Online purchases using the BNPL rose by 13% year-on-year in November, according to Adobe Analytics. That figure does not take into account Thanksgiving or Black Friday spending.
“In an uncertain economic environment, a more cautious consumer is embracing more flexible ways to manage their budget,” Adobe ADBE, the software and market-research company, said in a report Friday.
This form of online layaway purchases has proved popular in Europe and recently found acceptance in the U.S. for everything from Peloton equipment to household appliances.
“Buy now, pay later” offers a new spin on the concept of layaway, which has become increasingly popular among younger, cash-strapped consumers.
It allows consumers to split purchases into installments and charging them either simple interest or no interest at all, in a break from the traditional credit model that lets interest compound.
“BNPL allows consumers to split purchases into installments and charging them either simple interest or no interest at all, in a break from the traditional credit model that lets interest compound. ”
Unlike with traditional layaway, however, consumers receive instant access to their purchase as they pay it off.
Furniture companies, for instance, have long allowed people to pay for big-ticket items in installments while taking the product home right away, but now the concept has made its way online, spreading across industries and into smaller purchase amounts.
An increasing number of younger people and those living paycheck to paycheck are relying on BNPL, and other alternative forms of payment, experts say.
About half of younger people — millennials and Generation Z — said they are highly likely to finance at least one of their holiday purchases. Shoppers are financing even lower-priced gifts using BNPL.
The average order value of those BNPL deals over Thanksgiving fell by 6%, according to the separate data released by Salesforce on Friday.
Salesforce expects BNPL usage to “ramp up with the big shopping days” — namely, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
“One of the worst things consumers can do is finance gifts on a credit card that they don’t intend to pay off at the end of the month, especially in a rising interest-rate environment,” said Anuj Nayar, financial health officer at LendingClub, a financial services company based in San Francisco, Calif.
“Now more than ever, it’s important to live within your means,” he said.
Online sales on Black Friday are up just 1%
BNPL services, in particular, are seeing surging adoption rates, driven by growing merchant acceptance, booming e-commerce sales, and what many providers say is a skepticism among younger shoppers about traditional credit offerings.
In the credit-card model, merchants pay transaction fees when they accept card payments and consumers pay accrued interest if they carry a balance.
BNPL services, which can sometimes be interest-free to the consumer, charge a steeper fee to merchants, which have been increasingly willing to pay for the services so that consumers will be more inclined to go through with an online purchase.
Some 37% of Americans plan to use financing such as personal loans, credit cards and BNPL this holiday season, up from 34% in 2021, according to the holiday season report from LendingClub.
“Some 37% of Americans plan to use financing such as personal loans, credit cards and BNPL this holiday season, up from 34% in 2021. But experts say discounts should not tempt people to overspend.”
From 2019 to 2021, the dollar volume of BNPL loans issued by five big BNPL firms — Affirm Holdings Inc.
Afterpay Ltd. Klarna, PayPal Holdings Inc.
and Zip Co.
increased by 1,092% from $2 billion to $24.2 billion, according to a report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
“Buy now, pay later is a rapidly growing type of loan that serves as a close substitute for credit cards,” CFPB Director Rohit Chopra told reporters at a virtual news conference in September.
“We will be working to ensure that borrowers have similar protections, regardless of whether they use a credit card or a buy now, pay later loan,” he added.
E-commerce sales on Black Friday are expected to be almost flat this year, Adobe said. Online sales for Black Friday are expected to reach $9 billion, up just 1% on the year.
However, Cyber Monday will be this year’s “biggest online shopping day,” with online sales reaching $11.2 billion, up 5.1% year-over-year.
Erik Carter, senior financial planner at Financial Finesse, a workplace financial coaching provider in El Segundo, Calif., advised consumers not to allow discounts over the holiday season to tempt them to overspend.
Instead, use Black Friday as an opportunity to invest in things that were already on your shopping list, he added.
(Emily Bary contributed to this report.)