Conventional wisdom has been that advertising campaigns and recommendations from friends are key influencers on what customers buy. However, new research from Bread on how payment options influence shopping behavior shows that shoppers rank access to interest-free installment payments as one of their main reasons for making their most recent purchases—above referrals from friends, effective advertising, and brand social responsibility.

It’s not news that pricing and budget play a crucial role in the customer decision process, but flexible payment methods in particular are increasing in popularity and creating an impact on the shopping journey as a whole.

How you pay is more important than what brands say
According to the research, more respondents would buy an item because installments were available rather than because the product was recommended by a friend. When asked, “What were your top reasons for making your recent purchase?” 19 percent of shoppers ranked interest-free installments as one of their main reasons, versus 17 percent who made their decision based on a recommendation, 15 percent who made their choice based on marketing and advertising, and 15 percent who said the brand’s social responsibility was a deciding factor.

Traditional forms of payment, like credit cards, are also waning in popularity, especially among younger consumers who lived through the financial crisis and are wary of traditional financial products. As consumers look for smarter and more flexible payment options that better align with their budget and finances, installments and alternative payments methods continue to rise in popularity and become a larger part of the purchasing process. In fact, today only 33 percent of millennials have a credit card according to Bankrate.

Bread’s research found that today’s shoppers are looking to avoid putting more on their credit cards. Only 15 percent of shoppers want to pay for a $1,000 purchase with a credit card, versus 36 percent of shoppers who would prefer to make four equal, interest-free payments. 53 percent  of shoppers would prefer to buy a $200 item with the same four installment payments, compared to 26 percent who would use a credit card. Because credit cards make it harder for customers to budget and pay for larger purchases over time, they’re clearly looking for retailers to offer other options.

Seventy-four percent of customers would shop more with additional payment options
As social and other media channels multiply, so do the reviews, influencers, and sponsored content, watering down the effectiveness word-of-mouth recommendations once had. Your customers can ask their friends, but they can also go to a specific forum or aggregator and search all the reviews of people who have actually purchased the product they’re thinking about buying for themselves. Forty-four percent of social media users follow an influencer, and 34% say they have discovered a brand solely based on influencer posts. Ninety-two percent of consumers say they would trust an influencer more than an advertisement or traditional celebrity endorsement, and only 17% trust friends and family for shopping recommendations. Product recommendations alone aren’t enough to sway modern shoppers—they want to know how they’re going to pay.

According to the research, 85 percent of shoppers are interested in their favorite retailers offering interest-free installment payments, and 74 percent of customers even say they would shop more often at a store that offers this payment method, but it doesn’t seem that brands are listening. There is a payment gap in the marketplace: Only 10 percent of respondents said installments are available at all of their favorite stores.

The future won’t just be about new places to grab attention. Payment is evolving to become a bigger piece of the experience. Whether it’s shorter-term options that allow customers to split up payments without interest, or longer-term payment plans over a period of months or years, managing the dollars and cents of a purchase is rising as a method for getting customers’ attention and driving their decision to buy.

If you don’t currently have a pay-over-time strategy, there’s a good chance you’re missing out on an opportunity to reach even more customers. Read Bread’s full report to see their findings on how customers want to pay, and why their preferences are changing.