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The rise of Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) systems

(REAL ESTATE MARKETING) The emerging success of “buy now, pay later” (BNPL) systems in the pandemic world has breathed fresh life into consumer confidence.

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Credit card being held out to our point of view, part of a buy now pay later system.

Within the last few years, a new payment option has slowly been rolling out across websites for consumers in the form of “buy now, pay later.” This system gives consumers the ability to split a payment up across a longer period of time and in small increments, and also tends to skip on interest or other standard monetary fees. In essence, this makes them a new style of layaway plan for modern day, and proponents of ‘buy now, pay later’ systems are stating this is one of the best chances to revitalize a worldwide marketplace rocked by the COVID pandemic.

On the European side of things, Klarna has an evaluation of $10 billion, which firmly cements it as the most valuable privately owned fintech firm in the country (and fourth overall globally). Australia’s Afterpay is another big player with its own substantial platform, while the United States based Affirm is looking to start its own IPO in the $5-$10 billion range. Of course, Paypal has long been in this market, and other companies – including Visa – are working with their own offerings.

Put another way: It’s big business. Big, big business. Forbes estimates as much as $24 billion annually. That’s definitely something. There are millions of users globally for these apps, with millions of purchases annually, and more are growing by the day.

Traditionally, consumers were relegated to using credit cards to facilitate purchases that they needed additional time, giving them the ability to obtain funds while retaining their ability to bring home goods and services. This comes with interest so that merchants and vendors have an incentive – they still make a sale, gather money over time, and get a little extra on top.

By contrast, ‘buy now, pay later’ systems are geared differently, aiming instead to address a growing digital market where sales are primarily online (or steadily getting there). Consumers may window shop even on websites, and ultimately abandon their carts when the purchase screen finally appears. This is where BNPL shines – it suddenly gives these shoppers a way to still move forward while lessening the initial monetary blow and giving them a way out of dreaded interest. Especially in these uncertain times, this has become a lifesaver for customers and vendors alike. The former gains the ability to purchase more with few penalties (if any), and the latter sees greater conversion and increased sales.

Meanwhile, the BNPL merchant is able to charge a higher percentage commission to the vendors – more so than credit cards even – to net themselves their own piece of the pie. Even with BNPL’s higher merchant fees of 4-6% in revenue compared to credit card companies, the pure numbers emphatically prove that this system is beneficial to everyone. As pointed out by Fintechtris, “Even though higher fees are being paid, retailers are able to take advantage of: an increase in shopping cart size (up to 30%), decrease in abandonment at checkout (down up to 25%), and repeat customers (up to 20% more). In particular, Affirm, Afterpay, and Klarna (some of the largest BNPL fintech companies) saw average order value (AVO) rise 85%, 30%, and 45% respectively.”

Further, BNPL users have a variety of reasons for choosing this method over credit cards, including avoiding interest, the ability to borrow without a credit check, and being able to go outside of an existing budget without straying into troubled territory.

BNPL graph: growth is being driven by people who can't or don't want to use credit cards

Image source: PaymentsSource

Perhaps even more interesting is that BNPL companies are suffering lower delinquency rates compared to credit cards, with problematic payments at around 1.1% compared to 5.7% elsewhere. BNPL – with its lack of punitive measures – seems to attract all kinds of customers; it’s not just for those that might represent risk.

There is still something to be said about the dangers of overborrowing, with the possibility of charges sneaking up on someone. It should also be noted that avoiding using a credit card means that someone might build their credit history more slowly and sluggishly, and this could have negative ramifications long term.

Everyone is looking for ways to improve their cash flow right now, and as such, evaluating each and every option out there is vitally important. We might even see an accelerated push toward a cashless society following the pandemic. BNPL is still in some early stages, but it’s likely to see increased acceptance and usage as we continually push toward online sales.

