Point Of Sale Credit: Latest Trap For Consumers
Applying for credit at the till or checkout is becoming more and more common. Klarna, one of the biggest ‘Buy Now Pay Later’ credit companies promote their product as a way to improve customer’s spending power, both in store and online. The concept is, rather than saving and waiting to pay for an item, you can seamlessly apply for credit at the checkout. This sounds extremely convenient for consumers who need to purchase a crucial item and otherwise might have had to rely on payday loans or emergency funding. The risk, however, is frivolous purchases and over-buying. 70% of consumers asked in a recent survey said they had used a Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) scheme. 73% of those who admitted to using BNPL said it led to debt problems later down the line.
Increase Basket Sizes
Clearpay, another major competitor in the UK BNPL market, published that offering financing options at the check out increased online basket size by 20 – 30%. This data fuels Klarna’s statement that these payment plans increase customers spending power, but it does not take budgets into account. Although, assumedly, this does mean that customers get 20 – 30% more goods, they also have an increased bill. BNPL schemes distance the consumer from their payment, as money is not taken immediately from their bank account. This suggests that consumers that add to their basket when they find out they can spread the cost, might not take the time to think about the affordability aspect.
For retailers, offering Klarna or BNPL options at the checkout could be beneficial. Of course, these systems are most popular online, but in-store consumer credit is becoming more accessible. This is said to motivate sales again, which translates to a higher spend for customers.
Turning Browsers Into Buyers
BNPL credit continues to develop because it helps to bridge the gap between online convenience and real-life experiences. Consumer trends in 2020 highlight that customer experience is how companies will add value to their physical stores. It is suggested that Klarna, Clearpay and other schemes allow you to enjoy shopping online in your spare time, whenever that might be, and then take your ‘fun’ browsing one step further.
One of the biggest obstacles for online shopping is the returns process. Especially, for retailers targeting younger demographics who might need their returns credited sooner rather than later in order to manage other bills or outgoings. BNPL is the solution. If you return goods before the first payment, no money will leave your account. Yet this does depend on keeping track of returns and payment dates. It also runs the risk of fun, hobby browsing turning into an expensive, out of control habit.
An At-Risk Audience
The younger generation are known for their “on-demand” lifestyle. BNPL could be seen to feed this desire, because it means you do not need the money available to pay for new items. BNPL credit companies have identified the younger, Gen Z or millennial demographics as their target audience. This is evidenced by the stores they choose to partner with, most of which are apparel brands with an audience of 16 – 30 year olds.
In the UK, the Financial Conduct Authority are the financial industry’s watchdog. After the sharp rise of BNPL credit companies, it’s not surprising that they promised stricter regulations. These were introduced in November 2019 and were estimated to save the consumer around £40 – £60 million per year. Klarna’s marketing tactics were also called into question, as it dissolved the responsibility and association with a purchase. Although there might be immediate financial benefits for companies that use BNPL, there might be a moral or ethical issue in the future that could deter sales. Interestingly, the CEO of Next, the clothing and homeware retailer, described the service as dangerous, stating, “there is a difference between spreading of the cost and just deferring it”.