Interview

The roadmap of a Buy Now, Pay Later provider in France – exclusive interview with Alma

Wednesday 21 July 2021 09:40 CET | Editor: Stefana Ivan | Interview

Louis Chatriot, the CEO of Alma, discusses how their pay later services tie in with the regulatory framework in France, and what further opportunities they aim to explore to help merchants grow their businesses

Before we start talking about Alma, could you tell our readers a bit about the BNPL market (and retail finance) in France?

France is not the easiest market to enter because of the local regulation which prohibits the use of shared scoring databases such as the US credit score. Moreover, the financial data are also not easily accessible unlike Sweden for example, so you have to score each transaction with only a few data points.

French people widely use cards to pay but only a small proportion of them use a credit card. So if they want to have more flexibility on payment, they need a third party solution proposed by the retailer, like Alma.

The French regulation also requires specific licences to offer payment in more than 4 instalments. In that perspective, Alma obtained 2 licences in 2021 as a ‘Payment institution’ and ‘Financing company’.

But France is also a very interesting country for BNPL solution providers. The appetite of the French for that kind of payment solution is gargantuan, with 78% of consumers willing to change stores to access instalment payments. The market is also very deep with more than 600,000 retailers of which 200,000 are online. What’s more, a third of the national GDP is retail-based, so France is definitely a place to be.

When did you start the company and can you tell us a bit more about your market entry strategy and the journey so far?

Alma was made commercially available in France in 2019. Since day one, our DNA was retail-oriented which means that by what we do we are helping merchants to drive more business,  we are bringing finance back to commerce.

As former Stripe's General Manager for Italy, I had a very good view of the payment's market and especially in the BNPL one. I could notice a breach on BNPL: big players were relatively badly addressed and the small one didn’t have BNPL solutions on their radar at all. That was our sweet spot to start our journey. So we focused on small companies which manage ecommerce websites or brick-and-mortar shops. And Alma has been incredibly popular since its release, way more than we thought initially. But even if we started by targeting small companies, we gained momentum by moving upmarket pretty fast to address bigger companies as well.

In two years we partnered with more than 4,000 retailers from niche segments to very famous brands such as Kookaï, Devred, Go Sport, Top Office, La Fée Maraboutée, and we process close to half a billion euros per year.

Could you elaborate a bit more on the product?

Our goal is to make our customers happy with the product we provide. So to align their interests with ours, we have chosen a transactional fee based business model with no commitment, no subscription nor integration fees. We can't generate revenue if our customer is not driving more business thanks to Alma. And as we saw that a significant part of the market was not eligible for BNPL, we adapted our product to ecommerce websites as well as brick-and-mortar shops. But to make it a game-changer for our customers (i.e merchants) we had to design the most fluent checkout process. For merchants, we propose a unique feature that allows them to self onboard directly from Alma's website. To picture this more clearly, if they decide to use a BNPL solution in their shop at 9 a.m., at 9.05 a.m they can offer Alma’s services to their client.

From a consumer perspective, with Alma, customers can buy anything they like in 2,3 or 4 instalments in less than a minute with their credit card and only a few fields to fill out.

We have 3 types of financing products available to consumers that can be used both online and offline:

  • payment made via 2, 3 or 4 instalments;

  • payment in 5 to 12 instalments;

  • pay later from day +15 to day +45.

You raised EUR 49 million in a Series B funding round at the beginning of this year. What will the funding be used for?

We have raised more than EUR 65 million in equity since the beginning of that journey and we are leveraging each cent to accelerate our growth.

With our latest fundraising, we want to take a step forward to grow faster. To increase market share, we hired more than 20 salespeople and a marketing team. We also bet on a long term relationship with our customers so we hired a customer success managers team to insure that Alma still continues to closely fit merchants' needs.

We also have plans to expand our footprints abroad – we have decided to launch in a couple of European countries by the end of the year. but we are yet to announce which ones. 

In less than a year, we are going to grow our team from 40 to more than 150 people. It's an enormous challenge, but since the market is very deep and competitors are polishing their weapons, it is imperative that we act now.

About Louis Chatriot

Louis Chatriot is the CEO of Alma, enabling retailers to offer instalments to their customers. Former General Manager for Italy at Stripe. He is the former head of Local Motion in Europe (sold to Zipcar in 2015), and the former co-founder and CTO of tldr.io (sold to ProgrammingForums in 2014).



About Alma

Alma brings finance back to commerce with its BNPL solution that increases sales and guarantees payments to every merchant. With more than USD 65 million raised in equity from leading investors, Alma has grown from 0 to 4,000+ merchants in 2 years and already processes hundreds of million euros each year. It supports major brands and offers the best rated BNPL experience in France: 4.8/5 on Trustpilot. More information on getalma.eu.


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Keywords: Alma, BNPL, instalment payments, merchants, online payments
Categories: Payments & Commerce | Online Payments
Countries: France
This article is part of category

Payments & Commerce