The Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) phenomenon is sweeping the local retail industry, with customer numbers surging as South Africans discover the joy of spreading the cost of their purchases across three months of interest and fee free, while receiving the goods immediately.
But who’s using BNPL? And what are they buying with it? Interestingly, BNPL is not only used by lower income consumers, says PayJustNow CEO Craig Newborn. Around 4 in every 10 users are at least above average earners, if not high-income earners. They’re using it as a tool for improving their buying power, with many seeing it as a payment option that gives them options and makes them more likely to shop in stores offering it.
There is a clear trend of customers buying better quality items or products that last longer, rather than cheaper items that need to be repurchased every few months, with so-called high-quality retailers making the most sales on the platform.
The Health and Wellness product category had the largest individual sale for the month of March 2023 – the biggest single order being an online purchase of R52,000. The biggest instore order in the home category was for nearly R45,000.
The previous month was a bumper one for the Hobbies & Interest category. One shopper spent R42,730 on security / self defense gear, with another laying out R41,250 on load shedding essentials. Other big-ticket items being bought using BNPL this year include scooters (R57,440), beds (R51,499) and watches (R43,400).
Females accounted for nearly 70% of all PayJustNow orders in March. Breaking this audience down using Compuscan’s Financial Affluence Segmentation (FAS) – a customer classification system which describes the South African consumer’s level of affluence and financial utilisation – shows a majority spread of customers that includes Upmarket Professionals, typically in their 30s and 40s with sizeable disposable income and luxury wardrobes (14%), Happy Singles who are often professionals under 40 years of age with an above average income (12%), Double Income Mid-Life Aspirations described as high income families in the 30-55 age group (11%), and Entry Level Youth under the age of 25 with limited credit activity (9%).
“BNPL has benefits across the income spectrum. Entry level youth can safely enter the credit market by building their credit record through BNPL, whereas high income earners, who haven’t typically needed to use things like retail store cards or credit cards, can conveniently and easily maintain their credit score for the purchasing of homes or vehicles,” said Newborn.
The beauty of BNPL is that it was designed to avoid contributing to rising consumer debt, said Newborn. “Shoppers use BNPL for a range of reasons. They want to be responsible with their finances, they like the convenience, or they simply don’t have a credit card. The model actually rewards good financial behaviour, because users must pay off one product before they can purchase another – and with each purchase, they build a better credit profile without the use of revolving credit.”