Robert Snodgrass has an English degree from Texas A&M University, and wants you to know that yes, that is actually a thing. And now he's doing something with it! Let us all join in on the experiment together. When he's not web developing at Docusign, he runs distances that routinely harm people and is the kind of giant nerd that says "you know, there's a King of the Hill episode that addresses this exact topic".

Real Estate Marketing

Turning your blog posts into tweets: Marketing or distracting?

(MARKETING) Wordpress has unveiled a new feature to turn your blog posts into tweets. But just because you can’t doesn’t always mean you should.

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Blog post being written on laptop in front of colorful TV

If you’ve got both a WordPress blog and a Twitter account, it’s now easier than ever to share content between the two platforms. Just recently, WordPress introduced a new feature that allows you to turn entire blog posts in tweetstorms, with “just two extra clicks.” The question is, should you?

The tool will automatically break up your post into Twitter-sized chunks, and will do it’s best to start a new tweet at the end of, rather than mid-sentence. However, it will also let you see a preview of the tweetstorm before you publish so that you can make sure you agree with how the content has been broken up. Videos and images in the post will also be added to the Twitter thread. You can add an introduction, if necessary, and a link to the original post will be included at the end of the thread.

You’ll need to connect your Twitter account to your WordPress, if it isn’t already. The feature can also support multiple Twitter accounts so you can post in multiple places at once. However, the feature only works on new posts – you can’t go back and turn an old post into a Twitter thread.

The reverse process – turning tweets into blog posts – has already been available on WordPress for quite some time. When you embed a tweet into WordPress there is an “unroll” option that imports the full tweetstorm into your post.

While some bloggers have responded positively to this option, Twitter users seem less than thrilled that their feeds may now be flooded with lengthy tweetstorms.

One user, @theregos, sarcastically tweeted, “Can’t wait for food bloggers and their 87-tweet threads on a recipe.” Another, @elliottrains, said, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Many people love Twitter precisely because its word count limit forces creators to be concise and feel that Twitter is no place for longform content.

Meanwhile, marketing experts question whether there’s much use in diverting traffic away from your site and onto Twitter, where you can’t as easily assess metrics or monetize your following. If you have an enthusiastic Twitter audience, it might be worth it, but otherwise you’re just giving more traffic to Twitter instead of to your own site. As one AG editor put it, site owners will be “cutting off their traffic nose to spite their marketing face.”

What do you think? Is this new feature more helpful or harmful?

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Real Estate Marketing

This new “no-fuss” customer support tool focuses on privacy

(MARKETING) Letterbase’s website widget lets customers send a quick email to businesses without worrying about who’s looking at or selling their info.

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Letterbase is a contact form widget to help customer support

Giving your website users a timely, low-friction way to talk to your business is essential, yes? Live chat can be cool for customer support, but do you really need it? If it feels like overkill, check out Letterbase’s email-based tool.

The website widget for facilitating customer feedback was designed to be “simple, fast, and privacy-friendly.”

Through a branding-friendly, customizable box that can appear on each page, customers can quickly send an email initiating a conversation. They don’t have to wait around for a chat reply before clicking off the site; they get a response in their inbox. Businesses don’t have to use a separate tool to respond and log conversations; the person monitoring email does that. Hence, the “simple.”

The “fast” comes with what they promise is lightweight script installed with a quick copy and paste.

It’s that “privacy-friendly” part that maker Richard Chu says prompted the idea for the product. After combing through messaging apps’ privacy policies, Chu says, he found the “spying” and data sharing to be intrusive.

You might not be aware of how much data collecting some website messaging and chat apps do – and that they sell that data to third parties. Capturing users’ IP addresses, monitoring their browser history, setting cookies, collecting personal information such as drivers license numbers, even tracking users’ location, can all come with a site’s chat or messaging platform – unbeknownst to users.

Having a chat or messenger widget prominently on a website shows that a company cares about customer support and service, but there are things to consider with Letterbase and similar apps.

