Survey Highlights the Growing Popularity of “Buy Now, Pay Later” Services
When many Americans go to make a large purchase, they typically have a few options. Aside from paying in cash, there’s also traditionally been the option to put a purchase on a credit card — which results in paying interest if the charge isn’t paid off quickly. Meanwhile, although some retailers might offer deferred-interest monthly payments on select items, this may have only been available for purchases over a certain dollar amount. However, in recent years, so-called “buy now, pay later” services such as Affirm, AfterPay, Klarna, and others have grown in popularity. As a recent survey from The Strawhecker Group shows, a significant number of Americans are now not only trying these options but many are also continuing to return to them.
Of those surveyed, 39% reported having tried “buy now, pay later” (BNPL) services compared to 61% who hadn’t. Notably, 85% of those who had tried such services said they planned to continue using them in the future. Moreover, 83% of respondents who had tried BNPL options wished that more retailers utilized them, with 79% further noting that they’d utilize these services more if they were more widely available.
Looking at specific services, Amazon’s monthly payment option was found to be the most frequently-used service, followed by Afterpay and Affirm. Interestingly, however, 49% of surveyed BNPL users say they’ve tried more than one option, with one-in-four trying upwards of three different services. Overall, in terms of which BNPL the greatest number of users would personally recommend, Klarna was the leading option, attaining a “net promoter score” of 56. This not only topped both Amazon and Afterpay at 47 and 46 respectively but was also well ahead of the 38 point average score.
Provided with the option to make smaller payments over time, it also seems as though consumers using “buy now, pay later” services are willing to spend more per transaction. In fact, 39% of respondents who had tried such services said they spent more as a result. Additionally, another 16% said they spent “much more” when using BNPL options. According to the survey, consumers spent an average of $312 using BNPL services.
Although the survey found support for “buy now, pay later” services among users, not everyone was such a fan. As Strawhecker Group Senior Director of Market Intelligence and Insights Jared Drieling explained, “We found that one in five consumers believe their buy now, pay later service would take advantage of them,” going on to point out, “Despite the growing trend, most consumers stated a credit or debit card issued through their bank was still the number one most reliable payment method.” Looking ahead, Drieling also noted the potential impact of BNPL retention rates, noting, “The future of Buy Now, Pay Later usage suggests an even more nuanced picture, as the retention rates reported by some companies are astonishingly high. For example, Afterpay reported 91% of sales during the first quarter of 2021 were from repeat customers.”
Ultimately, financial observers are sure to have split opinions about whether the rise of “buy now, pay later” services is a good or bad thing. On the one hand, they are seen as a better alternative to paying credit card interest. However, the argument on the other side is these services enable consumers to purchase things they can’t really afford. Of course, with BNPL options seemingly gaining momentum and fans at the moment, it looks as though we’ll be seeing this argument continue to play out for some time.