In the 1960’s and 1970’s, the rent-to-own concept came onto the retail scene to serve consumers who needed access to household products without the often prohibitive debt and obligation. It has since burgeoned into an $8.5 billion industry that provides shoppers flexibility and selection in their purchasing process.
We wanted to know more about one of the dominant players in the rent-to-own space: Rent-A-Center. The Plano, TX-based company is poised and aggressive about growth, recently publishing an infographic that displays Rent-A-Center’s determination in its approach to customer experience and stockholder value. There, amidst objectives aimed at optimizing inventory mix, driving store efficiencies, and expanding activity through digital channels, Rent-A-Center points out the optimization of risk decisioning and analytics as a key factor in its growth.
Who better to question than Jonathan Klingler, Director of Risk and Decision Analytics for Rent-A-Center, in search of insider intelligence when it comes to risk analytics in the rent-to-own world?
Adi: Hi, Jonathan! Thank you so much for speaking with us today. We are very keen to hear about Rent-A-Center’s approach to risk decisioning and analytics – the steps you’ve taken to optimize that part of your business.
Let’s start from the beginning.
Jonathan: From a business perspective, the goal has always been this: to take customers that come into our retail partner locations and approve them in an automated way — to remove the manual component of evaluating a customer, automating the process. Our approach to verification is to be fast and data-driven, so we are always looking at ways to further improve the speed and accuracy of our decisioning, along with customer experience on the other side of that decision.
That said, a couple of years ago we built our own AcceptanceNOW platform. Rent-A-Center has been using this platform for almost three years, and it has served our customers and us well. Last year, when I joined the company, we stepped back and closely evaluated that product and what it delivered for us. We wanted it to be even better, to more quickly grow our brand and to enable us to increase our presence in our retail partner locations.
Step Up in 2019 with Automated Risk Decisioning
At that point, we started thinking about ways to build new and improved risk decisioning capabilities onto the AcceptanceNOW platform. Anyone who has come to this kind of process – evaluating vendors – knows that there are a lot of factors to consider. Rent-A-Center is focused on investing in technology, but not solely for the sake of technology. This had to be a sound business decision that would contribute to the growth of the company.
A: Tell me more about AcceptanceNOW.
J: While Rent-A-Center is our core branded store, AcceptanceNOW is a stand-up kiosk installed in other retailers’ locations. Think big furniture retailers, electronics retailers, etc.
A customer will go into a furniture store in search of a new living room set for their family, for example. Some customers will apply for credit through the retailer. However, if the traditional credit route is inaccessible or unappealing to them, they come to the AcceptanceNOW kiosk where they apply to lease the same furniture from us. Since there’s no credit check required – we are able to process the customer’s application using various other data sources – the customer is not entering into a debt obligation. We simply purchase the desired furniture from the retailer, and the customer enters into a lease agreement with us. That product is called AcceptanceNOW.
We have about 1,400 AcceptanceNOW locations nationwide. At those kiosks, we process close to 100,000 applications a month — certainly more during seasonal peaks, like Black Friday or Christmas.
A: Wow. So, you are building on the AcceptanceNOW product using risk analytics. Are there other channels that you’re optimizing as well?
J: Yes. We receive up to 50,000 applications a month through our eCommerce channel. This channel has been a massive growth opportunity for us.
From a business perspective, automating the decisioning of applications through the online channel enables us to evaluate a far greater number of customers than we could in a store setting. In the store, if a visitor is a first-time customer, he or she will go through the application process. Due to the nature of in-store applications, they can take more time – the store staff is tending to the application while the customer is waiting. Automating approvals, and doing so quickly, on our eCommerce platform means we quickly approve the customer online and then refer them to the store with approval. It helps increase the efficiency of our store staff and decreases the wait time for the customer.
A: What are your decisioning times in the eCommerce scenario?
J: We are very focused on providing a positive customer experience, so speed is top of mind. Shoppers don’t have to wait minutes to get a decision; they are consistently receiving responses in less than ten seconds.
In AcceptanceNOW, we have seen an increase in volume. More specifically, we have seen an increase in the number of customers that we can approve. At the same time, we feel that we are making better decisions about how much we can approve for each customer. Provenir has contributed to that by allowing us to implement much more sophisticated decisioning than our previous solution enabled us to do.
A: Wow. So, tell us about the future. What’s next for Rent-A-Center?
J: We have a Decision Analytics Team here that builds predictive models to determine if a customer’s application can be approved. Because we use Provenir, we manage the rules engine, or the decision engine, internally with our team. Any changes that we need to make, any adjustments, those are things that we can make very rapidly without having to go to IT with change requests. With that freedom, we are always reviewing to ensure our models are optimal.
We are also taking this technology and leveraging it to expand the channels we discussed earlier – AcceptanceNOW, our eCommerce channel, and also the core Rent-A-Center brand. We are hyper-focused on creating value for the customer, and as the leader in rent-to-own, we are well positioned to take advantage of this technology to propel us upward over another great year.
Of course, we are looking forward to leveraging Provenir’s product roadmap, especially as it relates to new advanced analytics.