During Ryan Breslow’s presentation at the WWD Apparel & Retail CEO Summit, the founder and chief executive officer of Bolt said that if he went back in a time machine to the 1950s and visited a department store such as Gimbels, “and told them that they could connect to any of their customers, anytime, they would have fallen out of their seats.”
Still, Breslow said retailers today have learned a lot from brick-and-mortar retailing, noting that a “good part of a retailer success depends on what retailers have known for decades. To quote Stanley Marcus, ‘The distinguishing factor between one retailer and another is how skillful they are at making it a pleasant experience, instead of a hostile experience.”
Simple, and true. And yet, Breslow said many merchants struggle with offering a pleasant shopping experience online — especially with the checkout experience. And when shoppers have a sour checkout experience, it can tarnish the brand and the retailer.
Indeed, a poor checkout experience Breslow had was the impetus to him founding Bolt, a one-click checkout solution. In his presentation, “How to Win the Shoppers of the Future,” Breslow recounted a more recent checkout issue that is typical of most consumer experiences.
“A few weeks ago, I went to buy a watch online,” he said. “This is probably the part of the story where I should tell you, it was for a gift for somebody else. But we’re all friends here, so I’ll admit, it was for me.”
Breslow said he went to the website, found the watch he wanted, clicked the quantity of one “and I clicked ‘add to cart.’ After that, I pressed the button to go to the cart itself. So now we’re two clicks in.” He then searched for the checkout button, after reviewing his car. He found it, and pressed it. “Now we’re three clicks in. Then it was off to a page to enter my shipping information, followed by a page asking for my credit card number, followed by a page asking for my billing information,” he said. “This was one of those websites where they didn’t magically fill in the forms for you but I made my way through clicks four or five and six.”
He said after having spent more time filling in information about his purchase than actually having thought about the purchase itself, “I press next again. Seven clicks. Oh, but wait. There’s more. I now needed to complete my purchase. There was nothing new on this particular page, just a big green button that said complete purchase. Eight clicks.”
Well, he ended up getting the security code incorrect. “Happens all the time. So here we go. I’m going to enter that correctly. The watch is soon going to be mine,” he said. “Except for right when I was about to complete the purchase, I got a phone call from my friend and we went and talked about, I don’t remember what we talked about, but it completely distracted me from the purchase, which had already taken way longer than I had ever anticipated.”
What happens next is no surprise. The site had eventually timed him out of the cart. “I imagine that this story sounds familiar to many of you in the room, maybe too familiar, not only for yourselves personally but for what your shoppers experience every day,” he said, noting that consumers often feel “this immense pain at the moment of the purchase. And like, ‘Why do I have to go through all these steps just to give you my money?’ I created a company called Bolt to solve this exact problem. We help retailers transform their online checkout experience into an amazing, delightful, magical shopping experience.”
Breslow’s company started with one retailer and a handful of users. Now, Bolt has tens of millions of shoppers, he said, adding that Bolt is designed as “an open ecosystem where consumers can use one identity, carry that around wherever they go on the web, use buy online, pick up in-store, pay later products, and do all of it with one click.”
The CEO said the company has lined up deals “for our next hundred million shoppers who are all joining over the next 12 to 18 months.”
Breslow said as the company scales, he’s learned a lot. “I probably learned more than I have in the entire past decade. I’ve spoken to retailers of all sizes, talking about their technology solutions and unfortunately many of them have left disappointed, mostly because of the experience, but also about all the time and money that went into these products without a lot of results to show for it.”
And he said it wasn’t that the retailers didn’t know about customers having trouble shopping online. “They knew the problem. It’s just that with only a few hours in the day to dedicate to it, they didn’t really know where to start. They couldn’t put the time, energy and resources into doing it right.”
Bolt set out to address these pain points. For consumers, there’s no need to remember financial information, CVV codes and billing details. And it’s safe and secure. For retailers and brands, the value proposition is higher conversion rates and happier shoppers.
Of course, Amazon has had one-click checkout for some time. But now, with the acceleration of digital investments, other retailers and brands can offer the same. And in discussing the how retail has changed, Breslow cites a key stat: nearly 75 percent of shoppers “will search for their information on something that they want to buy, before they go into a store to purchase it. Think about that for a second. They could just walk into a store, see and touch and hold the item and then take it home. But instead, they’re firing up a phone or a browser, studying pictures, studying reviews, and only then going in to see the real-life equivalent.”
“The storefront is no longer just the four walls of your building or even just your online store,” he said. “It’s anywhere your customer is. It’s on Instagram stories. It’s on Pinterest. It’s in video games. It’s through WhatsApp messages. It’s in chatbot. It’s in QR codes.”
With Bolt, Breslow said brands and merchants can “bring your storefront to anywhere your customers are shopping online and they get the same, one click, magic touch experience on social media, on news sites — anywhere where they discover your brand and products. Let them see the product and let them buy it without ever having to reenter their credit card or billing information.”