US-based BNPL players eye off Black Friday as sales weekend approaches
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Black Friday is this week, and ASX-listed BNPL players are hopeful the global online sales event will provide some momentum for Q4 sales.
With consumers globally forced to buy online, COVID-19 has provided an historic catalyst for ecommerce adoption.
BNPL stocks have ridden the wave, as investors assess the capacity for the technology to scale amid the broader tailwinds behind online retail.
Positive vaccine results in November have also factored into the outlook. Big-name ASX ecommerce stocks are off their post-Covid lows on the chance that shoppers won’t be confined to their homes for the indefinite future.
While there’s an argument that ecommerce demand has been pulled forward to some extent, analysts reckon at least part of the shift is permanent.
Which makes for an interesting setup ahead of this week’s Black Friday specials – an event where US online retailers racked up over $US7bn in sales over 24 hours last year.
In comments to Stockhead, the CEO of listed ecommerce player Zebit (ASX:ZBT), Marc Schneider, highlighted that US ecommerce sales rose by 30 per cent annually over the early part of this year.
But he highlighted the shifting post-Covid demand patterns as US consumers responded to the pandemic.
Spending habits saw online sales peak in the June quarter, when consumers were “plagued by the height of the coronavirus pandemic that caused widespread store closures and stay-at-home orders,” he said.
“But in Q3 we saw this trend slow down as shops started to reopen and ‘hoard buying’ stemmed.”
So far, the December quarter has seen the US economy walk a delicate balancing act between the Presidential election and vaccine results while COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
But for Zebit, which runs an ecommerce store that assists shoppers with targeted lending programs, the convergence of all those factors has resulted in a “resurgence in eCommerce shopping”.
So far in Q4, “we’ve seen US consumers spend a whopping $21.7 billion online already – up 21 per cent from last year”, Schneider said.
He added that Zebit began communicating with customers to start their Christmas shopping early in November, ahead of what could be a logistics glut heading towards the end of the year.
“Shipping cut-off dates for guaranteed delivery by Christmas for some providers have already been shortened which means customers will have to pay a lot more, closer to the holiday,” he said.
“So with the pandemic and those supply chain factors in place we definitely foresee Black Friday and Cyber Monday smashing ecommerce purchases in the States and elsewhere.”
US-based BNPL player Sezzle (ASX:SZL) is also optimistic that pre-Christmas demand trends will help support its Q4 growth trajectory.
SZL chief revenue officer Veronica Katz highlighted some recent survey data gathered by the firm as it tries to assess demand trends.
“With COVID cases spiking all over the US, it’s logical that the majority of all generations of shoppers, especially older generations, are planning to do all of their holiday shopping online,” Katz said.
“For every generation we surveyed, less than five per cent of each cohort said they plan to do the majority of shopping in-store,” Katz said.
In particular, consumer behaviour among older generations has undergone a marked shift in response to the health risks.
“It seems likely that fears stemming from Covid will be pushing more seniors online than in any previous holiday shopping season, with 80 per cent of Boomers doing so,” Katz said.
“And according to our survey findings it also looks like Gen Zers are the generation most keen to splash the cash this year, with 25 per cent saying they are willing to spend more on gifts compared to 2019.”
On a broader level, analysts have indicated that investor support for BNPL technology is based on a belief in fundamental changes in how consumers buy goods.
In that context, this weekend’s big online sales event will be an interesting barometer for the post-Covid shift — in terms of both the rate of online adoption and the use of BNPL services in the acquisition of goods.