After two years of restricted travel and cancelled concerts, vacations and events, it is unsurprising that the world is eager to capture some of the experiences it missed during the pandemic. However, the pandemic accelerated the growth of the eCommerce industry. In the ASEAN region alone, 70 million people have become new online shoppers since the beginning of the pandemic. The Philippines and Malaysia currently top the list of eTail growth at 25% and 23%, respectively. Sectors such as online grocery shopping, exercise equipment and digital entertainment grew exponentially during this time. 

With economic uncertainty breeding fiscal caution amongst many, the Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) model has emerged as one of the most significant fintech trends in 2022. Consumers wanted to make purchases, but due to factors such as reduced working hours, layoffs and people needing to spend most of their money on the essentials, BNPL in Southeast Asia took off, particularly amongst the younger generations. 

As freedom of movement becomes a reality, there is a rising trend of Live Now Pay Later or LNPL in Southeast Asia.

BNPL and LNPL in Southeast Asia

The BNPL payment option allows consumers to purchase goods by making an initial payment followed by smaller recurring instalments. This short-term loan system is an update on the older hire-purchase models for credit, although it heavily relies on fintech. 

With 7.8 million people opting for this payment method in 2020, Indonesia leads the region in the number of consumers using BNPL options to purchase products and services. . The Philippines and Malaysia came in second and third, with 3.7 and 2.9 million users respectively, while Singapore had 1.2 million users. 

The latest iteration of this credit system relates to experiences rather than consumer goods. The Live Now Pay Later method, considered BNPL 2.0, centres predominately on tourism, self-improvement and entertainment products where consumers partially pay the cost of the trip, service or event upfront and pay the rest off in smaller increments. 

After years of uncertainty about travelling or attending events, the LNPL option is one way to encourage people to re-enter the world of tourism and experiences. With a minimal initial outlay, consumers are less anxious about the cancellation of their plans. Even as many people return to full-time employment and college graduates can finally find jobs, money for big-ticket items such as a holiday or cosmetic dental work is still scarce. By using this finance solution, consumers are given the option to enjoy these experiences or services while paying them off in a controlled, sensible manner. 

The desire to shake off the restrictions that many have lived with since early 2020 is overwhelming, and despite the lack of readily available cash, people want to resume living life to the fullest. The LNPL fintech solutions offer this opportunity by allowing customers to pay for the trip, service or event in affordable instalments. 

Emerging players

By 2025, the transactional value of digital lending such as BNPL and LNPL in Southeast Asia is expected to reach $92 million USD.. With such enormous growth expected, many of the region’s fintech companies are providing or considering implementing this payment solution. 

One of the big players in offering discounted experiences, Fave, has also introduced a Pay Later option. The platform offers users 0% interest on payments paid in three monthly instalments, a credit line of up to $4,000 SGD on a range of retail options, beauty and wellness services, and spending rewards. 

Grab Finance has entered into the Pay Later space as the Singapore-based startup Grab extends its offerings beyond ride-hailing. With options to purchase goods and services online using your Grab wallet already popular, with over 25 million users making monthly transactions, the BNPL aspect has a ready market. 

Hoolah, a Singapore-based BNPL service provider, is also expanding its offerings to experiences and wellness. Its lifestyle section offers LNPL options for luxury stays in Singapore, spa and beauty treatments and Malaysian Airlines. 

With the BNPL technology already in place, it is easy for fintech companies to expand their offerings into the Live Now sector. The psychology of spending has shown that people are generally more comfortable paying for items, experiences or services in small instalments regularly rather than paying for them all at once. Fintech companies are tapping into this and encouraging people to reclaim their lives while maintaining control of their budgets. 

As BNPL in Southeast Asia continues to grow, more lifestyle products and services are likely to join the latest fintech trends and offer the option to pay later. Expensive experiences, such as travel, cosmetic surgery, career-enhancing educational courses and entertainment, are becoming more accessible to those on lower budgets or concerned about overspending. This desire to spread the cost of paying will likely see continued growth in LNPL in Southeast Asia and globally.