Voice of the Industry

Buy Now, Pay Later – the accelerated adoption and innovation

Monday 3 October 2022 09:30 CET | Editor: Raluca Ochiana | Voice of the industry

Frida Polyak, Senior Research Analyst at Euromonitor International, explains how BNPL has contributed to the online shopping boom.

 

Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) has been one of the most discussed trends in the payments industry in recent years. Despite not being a completely new phenomenon, fintech players have made the process and offer – interest-free instalment payments over a set period, available for large and small-ticket items – highly appealing to customers. However, in Europe, the ever-evolving BNPL space is yet to see an expansion beyond the retail segment and consumer use.

BNPL explodes in popularity amid pandemic-induced online shopping boom

The surge in online shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic served as a catalyst for the acceleration and expansion of BNPL payments in Europe. According to Euromonitor data , the value of ecommerce (goods) registered 60% growth between 2019 and 2021 in Europe, as consumers facing financial difficulties and those on limited income have favoured BNPL as a no-cost financing alternative. The success of the payment solution, however, is rooted in being equally beneficial for customers and merchants. Retailers offering BNPL at checkout attract more tech-savvy millennials and Gen Z customers, who are the key target group of the lending alternative. Thus, BNPL can lead to improved customer acquisition and loyalty, as well as conversion rates.

Despite BNPL’s growing in-store availability, the online channel still holds important growth potential, particularly as ecommerce hegemony builds. According to Euromonitor data , European ecommerce penetration within retailing value is projected to increase from 16% in 2022 to 20% in 2026 – reflecting the ongoing transformation of the retail landscape.

 

New business models unfold amid intensifying competition

The BNPL landscape has evolved rapidly of late – fuelled by the skyrocketing BNPL demand and increasing supply from both new entrants as well as existing players. The European market is dominated by fintech firms specialising in BNPL; however, challenger banks and the key card operators, Visa and Mastercard, have joined the competition recently by merging their banking solutions with BNPL. Neobanks, such as Revolut, Monzo, and N26, were among the first to launch their own instalment payment solutions, which are no longer limited to retail purchases, but rather applicable to any payment transaction. This continuous evolution of offerings has contributed to intensifying competition within the BNPL landscape. While global players have a strong presence across Europe, local competitors are quickly emerging. The role of local players is crucial, especially in Eastern Europe, where it is mainly the smaller, regional players who serve tech-savvy customers with BNPL solutions.

The market has also witnessed the development of new BNPL business models. Leading players, including Swedish firm Klarna and Australian firm Afterpay, have moved from being pure payment solutions toward fully integrated marketplaces. Consumers can not only select the BNPL option at checkout, but also browse from a list of retailer partners to purchase their products via the BNPL providers’ app. BNPL players are among the latest fintechs attempting to combine the functionalities of payment methods with other services such as banking – and we expect these companies to play a substantial role in the potential blossoming of super apps in Europe.

Innovative BNPL uses promote growth despite imminent legislation in Europe

The European BNPL market has predominantly focused on the retail segment. Consequently, expanding offerings beyond goods holds growth opportunities for the BNPL space. In markets where the use of BNPL is already at a more advanced stage, consumers can apply for instalment payments when procuring hospitality services or travel deals. For example, the ‘Eat Now, Pay Later’ model in Australia is enabled by multiple BNPL providers, including Afterpay or Payo. Travel booking platforms also promote BNPL as a payment option to attract customers, which can facilitate the recovery of tourism after the industry was hit hard by the global pandemic’s impact in the past two years. For instance, India-based Byond Travel offers travellers instalment payments with a 0% interest fee on holidays. Examples of services qualifying for BNPL are emerging in Europe too. In Ireland, ŠKODA has recently started offering new car owners a BNPL payment solution on servicing, repairs, and accessories through the third-party platform Bumper. Partnerships between service providers and BNPL platforms are expected to gain increasing importance in Europe moving forward.

Expanding into and specialising in financing a particular service category could differentiate BNPL providers. An example is the utility bills segment. Some financial institutions already allow instalment payments on any transactions, including bill payments. However, direct partnerships between utility companies and pure BNPL players are yet to be established. Such new partnerships could increase BNPL providers’ customer base and margin, and they have the potential to contribute to the financial sustainability of the model.

The dynamic expansion of BNPL, combined with the lack of thorough credit checking of consumers, is raising concerns over the risk of unsustainable consumer debt levels. In Europe, there is currently no regulation in place around offering and using BNPL financing. This is due to change. The European Commission and UK Financial Conduct Authority have already submitted proposals for new legislation covering the provision of short-term credit, with Europe-wide regulation expected to come into effect in the next year or so. While the industry expects regulation to be proportional to the amount of credit offered, legislation is likely to somewhat slow down the strong growth of BNPL in Europe.

 

What is next for BNPL in Europe?

Intensifying competition, emerging and developing business models, and expansion across industries have all contributed to the dynamic evolution in the consumer uses of BNPL so far. One might rightly ask what else the future holds for the payment option. Looking forward, we expect BNPL to continue its transformation in the rapidly evolving space that is B2B payments, one which has also been undergoing significant digital transformation both prior to and since the global pandemic.

This article was first published in Payment Methods Report 2022, the most updated overview of trends and developments in the payment methods space and the innovative technologies that these methods work upon, emerging consumers habits, and strategies on how to win at conversion and retention.

About Frida Polyak

Frida is a Senior Research Analyst at Euromonitor International with a focus on consumer finance. Based in London, she conducts and commissions research for consumer payments and lending in Western Europe, producing analysis on payment and financial service trends and advising clients across a range of industries. Frida holds a bachelor’s degree in Commerce and Marketing from Corvinus University of Budapest and a master’s degree in Sociology from the London School of Economics.

 

About Euromonitor

Euromonitor International is the world’s leading provider for global business intelligence, market analysis, and consumer insights. Our research solutions support decisions on how, where, and when to grow your business. With offices around the world, analysts in over 100 countries, the latest data science techniques and market research on every key trend and driver, we help you make sense of global markets.

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Keywords: payment methods, BNPL, ecommerce, neobanks, fintech, instalment payments
Categories: Payments & Commerce
Companies: Euromonitor International
Countries: World
This article is part of category

Payments & Commerce

Euromonitor International

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