal with the taxation in every country you enter into. You’ve got to deal with card security. So we have built out a pretty extensive set of potential use cases so that if somebody doesn’t know the problems that they’re going to run into, we can provide that guidance back to them right away and and really help build out and shape what kind of testing we can and should do for them.

Jacob: Yeah. And the other kind of part that comes with that that I think is fascinating and pretty interesting about the position you and your team in all of that information you have is super powerful for being able to help the next customer and the next customer. But it also means you’re kind of the ones with you’d have a lot of insight on like kind of what’s next in the industry or what the new big trend is. Maybe not the wave that’s way down the line, but the wave that’s starting to like come up and crest. To use a poor oceanic analogy, what types of payment methods or payment tools are you seeing right now as kind of the fastest growing based on the amount of clients you have testing them? You referenced like BNPL earlier. I’d wonder if it’s something like that or crypto anything else? What are kind of the hot products from your seat getting to see them before they’re all released that you’re seeing like, Oh, there’s a lot of these rolling through right now.

Zeb: Number one on the list is probably BNPLs. It’s the ability to get micro financing for something almost instantly without a lot of data and being able to pay that over time, especially in a recession or however the economists try to say we’re in right now, it’s definitely something that people are looking for. They want to be able to do that. We can’t walk into a Kmart anymore and do a layaway, but we’ve come up with some very good solutions around that. So that’s a huge one that is probably going to continue to grow. I know companies like Apple are slowly rolling it out to various countries and I anticipate a lot more growth there. If you look at crypto, the crypto market in general is pretty unique and volatile. So. Think if you were a merchant selling a good, you might not be as open to accepting crypto anymore than you as opposed to a couple of years ago where it was being implemented quite frequently. Whereas but the crypto buying and selling market, which is still something we count under the payment testing wing, is moving hot and heavy, whether it’s volatile or not. So those are definitely two that I see on the leading edge, either going up or down depending on what segment of the industry you’re in. But yeah, so.

Jacob: Then taking it back to what we touched on kind of at the beginning, and I don’t want to make sure I don’t forget about this part. Who So if the testing team, you’ve got this global testing team, all these different people, all these different environments, wherever you need it tested, that’s kind of the selling point. The real power behind the service you’re offering, who makes up that testing team and maybe specific to your payments division? Who makes up that testing team? How are those people identified and brought on board?

Zeb: Yeah. So we have a site called Utest. It’s on And that’s where anybody can sign up for an account and start getting into the testing process. From there, they’d go through the training materials, they’d add certain devices, Hey, I’ve got an iPhone and Android device, a computer and have a Bank of America credit card and Apple Pay wallet that I’d like to put in my profile. So we kind of build out this pool of testers that have abilities and we range from folks that have never picked up a device before or don’t even know what a bug is to professionals that joined a community and that test regularly. And we monitor and grade all of our community based on the feedback and inputs we get from them. So as we’re building out this data, then we can segment into whatever needs we are looking for. So we need to test Brazil. Can we go into the market and find Brazilians with credit cards? Can we find Brazilians with dual cards, which are cards that you can actually flip from credit to debit depending on the situation that you want to do? Yes, we track all that information. We find folks that most likely have tested with us before on previous payment engagements and built up their knowledge and that those are the ones we tend to engage. It’s kind of like we start big with the whole functional group of contests, anything, and whittle yourself down to the different segments that we go through.

Jacob: Yeah. And how big in total is your testing base, either as a company or your division right now?

Zeb: At this point, we have well over a million registered users on the account, probably in the hundreds of thousands that test on a regular basis.

Jacob: Very cool. And if you do go into like if you go into Brazil or you need to test something specific in a specific location, is it strictly just you’re sending out like an alert to anyone you’ve ever had work in that area? Or if it’s an area where you don’t have as deep of a like roster, so to speak, of people who have done it before, are you able to still accept that client and be like, Hey, it might just take a little longer? We have to put together the find more people. What’s that process kind of look like?

Zeb: Yeah, absolutely. So we would look at first on at what we have basically, and see what we how many testers we have in that region with those payment methods in their profiles, with the experience. And then kind of if we needed something more specific, we also have a community management team that not only cultivates the members in our community, but they could do additional outreach ad campaigns, whatever the case may be, to kind of find some more folks in those markets. But typically with the size of our community, we most likely already have folks that are ready, willing and able to test with whatever those environments are.

