BNPL, which stands for Buy Now, Pay Later, is a payment method that allows online and in-store purchases to be made without paying in advance. The term “buy now, pay later” refers to short-term financing that helps people buy everyday items such as clothes, electronics, and home renovation equipment. A point-of-sale installment loan mechanism allows customers to buy things at the point of sale and controls the reimbursement process.
Consumers can purchase everyday necessities through retailers’ BNPL programs by selecting an inexpensive financing plan and paying in installments rather than the entire cost upfront. Globally, BNPL payment platforms have been used by numerous business owners to purchase raw materials, finance equipment, and pay staff salaries. Additionally, BNPL payment technology is becoming increasingly popular among youth due to its several benefits, including purchasing high-priced smartphones and laptops, paying tuition fees and stationery, and paying for canteen bills, further accelerating its market growth.
A growing number of industries, including banking, health insurance, retail & consumer goods, accept online payments, which has spurred the growth of point-of-sale installment loans globally. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) predicted that by 2020, more than 80% of customers will use digital wallets for online transactions. BNPL services were also in high demand in 2021 due to the global increase in e-commerce sales. US retail e-commerce sales in the third quarter of 2021 reached USD 205 billion, according to the Census Government Organization. According to the forecast period (2022-2030), the global Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) market value is estimated to reach USD 3680 billion by 2030 at a CAGR of 45%. The North American market generated the highest revenue in 2021, accounting for 30% of worldwide sales. Over the forecast period, e-commerce sales around the world will increase significantly, creating a significant window of opportunity for the BNPL industry.
Additionally, consumers are becoming aware of the benefits of health insurance and consumer electronics. In response to the rising demand for consumer electronics products and health insurance services, the value of BNPL services transactions is rapidly increasing as well.
Driving Factors Behind the Adoption of BNPL Technology
BNPL services have become increasingly popular because they have fewer entry barriers, lower fees, and provide a seamless user experience. Over the course of the pandemic, fintech startups have continued to grow in popularity and attract investors. According to Visa’s latest COVID-19 Impact Tracker, more than 80% of consumers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia expressed a willingness to use BNPL services. A 30.8% growth rate is forecast for the European industry between 2022 and 2028. With BNPL’s lower credit threshold, consumers can pay for a wider range of products and services. Electricity bills, health insurance, and car servicing, for instance, are all important services that can be paid by BNPL, giving greater flexibility for short-term budgeting.
BNPL services are perhaps most attractive due to their low or non-existent fees. In BNPL transactions, the incentives for the merchant, the consumer, the third party provider of BNPL services, and the issuer differ from those for credit cards, which have high interest rates and fees for consumers who are only paying off their minimum balances. The penalties for missing payments are less severe with BNPL. A Visa partner, AfterPay, which operates from the US to Australia, also caps late fees at 25%. Gulf-based Tabby, likewise, charges a flat fee of $4 when an installment is overdue by 15 days. Offering consumers the choice of splitting their payment into three or four low-cost installments can increase sales volume and conversion rates from a merchant’s perspective.
The Popularity of BNPL in Chinese Markets
Online shopping in China has been significantly accelerated by the pandemic. The major Chinese ecommerce platforms have developed their own BNPL systems, unlike the US, where retail brands have partnered with fintech startups. There are several major providers of BNPL, including Alipay and JD.com. BNPL is available on Alipay’s Huabei feature, while JD.com’s Baitio product offers the service. Earlier this year, Alipay partnered with Klarna to offer its customers a pay later option on AliExpress. Additionally, WeChat has also launched its BNPL feature, Fen Fu.
The Q4 2021 BNPL Survey predicted that BNPL payments in China will grow by 52.7% annually to reach US$ 83562.5 million in 2022. BNPLs in China continue to grow at a strong pace over the medium and long term. The adoption of BNPL payments is expected to grow steadily over the forecast period, with a CAGR of 26.3% from 2022 to 2028, as discussed previously. By 2028, BNPL’s Gross Merchandise Value will increase from current US$ 54705.7 million to US$ 338658.7 million.
