The total transaction value of digital payments grew from $4.1 trillion in 2019 to $5.2 trillion in 2020. The future of payments and processing offers convenient options for consumers to shop easily while spreading payments across several weeks to months. Known platforms like AfterPay and Klarna allow consumers to purchase items, which they can take home on the same day, with four to six subsequent installment payments at 0% interest.

Retailers who have partnered with a “buy now, pay later” (BNPL) fintech platform have experienced increased Average Order Value (AOV) in addition to increased customer satisfaction and retention. Some BNPL platforms promise to drive the adoption of new customer acquisitions across channels, while others use AI-powered technology to augment marketing campaigns and sales.

The Installment Plan Convenience

In a recent survey, most consumers (71%) made more online purchases during the pandemic, as noted by record-breaking transactions from last year’s holiday shopping season. After nearly two years of frugality, most consumers are eager to buy something other than the bare necessities. On average, millennials and Gen Z are spending $1,016 more per month compared to last summer. Point-of-sale transactions are desirable to younger shoppers who may not have the cash funds readily available to purchase coveted items like luxury apparel, jewelry      and electronics.

According to C+R Research, 59% of consumers have purchased an unnecessary item they otherwise would not be able to afford using BNPL transactions. In addition, BNPL transactions offer consumers less credit risk with a short-term no-interest loan that supersedes the attraction of credit cards. As consumers remain financially conscious about incurring credit card debt, installment payment methods have become a popular alternative.

The Competition Heats Up 

Before Amazon’s partnership with Affirm, BNPL technologies were slightly under the radar, inching their way into the credit landscape. However, the playing field has broadened considerably in the last few weeks. Financial institutions like Capital One Financial Corp are beta-testing in-house BNPL services that let consumers split up purchases to pay off over time. Square, Inc. asserted its acquisition of Australia’s Afterpay, Ltd, which promises supercharged sales for its participating retailers. And PayPal’s shift to digital, contactless payments is solidified with its recent acquisition of Paidy. This Japanese BNPL provider allows Japanese shoppers to make purchases online with monthly payments consolidated into one bill and paid in-person locally.

The Drawbacks

Of course, it’s not all sugar and spice, with financial analysts heeding consumers about the potential for accruing more consumer debt. For example, according to C+R Research, 57% of BNPL users said they regretted purchasing using a point-of-sale installment loan because the item was too expensive. And 66% of buy now pay later users admit that it’s a financially risky way to pay for goods. Similarly, merchants who integrate BNPL systems may incur higher fees (2-6%) from bank and credit providers and unexpected expenses from integrating BNPL into their existing checkout processes.

Are you a merchant or retailer who has integrated BNPL into your checkout systems? Or maybe you’ve made a purchase using a BNPL transactional platform with a story to share. If so, I’d love to hear from you.