Jacob: Certainly in most companies, I’m assuming, are all trying to you know, they’re all moving into the same places probably after each other. So yeah, it might be pretty rare that you get a you’re going to a market that no one else has ever tried to be in or using a type of thing that’s not used there, anything like that. So it just builds on itself 100,000% true.

Zeb: And it’s really helped us along the way to see and make those trends not just in the payment testing, but in the other types of testing as well, where Customer A is really heavily focused there. A month later, customer B’s coming along and wanting something in that same region and you see that and go, Oh, okay, let’s bolster our community a bit more, make sure that we’re ready for customer CD, E and F when they come in that that we’re ready to test and rock this.

Jacob: Yeah, certainly. And we’ll definitely I’ll personally probably be visiting that link you mentioned after we’re done speaking and we’ll put it in the show notes for anyone else out there listening who might want to visit it as well to pivot one final time. Final kind of question for you here, a little bit different than what we’ve talked about before, but Applause. They have a client list of many of the world’s leading companies. Some of the biggest names in the world are listed as clients of yours. And our listeners include a number of payments entrepreneurs specifically who would love to be serving those types of clients, those Fortune 50 huge big name customers the way that you all do. Can you speak at all to the process of either securing a large client or partnership like that, or if having worked with some of them, if you’ve learned any lessons on how to work with a partner of that size and scope effectively.

Zeb: Sure. I’d say first and foremost, do your research before reaching out and engaging with with any of these, specifically the large corporations and customers. They can have so many different arms. There might be a risk and compliance arm of a financial services arm marketplace arm that sometimes work together, sometimes they don’t. So identifying the right target persona within a corporation to engage with it can be challenging. But use your resources out there. Look at the payment blogs on LinkedIn or other places to kind of see who those focal points are and who are really speaking your language basically, so that when you do engage with them, you know what you’re talking about. I’ve found, especially as we were getting off the ground, that payment testing was new. A lot of companies didn’t even consider it an option. So when traditional sales representatives would go in and try to engage and would start getting questions like, Well, what processor do you recommend? What are the taxation laws like in Argentina? They’d be like, I don’t have those answers. I need to get back to you. So bringing in someone like myself who’s kind of got the knowledge really helped quell those concerns and help shape those engagements and make sure that everybody is comfortable and confident that you know what you’re talking about.

Zeb: Because if you’re a new processor and you’re going to provide a payment portal for a Fortune 50 company, you got to know what you’re talking about when you go into that situation. And if you actually get those meetings because they’re going to ask you pointed questions about how you engage and what your services are like, what you offer, especially nowadays when there are some big dogs in the payment processing world that do everything under the sun. They’re handling the funds transfers, they’re handling all the taxations in every country, which is getting increasingly difficult. I mentioned Argentina earlier, but one of our clients was actually specifically testing because a law went out. I think last year or the year before where any tax had to be separated out on a bank statement. So you couldn’t just say your purchase was $0.99, you had to have $0.89 plus the ten cent entry for taxation purposes. Companies aren’t ready to do that. But if you have a solution for that and can speak to that and support that, you’re going to go far in this world for sure.

Jacob: Well, Zap, this has been really great to get to learn about you and from you. For those listening who might want to follow you or applause, keep up with what you’ve got going on, where would be the best place for them to go to do so?

Zeb: Sure, you can find some of the blog posts I’ve written on I’m on LinkedIn as well with some stories up there. You can even follow me on And my tester profile on there from where I got my start. So those are is.

Jacob: There a social aspect to.

Zeb: That? There’s a social aspect too. We have community forums where people can discuss various things and how to get into testing and all the excitement that that surrounds it and success stories. So there’s quite a good group of folks in there that are regularly engaged.

Jacob: Cool. Well, I’m even more looking forward to checking it out than I already was. We’ll, of course, link to all those in more in the show notes. Zeb, thank you for giving us your time and knowledge. It’s been a real pleasure. Hope to speak to you again sometime soon.

Zeb: Absolutely. Anytime you want to have me on, it’s been a pleasure.

Jacob: If you enjoyed this episode and want to hear more, head on over to subscribe on your podcast listening platform of choice. That’s s o r a p a y DOT com/podcast.