Afterpay’s Lizzy Eisenberg speaks at WWD's Digital Forum in Los Angeles.

Afterpay’s Lizzy Eisenberg gave the audience bizarre, but fascinating insight about the Millennial mind-set.

“Millennials are more scared of credit card debt than they are of dying,” she told the crowd gathered at the Pacific Design Center. “We hate debt. We hate credit. We’re really trying hard to avoid it.”

That mentality drives companies like Afterpay, a Sydney-based start-up that offers a modern version of layaway, but with a critical twist: Shoppers can take possession of products right away. The company essentially pays for the item, then patrons pay it back in installments without fees.

“It’s a subtle difference, but it’s really how Afterpay was born,” said Eisenberg, the company’s director of market development. She went on to describe how the financial crisis of 2008 shaped the Millennial mind-set. “[It] was a really bad time. I know everyone in this room was impacted in some way, if not directly; we all had friends that lost homes, lost jobs. It was a really challenging time, but it also created this big shift.

“It was this year that Millennials started spending differently,” she said. “There was a lot of literature, like, you’ve got to spend within your means, don’t get into more debt. And Millennials listened. They did not like what they saw around them.”

The time was ripe for Afterpay, which went from a small start-up to a $1.5 billion operation within four years. Now, it’s eyeing a growing spate of markets, like the U.S.

If the company doesn’t make its money by charging shoppers, then naturally, it needs to look elsewhere for revenue. In this model, retailers pick up the tab.

What they get back in return is a major pipeline of heightened Millennial interest in their goods — one that doesn’t hamper the powerful influence of immediate gratification, like traditional layaway, but understands how these consumers want to shop. In a landscape where two out of three Millennials don’t own a credit card, according to Eisenberg, that matters.

Afterpay’s partnership with Urban Outfitters is a prime example.

“We launched with them in the U.S., and before, no one knew who we were,” she explained. “Within a week, over 10 percent of all Urban’s customers were using our product. I think that’s pretty amazing, without any brand recognition.”

The offering also generated a 30 percent average order value uplift, and “more importantly,” she said, “revenue per session increased sitewide.

“It changes the way the customer shops when you can create trust and meet them where they want to be met,” she added.

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