Bolt’s Hilary Neve on How Business Checkout System Helps Build Customer Relations

Bolt’s Hilary Neve on How Business Checkout System Helps Build Customer Relations

Interview by Friena GuerreroFriena Guerrero
Published: July 15, 2023

Who Is Hilary Neve

Hilary Neve is Bolt’s SVP of Marketing & Communications. Previously, the Head of Cultural Initiatives and Consumer Communications at Google, Hilary has extensive experience in building some of the world's most coveted tech, luxury, and lifestyle brands. Her high-profile campaigns and content integrate digital marketing, social media, influencer programming, PR, events, advertising, and thought leadership. Before Google, she started and founded the tech and fashion PR agency, banzai!

Technology in the eCommerce space has evolved tremendously since the first online sale was purportedly made in 1994 for a CD of British singer Sting’s Ten Summoner’s Tales. Since then, a lot has changed.

Online businesses now have more insights into the right eCommerce marketing strategies to lead consumers to their products pages and artificial intelligence is opening even more avenues for businesses to better understand their markets and convince them to load their virtual shopping carts.

As the eCommerce landscape continues to develop, however, one thing appears certain, and that’s that consumers’ very human behavior, tendencies, and even neuroses will continue to influence whether they ultimately click the checkout button or not.

In this interview with Spotlight, Bolt’s Hilary Neve shares how a business’s checkout process and technology can smoothen the path from “intent” to “purchase.” Beyond frictionless transactions, we also explore how independent eCommerce businesses can protect themselves against fraudulent buyers while providing more personalized services to their genuine customers, and what the future of eCommerce may look like as we step into the AI age.

eCommerce has become woven into our lives, even more so after the pandemic. Yet, according to research from the Baynard Institute, almost 70% of shoppers abandon their shopping carts and don’t complete their purchase. What do you think online businesses need to know about their shoppers’ mindsets when it comes to pressing the checkout button?

Hilary Neve: This is a huge problem for retailers, and it’s something we’ve been working on for years. Shoppers abandon their carts for a variety of reasons, but it usually comes down to two main categories: distraction and inconvenience. In a recent survey we conducted of 1,000 U.S. adult shoppers, we found that 51% have multiple tabs open while online shopping, and 32% say remembering their account login is the biggest challenge when shopping online. Retailers aren’t just competing with other brands—but distracted and hasty customers. The solution? Make checkout as quick, simple, and painless as possible so you can get customers from intent to purchase more efficiently and more often.

What is your story? How does Bolt work and how does it stand out from other similar tools in the market?

Bolt’s mission is to level the playing field for independent eCommerce businesses—and we’re committed to empowering our retailers above all else. Unlike other commerce players who tie their merchants to restrictive, centralized eCommerce ecosystems, Bolt is the only checkout vendor helping retailers better connect with their shoppers and solve conversion in a merchant-friendly way. This allows enterprise merchants like Casper, Fanatics, and Revolve to keep their existing brand look and feel while picking and choosing the aspects of Bolt's technology that suit their unique business needs. By offering frictionless, passwordless shopper account creation and a network of tens of millions of shoppers, Bolt allows retailers to identify more customers and enhance their relationships with new and existing customers—helping them increase the lifetime value of every shopper along the way. Bolt also makes checkout faster and more convenient for consumers by offering logged-in, one-click experiences, generating 10-15% higher conversion than guest shoppers.

Not being able to engage with shoppers on a face-to-face basis makes it tricky for a business to truly get to know its market. How does Bolt help businesses know their shoppers better, convert them into buyers, and get them to buy again?

One phrase that we find ourselves telling retailers is “you can’t personalize until you know the person.” Considering that another recent survey we conducted—this one of beauty industry shoppers—revealed that 58% of shoppers are willing to pay at least 10% more for personalized online shopping experiences and 68% are more likely to purchase from brands that offer personalized beauty recommendations and experiences, retailers in this vertical and across eCommerce are chasing this shopper recognition more today than ever before. Bolt has been at the forefront of the shopper identification revolution, and we have the success metrics to back it up. When a retailer turns Bolt on, they’ll immediately recognize 17% of all U.S. shoppers—and that number balloons to 43% of shoppers after just a few months with Bolt enabled. Take Badgley Mischka, who saw their account creation increase by 100% after implementing Bolt—and their average order value increase by as much as 15% during the holiday season. What we see is this value is not just temporary or short term, but leads to increasingly valuable, loyal shoppers—and massive business impact.

According to Juniper Research, eCommerce losses due to online fraud are expected to grow to $50 billion in 2023. How can businesses approve the right orders or flag suspicious activity? In the same vein, how can they avoid declining suspicious orders that might actually be genuine?

