Last year, COVID-19 forever shifted consumer behaviors, creating new habits while enforcing others.
One consumer trend the pandemic really pushed to the fore is the Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) payment solution, which allows customers to literally buy products and pay for them later in installments. Unlike traditional installment payment models, BNPL doesn't involve exorbitant fees and interest rates. In fact, with the BNPL model, customers pay 0% interest and zero fees, making this an attractive option for customers strapped for cash during frequent lockdowns and the salary-cutting era.
For merchants, BNPL is attractive because "they witness an improvement in conversion rates, an increase in basket sizes (AOVs), and enhanced repeat purchase rates," Imad El Fay, Head of Ventures at HB Investments, notes in a brilliant explainer you can find here.
In the MENA region, we have seen many BNPL players step up, either pre-COVID-19 or during it. The top players are as follows:
BNPL players in the region, with the amount of money raised as of April 2021. Originally appeared here. Source: Menabytes.com and Wamda.com
Currently, tabby is leading the BNPL charge in the MENA region, having secured $32 million in funding, putting it quite ahead of its competitors. Last December, the fintech raised $23m in one of the largest Series A funding rounds in the Middle East.
Successful entrepreneur Hosam Arab co-founded tabby in 2019, and currently serves as its CEO. He launched tabby after his previous venture, fashion e-commerce platform Namshi (founded in 2011), was acquired by Emaar Malls and eventually incorporated into noon.com's e-commerce platform that year.
The Abu Dhabi SME Hub spoke with Arab to learn more about his entrepreneurial journey so far, and the current state and future of BNPL in the region.
Hosam Arab, co-founder and CEO of tabby
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into entrepreneurship?
I got into entrepreneurship through a process of elimination. After working in multiple roles across various industries, and never feeling fulfilled, I finally realized that what was missing for me was the ability to build something I could call my own and I had the autonomy to drive and develop. Essentially a place where I could instill my values and build a company that I and those who worked with me could be proud of.
What did you learn from the successful creation and sale of Namshi?
I learned that working with people who were empowered and who felt that they had direct ownership in the destiny of the business was the key requirement for success. We employed people who loved being part of our mission and who could clearly see the impact they had on the success of our business.
The Buy Now, Pay Later business model has been gaining great traction worldwide as of late, especially during the pandemic. Why is there a need for BNPL now, and how does it differ from existing payment options?
It's difficult to know for sure the pandemic's impact on the BNPL industry. It's likely a mix of shopping moving online, where BNPL works best, and people looking for shopping experiences that allow them to be more in control of their finances.
tabby's payment methods don't charge any interest or fees and give shoppers the flexibility and freedom to get what they want, all without getting into the nasty debt traps perpetuated by the credit card industry.
Credit cards typically rely on racking up balances, hidden fees, and charging high interest rates from those that can least afford them. Installment facilities today also block the entire purchase amount from your card at the time of the transaction, which defeats the purpose of paying later.
How can merchants and business owners capitalize on the growing popularity of BNPL solutions?
BNPL is the fastest-growing payment method globally. Shoppers prefer flexible payment options that let them get what they want now and pay over time, without any additional fees. We've seen merchants, big and small, use tabby's BNPL products as a tool to get higher order values, increase conversions and boost repeat purchases across their online and physical stores and marketing assets. We've also seen this as an effective tool for businesses to remove pricing as a barrier and grow without relying on discounting.
Are there any obstacles that hinder the official authorization, as well as the public's acceptance, of BNPL solutions in the UAE?
We work closely with authorities in all the countries we operate in to ensure we create the best shopping experiences, under the right legal framework. BNPL's reception has been incredibly positive and accelerating, both from our shoppers and partners.
What do you foresee for the future of BNPL in the UAE and the greater MENA region in the coming years?
It's projected that BNPL will be over 9% of EMEA e-commerce spend by 2023. But the way things are going, we think it's likely more than that. And that's just e-commerce - BNPL's prevalence in the physical world is also exciting with innovative experiences that merge both the digital and offline retail world.