Bolt CEO Says Shopper Identity Will Redefine Retail

It was former GE chairman and management guru Jack Welch who once said: “You can’t grow long-term if you can’t eat short-term. Anybody can manage short. Anybody can manage long. Balancing those two things is what management is.”

The FinTech category over the past year is living proof of that lesson. Some companies have proven themselves to be agile in adjusting their business models; some companies have learned Welch’s lesson the hard way by failing to see past the next quarter’s numbers. One new CEO who seems to be on the path toward balancing short-term and long-term strategy is Bolt’s Justin Grooms. After spending five years as the eCommerce checkout technology company’s general manager for global sales, Grooms is a little more than 90 days into his role and has already shown a short-term focus on the customer experience. He complements that with a long-term focus on the future of eCommerce retailing and the technology that will keep consumers valuable and loyal to his clients who include Casper, Revolve, Signet, Hanes, Toys R Us, Kay Jewelers and Saks OFF 5TH.


“I think that the better shopping experience is the edge retailers are searching for,” Grooms told PYMNTS CEO Karen Webster. “I think also that focusing on getting people from that initial product page all the way through the entire buying experience as quickly as possible is very important to merchants right now … because they’re still spending as much or more to get that prospective dollar in the door. Being able to manage the times when a retailer should be cart-building, or when it should be driving a quick purchase — those are all things that identity plays a big role in.”

Removing Friction

Bolt specializes in enhancing eCommerce experiences by offering a one-click checkout process. In keeping with Grooms’ focus on removing friction from the customer experience its platform integrates with retailers’ existing systems, allowing customers to complete purchases quickly and securely without unnecessary redirects or steps. By leveraging Bolt’s technology, the company has positioned itself to help retailers streamline the checkout process, reduce cart abandonment and increase conversion rates.

A good example of Bolt’s impact is its collaboration with Revolve, an online fashion retailer. Revolve implemented Bolt’s native one-click shopping experience, which integrated with its existing checkout and branding. This setup allowed recognized shoppers to enter a secure, one-time password, automatically populating all their account information, including shipping and billing details, eliminating extra steps. During an A/B test from April to June 2023, Revolve saw significant improvements in key performance indicators with Bolt. Shoppers using Bolt saw a 3.2% lift in checkout conversion and a 4% increase in revenue. Additionally, mobile conversion rates for Bolt account holders were 30% higher compared to guest shoppers.

That’s the short-term part of Grooms’ job. But as he also told Webster, his company needs to meet “retailers where they are” in terms of their tech stack as he looks to add to the merchant profile that connects 80 million consumers in the Bolt network. At this point, Bolt’s technology it strictly behind the scenes, prioritizing the retailers’ brand over Bolt’s. And for the merchant side of that ecosystem to be successful, what he sees so far is that vertically focused retailers do a better job attracting and retaining consumers than their general merchandise counterparts. Part of that advantage comes from a better checkout experience.

“Let’s say you’re [mattress and bedding retailer] Casper,” Grooms said. “You’ve developed strong relationships with your customers. They like your product. They continuously come back to your site or to your stores to buy your product. They seek you out through other channels. They’ve sort of naturally started doing well. We see in, in this marketplace as it’s evolved, we’re seeing the larger department store type of merchants now. They want to have that relationship with customers too. And we need to be able to have that relationship quickly with new customers that are coming to join us.”

The Future Experience

The future of checkout technology, according to Grooms, lies in creating an invisible and seamless experience for shoppers. Unlike traditional checkout buttons, Bolt’s technology integrates behind existing fields on merchant sites, allowing for a frictionless process. “Our merchants want to maintain agency over their digital experience,” Grooms said.

Grooms emphasized that this approach reduces friction and maintains the integrity of the customer’s relationship with the merchant. He said it is particularly beneficial for large, multibillion-dollar merchants, making it easier for them to enhance customer experience without overhauling their existing systems.

A key focus for Bolt is capturing and leveraging consumer identity. “Shopper identity goes beyond just a name and shipping address,” Grooms said. He highlighted the importance of creating a personalized experience for shoppers, similar to Amazon’s approach. “When you show up on your Amazon homepage, it looks different from mine. That’s the true identity our merchants are trying to replicate,” he said.

Grooms believes that identifying shoppers as soon as they hit a site and providing a curated experience is crucial. “This makes shoppers more likely to buy and fosters a long-standing relationship with the merchant,” he noted. This approach to identity is not just about passing wallet data but about creating a meaningful and personalized shopping experience.

Holiday Spending Outlook

Grooms noted a significant shift in consumer spending patterns across Bolt’s network. “We are seeing more shoppers spreading their spend across various merchants,” he said. Historically, high-income shoppers consolidated their purchases with a few big retailers. Now, they are diversifying, exploring different types of merchants. This trend, according to Grooms, is partly due to improvements in product discovery.

“The search portion of shopping is getting better, and opportunities for product discovery are increasing,” he said.

Looking ahead to the 2024 holiday season, Grooms is optimistic. “This is going to be a very different holiday season in really good ways,” he predicted. “Merchants will see new shoppers they’ve never encountered before, creating chances to develop relationships with them.”

Grooms emphasized the importance of the first impression in this context. “If the checkout experience stinks, shoppers won’t return,” he said.