You’re absolutely right—fraud is increasingly costly and difficult to identify for retailers. With Bolt’s best-in-class fraud solution, we’ve been able to tackle this challenge head on. Our fraud (solution) utilizes advanced machine learning models that analyze over 200 unique indicators—nearly instantaneously—for every transaction. As a full-stack solution handling checkout, payments, and fraud, we have unique visibility into the full suite of checkout payment information to use for fraud detection purposes. While traditional fraud vendors are incentivized to block as many fraudulent orders as possible, our existence as both a payments and fraud company makes sure our goals are aligned with the retailer—minimizing false positives and bringing the revenue back to all of the retailers that use this aspect of our checkout technology software. False positives are always top of mind for us, and we’ve worked closely with retailers to innovate in this area. For pet industry leader Puppyspot, we designed Rejected Order Insights—a feature that gives them visibility into why an order was rejected. Instead of having to wait multiple days to better understand—and evaluate—these positives, Puppyspot can now complete their review in just seven minutes. Another fraud success story is Polywood. Since switching to Bolt, this leading outdoor furniture retailer has incurred $0 in fraud losses. Yes, really, zero. Combine this staggering difference with the fact that they’ve saved over 40 hours per week of manual fraud review, and it’s easy to see how Bolt helped them achieve a 5% lift in monthly revenue.

You’ve worked with clients in diverse fields, including fashion, cosmetics, automotive, restaurant supply, and even the pet industry as you’ve mentioned above – each of which have their own challenges when it comes to converting buyers into shoppers and safeguarding against fraud. Do you have a favorite success story where Bolt was instrumental in boosting a company’s sales?

Absolutely, and I do appreciate you capturing both the depth and breadth of our roster of retailers. We cover all the industries you mention and more, helping SMBs and mid-market retailers improve their conversion with an optimized checkout experience while offering enterprise retailers the unique opportunity to plug and play different aspects of our tech while keeping their brand front and center. I think it is a key distinction here—you mention fraud specifically, and that’s a huge value add for many of our merchants, but not for others who instead utilize just our payment processing, account linking, or many or some of our other offerings. To get back to your question on fraud specifically, one that comes to mind is SkinMedix—because they showcase our success in this area but also in how well-rounded our solutions prove to be. Not only did this retailer see their approval rate soar to over 99% after going live with us, but they boosted their repeat customers by 20% and saw 29% of their retail sales coming from those with Bolt accounts. These are the types of significant—and well-rounded—successes that retailers need in this challenging climate, and we’re proud to be powering these businesses in a truly win-win fashion.

Do you think AI will be a turning point for eCommerce? What applications do you see for AI in checkout technology?

As I teased earlier, we’ve been incorporating AI into our fraud product for years. Of course, the landscape has changed dramatically in just a few short months. We think AI has the potential to completely transform eCommerce in as little as 18 months—and personalization feels like the first frontier that AI is primed to immediately disrupt. A staggering 80% of Gen Z and 62% of shoppers overall are more inclined to purchase a beauty product if they can find their perfect formula using technology. What’s more is 43% of customers would rather use AI-powered shade-matching online than doing so in-store. Now imagine the potential as AI becomes even more ubiquitous and powerful. Retailers need to be tracking this closely, and we’re planning to stay ahead of innovation to ensure they’re well positioned to adapt to the ever-evolving landscape.

What does the future of eCommerce look like to you?

Shoppers will soon demand frictionless commerce on every surface. We like to say that the future of checkout is check-in, meaning shoppers will be instantly recognized early in the process and offered one-click ease wherever they’re buying. In practice, we see this manifesting itself most prominently in omnichannel experiences. Last year at New York Fashion Week, Bolt launched Checkout Links at Revolve Gallery. Shoppers could scan a QR code on a physical product, taking them directly to a Revolve-branded, one-click checkout page. Revolve noted a 35% year-over-year increase in total orders last fall—and thus chose to deepen the partnership with Bolt this summer at FWRD’s popup in LA. This iteration of Checkout Links had the biggest impact on the speed of checkout for popup shoppers. Seeing a median checkout time of just 28 seconds, this offering allows for faster purchasing than most in-store self checkout kiosks, let alone traditional in-store experiences. These types of omnichannel innovations are clearly the future of ecommerce: resulting in higher conversion, reduced checkout friction, and perhaps most critically–shoppers associating their positive experience with the brand they are shopping with rather than that of an alternative payment method or tech provider.

Keep up with Bolt on LinkedIn and read about other successful businesses here.

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