For Apple Inc. to become a disruptor in the rapidly growing buy now, pay later market, the technology giant is going to have to win consumer’s trust and demonstrate its BNPL platform is secure.
Reports of Apple developing a BNPL product, which the company has internally dubbed Apple Pay Later, surfaced Wednesday. The BNPL service will be linked to Apple’s Apple Pay mobile wallet. Each time they make a purchase, Apple Pay users will have the option to pay by making four interest-free payments every two weeks. Or they can pay over several months with interest.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc., which issues the Apple Card credit card, will be the lender behind the BNPL loans. Apple Pay Later is reportedly not going to be linked to Apple’s credit card.
The challenge facing Apple upon entering the hotly competitive BNPL market will be gaining consumers’ trust when it comes to taking out a BNPL loan, since Apple will control the payment terms, says Jared Drieling, senior director of market intelligence and insights for The Strawhecker Group, an Omaha, Neb.-based consulting and research firm that tracks the BNPL market.
“Trust is a huge hurdle [facing Apple] especially when it comes to handling of payment information and providing the level of service consumers expect from their bank,” Drieling says. “As a consumer, I trust my bank, know it is secure and know that it will help me resolve issues when they arise. Apple is going to need to put a lot of effort into winning consumers’ trust.”
Key to winning that trust will be the marketing message that Apple develops. Competitors such as Klarna AB and AfterPay Ltd. have developed marketing messages that help earn trust, says Sheridan Trent, a research analyst for The Strawhecker Group.
Klarna, for example, uses celebrities and humor in its marketing to attract consumers to its brand. AfterPay uses a multi-faceted marketing campaign that promotes the company’s environmental friendliness and corporate ethics, in addition to positioning its BNPL offering as a way to achieve financial freedom.
“These are companies that have good marketing messages,” Trent says. “How Apple intends to build trust is the million-dollar question.”
One demographic expected to embrace Apple Pay Later is Apple Pay users, who already trust Apple when it comes to handling the payment data stored in their wallet. Indeed, Apple Pay users are far more likely to have used an installment plan for online purchases than those who are eligible to use Apple Pay but haven’t, Jaclyn Holmes, director of research for Auriemma Group, says by email. Among Apple Pay users, 33% say they’ve used an installment loan for an online purchase, compared to 10% of non-users, Holmes adds.
Demographics that will be tougher for Apple will be older millennials and up and those that have never tried Apple Pay, Trent says.
Apple will also have to provide a speedy signup process, as another potential speed bump is application abandonment due to the applicant thinking it’s taking too long to get approved. Holmes adds that BNPL providers that streamline the application process and have wide availability and a strong relationship with digitally savvy customers, all of which Apple does and has, should fare well.
“With the amount of competition in the space, they’ll need to market a competitive product to reach beyond their customer base, but there’s reason to believe they should be successful among their current users,” says Holmes.