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Dynamic expansion in eCommerce was in motion across Asia before COVID-19. Social restrictions during the pandemic have accelerated this trend towards online purchasing. The landscape continues to evolve. Over the past 16 months, new patterns have emerged in popular product categories for mobile consumers.
Asia’s smartphone shoppers are restless, too. They are accustomed to frequent innovations that make swipe-to-buy more personalized, convenient, and engaging. Now, as new economic realities start to bite, consumers are embracing flexible payment formats.
“Buy now, pay later” apps are gaining momentum. These phased checkout formats are not new in Europe, North America, and Australia; in some markets, they are questioned due to the installment fees charged.
Fintech firms are adapting the model for different Asian markets. Young consumers that view the world in mobile-first terms are proving receptive to flexible payments that spread the burden of buying over a prolonged period. Here are five key factors to consider:
Mobile-based product marketing, selling, and delivery are transforming in Asia as online shopping sites turn fiercely competitive. Brands, retailers, marketplaces, and tech companies are racing to adapt to fast-changing and unpredictable consumer expectations.
To make smartphone shopping seamless, consumers expect innovations and upgrades in cashless payment functionalities and incentives. As mentioned in our recent article Five reasons why digital currencies will influence consumer behaviors, developments in digital banking and e-currencies will further influence how consumers transact and save online.
Global technology players like to drive trends, not follow them. You can be sure that when brands like Apple and Paypal introduce “buy now, pay later” services, more will follow. The eagerly awaited Apple Pay Later format is expected to enable consumers to spread their payments across four interest-free installments or a longer-term plan incurring interest fees.
This phased format could help encourage more Apple users to upgrade to new, more expensive models. In addition, incremental payments might incentivize tech fans dissuaded by premium-priced Apple products to reconsider if they can settle the cost in stages.
Shopping via a smartphone has inspired new buying patterns trends during the pandemic. A frequently overlooked consequence is that consumers have become familiar with regularly discounted purchases and added-value product bundles. Many eCommerce marketplaces even offer personal prompts on a user’s smartphone before hot deals are made publicly available.
As a result, consumers want to be enticed with alluring extra discounts and time-limited promotions. Localized factors make this even more important. Many people have seen their salaries reduced or may be more price sensitive and value-conscious after losing their jobs.
“Buy now, pay later” apps are proliferating. Australia’s Lit Now (short for “Life in a Tap”) launched in Vietnam in June enables shoppers to buy beauty products, fashions, toys, and fitness classes with a 25 percent down payment. The remainder is payable in three installments over 90 days.
Singapore-based Atome (short for Available To Me) works with online lifestyle retailers and travel booking sites to divide consumer payments over three installments in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and China.
Meanwhile, in the Philippines, BillEase partners with eCommerce merchants to provide installment payments. If online purchases are settled within three months, no interest is paid. Additional six, nine, and 12-month payment plans will incur interest fees.
Demand for flexible payments emerged among travelers early in the pandemic. With flight, room, and vacation bookings placed on hold by border closures, consumers became angry when airlines, hoteliers, and tour operators issued credit vouchers instead of refunds. Some airlines later extended rebooking to two or three years, and online travel agencies (OTAs) offered payment-free booking for an initial time. This enabled cost-free cancellations if travel restrictions remained unchanged.
New payment options are being launched. Indonesian OTA Traveloka teamed with a Thai bank to launch PayLater, and Malaysia Airlines is offering Book Now, Pay Later flights. Meanwhile, in South Korea, travel agencies promoted discount summer trips to Europe in restricted windows, usually two hours. To incentivize fast bookings, trips can be rebooked without a fee, or transferred to a relative or friend.