There has been an increase in consumer interest in BNPL products in China in the last few quarters. Despite the fact that deferred payments are still at a nascent stage, they are likely to experience significant growth in the next four to eight quarters. BNPL’s growth is being driven by several factors, including a cashless society, e-commerce, and a young Chinese population. Ant Group, one of China’s largest technology companies, dominates the BNPL market. With the Chinese Government continuing to crack down on these big companies, the publisher expects new and modern-day companies to emerge in the BNPL sector over the next four to eight quarters. Based on consumer demand and the overall need for the BNPL product in the Chinese market, the publisher expects rapid growth in the industry over the short to medium term.
In order to boost sales and growth in China, more and more businesses are offering consumers flexible payment options such as the BNPL payment method. As one of the most valuable and leading electric vehicle manufacturers, Tesla announced that it is allowing consumers in the country to purchase its vehicles without any upfront costs. Taking a Tesla home is not exactly a BNPL payment option, but the firm is offering consumers zero-payment installment plans. Tesla is making this move at a time when it is trying to increase its sales in the country. The company has made it easier for consumers in China to purchase its cars with this payment scheme, which is expected to boost its sales in the short- and medium-term.
Fundraising Process – BNPL
In order to capitalize on the high growth potential and expand market share of the Chinese BNPL sector, BNPL firms are raising funds. A consumer finance arm of Ant Group announced in December 2021 that it was raising US$3.5 billion to boost its growth in the BNPL sector. Over the next few quarters, the company plans to advance more credit to consumers in the country due to the capital increase. As a result, the firm will be able to further increase its market share in the region. Over the next four to eight quarters, the publisher expects more BNPL firms to raise funding rounds in China, further intensifying innovation and competition within the Chinese deferred payment market.
Overseas BNPL Companies Taking Over Chinese Markets
In China’s BNPL industry, companies from pureplay BNPL platforms to traditional banking players are leveraging the growing demand and high growth potential. Atome, a Singapore-based BNPL firm, wants to expand into the Chinese deferred payment market. The company launched its services in mainland China in September 2020, and has rapidly expanded across several regions of the country. Additionally, the company partners with 1,500 local and international brands across all markets it operates in, including major companies such as Nike, New Balance, Tissot, and Tissot. The company now operates in nine markets across Asia, including Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Mainland China. Over 20 million Asian users have registered on the BNPL platform as of November 2021.
The Booming BNPL Industry in the U.S
It is expected that the global buy now pay later market will reach around US$ 3,268.26 billion by 2030. Approximately 56% of Americans have used a buy now pay later service in July 2020, up from 38% the previous year. It is relatively popular for consumers to use these types of point-of-sale loans recurrently due to their affinity and involvement. These financing solutions are used by more experienced groups of consumers 15 to 20 times per year and 10 to 15 times per month for browsing or shopping. While U.S. card issuers, such as American Express Plan It and Citi Flex Pay, have developed post-purchase instalment features, adoption rates have been low. Post-purchase payments in the U.S. cannot compete with 0% annual percentage rates available at the time of purchase in the case of BNPL.
In the U.S., several BNPL companies are competing for market share. Due to this, BNPL companies are merging and acquiring to expand internationally. As part of its strategic partnership with Amazon in the U.S., Affirm launched buy now pay later payment methods for online transactions of $50 or more in August 2021. Amazon’s relationship with Affirm marks the company’s first strategic partnership in the United States. Additionally, Square acquired Afterpay in August 2021 in order to penetrate the fast-growing consumer payment market. Square will benefit from this acquisition by quickening its expansion in the U.S. as well as keeping up with PayPal, which has grown into a major player in the BNPL sector globally.
The Rise of BNPL in the U.S
In addition to missed payments and dwindling credit limits, the COVID-19 pandemic compounded many pre-existing financial concerns. As a result, U.S. credit card usage has decreased in recent years, allowing for the emergence of new payment options, such as BNPL. In 2019, BNPL lending in the U.S. was worth a few billion dollars, but it is expected to grow 1,200% by 2024
During the pandemic, BNPL services have flourished across retail websites, such as Affirm Holdings Inc, Klarna, Afterpay Ltd and PayPal Holding Inc’s “Pay In 4.” However, some regulators around the world are concerned that consumers may spend more than they can afford because of the ease with which they can make purchases. In a study by Credit Karma, which offers free credit score checks to customers, almost 40% of U.S. consumers who used “buy now, pay later” missed more than one payment. Reuters surveyed 1,038 adult consumers in the United States to gauge interest in “buy now, pay later,” finding that 42% had already used the service. According to Credit Karma’s Gannesh Bharadhwaj, general manager for credit cards, the percentage of consumers missing payments is not as low as you would expect. It’s possible that people don’t really think about the budget when you make something so convenient.