Some good points:

  • Privacy friendly: Letterbase’s privacy guarantee should allow website owners to assure users that their data is not being collected or sold – a potentially huge trust-builder with customers.
  • Data ownership: Website owners own the data and Letterbase doesn’t store any user conversations.
  • Easy to use: Letterbase should be an affordable customer support tool for small businesses and groups who don’t have dedicated IT people or a high knowledge of tech.
  • Simplicity over analytics: There are no frustrating chat bots that don’t really understand customer questions, and no paying for complicated analytics bells and whistles like sentiment analysis, which requires a team of people just to understand.
  • Trust: Sending an email directly feels better than contact forms, which are often perceived as a communication “black hole.” Users need to trust that they will get a quick reply.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Data collection: If users are being tracked, website owners can assume at least some of their own data is being tracked, too. Read any tool’s privacy policy and contract carefully.
  • Privacy policies: Do you need to alert users that you have an app that is collecting, sharing and/or selling their data? It’s not clear, but being transparent about privacy assures users that their data is safe is a huge potential trust builder. If a company is selling their data, it could quickly become obvious when a user starts to see targeted ads based on your conversation – a potentially huge trust-buster.
  • Security: If conversations might contain any sensitive information, like phone or credit card numbers, make sure your email client offers end-to-end encryption. This also can protect your company network from malware.
  • Response time: You need a crack email monitoring person who will be conscientious about timely responses and categorizing, analyzing and storing conversations. Consider auto-generated responses if that person can’t monitor all the time.

Currently, Letterbase has a 14-day free trial, then an early adopter price of $9 per month.

According to their public roadmap, they plan to eventually integrate with Slack.

It’s clear Letterbase could work for small businesses or groups that care about privacy and want a simple, no frills way for customers to ask questions or request support. Privacy is a the top of mind now, so lack of tracking could be a real benefit.

Sure, understanding and targeting customers through tracking what they do online is pretty much the foundation of digital marketing. For many businesses, though, simple email conversations could be all they need. Plus, it shows they care about privacy by not adding another layer of data surveillance in messaging, which could be the nudge that pushes a prospect to the next step in the customer journey.

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Real Estate Marketing

Old SEO myth busted: Google dev confirms there is no max length on title tag

(REAL ESTATE MARKETING) The title tag has been a hard and fast rule for a long time according to many SEO experts, but this Google dev recently busted this hard-n-fast rule.

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Picture of a screen with HTML code written on it, showing the title tag and a sign up button.

The SEO industry and SEO websites have long recommended your title tag length be approximately 50 to 70 characters long. But during a Google Off the Record podcast, Google’s Gary Illyes says there’s no limit on a title tag length and those numbers are “externally made-up metrics.”

The 50 to 70 character limit is something the SEO community created as a standard because it’s the length of text that a search engine results pages (SERPs) on Google will display. Also, the character limits are based on how the titles appear on desktop and mobile devices. By keeping the title within that range, it prevents the full title tag from being cut off.

But, Illyes says a title’s tag length doesn’t have anything to do with indexing purposes. And when asked if there is value in having longer title tags than what can be displayed, Illyes’ response was “Yes”.

“The reason why I try to steer people away from thinking about concrete numbers is it’s not even about how we display titles, but rather, how we construct our serving index and how we tokenize the page itself,” said Illyes. As with anything, he says there is a limit, but it isn’t a small number.

Illyes’ advice to people is to “try to keep [the title tag] precise to the page.”

“I would not think too much about how long it is and whether it’s long enough or way too long,” he said. “If it fills up your screen, then probably it’s too long, but if it just one sentence that fits on one line or two lines, you’re not going to get a manual action for it.”

While, according to Illyes, Google has no title tag length, Google does have some guidelines to help you create good titles. According to the company’s tag developer support page, titles should be descriptive and give users a “quick insight into the content of a result and why it’s relevant to their query.”

If you’re worried about creating the “right” title for your page, you can visit Google’s tag developer support page for more information. And, remember, there is no need to worry about the title tag length.

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