Worldwide traffic to Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) sites increased by 59% between the first half of 2020 and 2021, according to new analysis from Similarweb, reflecting a change in purchasing behaviour as consumers adapted to shopping online during the pandemic

Afterpay led the charge, with a 34% global increase in sign up traffic over the period resulting in a dominant 37.71% market share. Its closest competitor globally was (30.96%), followed by (9.6%) and (6%).

Fashion and apparel is the top category for BNPL usage, responsible for 31.5% of traffic, ahead of marketplace (20.5%), beauty and cosmetics (18.4%), video games (10.3%), and computers, electronics and other technology (7.1%).

Similarweb vice president for Australia and New Zealand, Emmanuel Heymann said the exploding popularity of BNPL services reflects the evolving expectations and behaviours of a consumer base that increasingly approaches shopping with a digital-first mindset.

“More people are shopping online than ever before, and our analysis shows Australian web traffic actually peaked beforethe latest spate of lockdowns across New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland,” he said.

“This suggests that online consumers are here to stay, and they’ve brought with them new expectations around service, availability, and how they complete transactions. ecommerce retailers need to adapt their offerings to cater to these requirements when it comes to the digital shopping basket because these changes extend the full customer journey – from search to check out.”

The surge in traffic to BNPL sites has been largely driven by five key markets, where increased consumer demands, new entrants to the sector, and acquisitions have combined to change the market landscape.

Similarweb’s analysis found that the US was the market leader, representing 34.6% of traffic to BNPL sites in the first half of 2021, followed by Germany (17.7%), Australia (14.5%), Sweden (8%) and the UK (6.6%).

Afterpay was the leader across the Australian, US, and UK markets, boasting 77.3%, 52%, and 52.9% of traffic share respectively, while had a commanding presence in Germany (99.7%) and Sweden (99.6%).

Across the world Millennials are driving demand for BNPL services, with the 25-34 age group comprising 31.4% of the traffic share, followed by the 35-44 age bracket (22.8%), 18-24 age bracket (18.3%), 45-54 age bracket (14.5%), 55-64 age bracket (8.4%) and 65+ group (4.3%).

Women drove the majority of the BNPL surge, making up almost two-thirds (61%) of the traffic.