When a consumer’s credit score is low, lenders perceive him or her as a higher risk, making it harder for them to borrow money. In some cases, it can even make setting up utility accounts or finding housing more difficult since landlords often check credit scores before renting out apartments. However, with BNPL services, there are no credit checks. BNPL firms facilitated $20 billion to $25 billion in transactions last year, according to management consultants Oliver Wyman, although analyst estimates on the size of the industry vary, as some of the firms are privately owned. As their services became more prevalent, they each described explosive growth last year. During the fiscal year ended June 30, 2020, Afterpay’s active U.S. customers more than doubled to 6.5 million and the company’s sales tripled in the July-September quarter..
In the fiscal year ending in June, Affirm’s revenue grew 93% to $509.5 million. With interest rates ranging from 0% to 30%, shoppers can spread purchases over six weeks to four years. There are no late fees or compound interest at Affirm, and customers are shown the exact cost of a loan in dollar terms. Despite missed payments affecting credit scores, Affirm has been working with borrowers who fell on hard times during the pandemic. Since some companies that offer these services do not charge interest and have no bank charter, it is unclear how they comply with U.S. regulations. During the current Biden administration, some experts think the sector will be scrutinized more closely.
The Rest of the World Follows: Global BNPL Scenario
Globally, BNPL schemes accounted for 0.4% of ecommerce payments in 2016 but quadrupled to 1.6% by 2019 and to 2.1% by 2020 as per reports by Statista. Over the past two years, Klarna, the UK’s biggest BNPL provider, has doubled its customer base to 15 million. As of now, BNPL accounts for 25% of all e-commerce payments in Sweden, where it has achieved the greatest popularity. There has been a rapid growth in the BNPL market here as well, almost doubling since 2016 – although it is interesting to note that BNPL’s market share actually dipped slightly in 2020, perhaps due to the pandemic. The fact that Klarna was founded in Sweden could help explain why these types of services are so popular in the country, which has also seen a sharp increase in its e-commerce market. German and Norwegian nations also enjoy strong interest in BNPL, with German interest growing from 3% to 20% between 2016 and 2021.
It’s true that BNPL is most popular among Gen Z, with 61.16% of people ages 18–24 having used it, but those ages 25–34 (60.08%) and 35–44 (60.58%) weren’t far behind. Even though Baby Boomers are the least likely to use BNPL, at 40.88%, it’s noteworthy that usage among over 54s has increased substantially, by just under double between July 2020 and March 2021. There is a gender difference in the use of BNPL schemes, with 62.2% of men saying they have used them compared to 51.36% of women (again, in the US). Men were also much more likely to be regular users of the schemes, with 12.16% saying they used them at least once a week, nearly twice as many as women (6.11%).
BNPL Companies Profiting Heavily
Contrary to neo-banks like N26 and Revolut, BNPL providers are already profitable. Merchant fees, interest, and late fees are how the companies earn money depending on the product. The recent financing rounds of Klarna (Sweden) and Affirm (USA) demonstrate how hot the market is. A valuation of around nine billion euros has been achieved by Klarna. Affirm, which Max Levchin founded, raised 424 million euros – the latest valuation is unknown. Additionally, the company is preparing for an IPO (initial public offering).
A high valuation leads to new growth fantasies, which can be realized primarily by establishing new markets. Afterpay is pushing into the USA and Europe, where the market is limited for Australian companies. Recently, it acquired a player in Spain and aims to expand strongly in the UK.
US markets are considered large future markets. Several of Klarna’s resources have been directed towards it. From a total of 90 million customers, nine million are in the USA. Merchants who integrate payment services are the growth lever here. The business of marketing to end customers is not as costly for them as it is for smartphone banks. A comprehensive app, a bank card, and lots of marketing are all included in Klarna’s plan to reach customers directly.