Southern harbour scene with merchants by Abraham Storck, c. 17th century
Buy now, pay later (BNPL) is a way of shopping that has been around for centuries but it’s recently become popular among millennials and Gen Z. The concept seems simple enough—buy something now and pay for it later. But there’s more to it than that. Let’s take a history lesson on BNPL and how it has evolved over time.
Buy now, pay later programs have been around since the 16th century, when people would buy items on credit from their local merchants. The merchant would keep track of the amount owed by its customers and then charge interest if the debt was not paid off by a certain date. This type of program enabled merchants to provide goods to customers who may not have had access to money at that particular moment in time.
In the mid-1900s, banks and credit unions began to provide formal loan products with interest-bearing repayment plans, allowing consumers to purchase items they couldn't otherwise afford. This provided an alternative for customers who didn't have the necessary funds upfront or access to traditional credit sources.
Today, BNPL is offered through digital platforms like Klarna or Afterpay that allow shoppers to purchase products without having to pay all at once. This makes buying items more accessible and allows customers to spread out their payments over time without having to worry about high-interest rates or hidden fees. Plus, most BNPL services offer reward points or discounts for using their platform which encourages shoppers to use these services more often.
Millennials and Gen Z are driving a lot of the innovation behind BNPL solutions as they continue to shape the future of shopping habits—especially online shopping habits. These generations are looking for convenience and flexibility when it comes to making purchases which is why they are drawn to BNPL programs like Afterpay or Sezzle who offer quick checkout processes with no hidden costs or fees associated with them. As such, these types of payment solutions are becoming increasingly popular among younger consumers as they seek out ways to make online shopping easier and more affordable. According to eMarketer, Gen Z sees (BNPL) as a "safer" option than credit cards.
Buy now, pay later is an age-old concept but its recent resurgence among millennials and Gen Z speaks volumes about how much our shopping habits have changed over time. With accessibility, convenience, and flexibility being key factors in determining how we shop today, it's no wonder that these generations are flocking towards payment solutions like Afterpay or Sezzle as an alternative way of purchasing goods without having to commit financially right away. It will be interesting to see what other innovations come out of this trend in the coming years!