How Forever 21 Accelerated its E-Commerce Growth
We’ve all done it: We get to that point of finishing our purchase and we’re presented with the choice of checking out as a guest or creating an account with the retailer.
Some part of us knows that we should just create the account — but then we hesitate. The form, the fields, the time, the delay. We just want to buy what we set out to buy, so we press “guest checkout” and finish the transaction as swiftly as possible.
For retailers, this decision point is a critical one. When a customer chooses a guest checkout, they're sending you a signal — and costing you a lifelong relationship. Because when they decide to forgo account creation, they’ve told you that it’s too cumbersome for them. They’ve chosen the future inconvenience of inputting all of their information again over the momentary difficulty of creating an account.
But what if that choice didn’t have to exist? A case study featuring a global retail brand has demonstrated a better way forward.
Case Study: Forever 21
Forever 21 is a household name and a leader in culture and fashion, both in the U.S. and abroad. Rare among apparel brands, it has a multigenerational customer base — which means a need for tech tools and services that span generations.
During the pandemic, Forever 21 initiated a process to do just that. It overhauled its enterprise, digital and omnichannel technology, with special emphasis on creating a frictionless, quick and safe online checkout experience. Forever 21 needed to improve its checkout across all devices, specifically mobile. The retailer also wanted to save payment information across its portfolio brands — e.g., between Forever 21 and Lucky Brand — so shoppers didn’t have to input information.
Forever 21 accomplished these changes with the help of Bolt, which enabled the retailer to deliver a convenient one-click checkout across platforms. Bolt’s technology helped Forever 21 cater to younger customers, who tend to prefer a mobile-first shopping experience, and it enabled the fashion brand to have a simple post-purchase journey, along with the high-quality customer experience they would get at a traditional retail location.
What’s more, the Bolt network was a benefit for both existing Forever 21 customers and for new customers who visited the site but had never shopped with the retailer before. Because past Bolt account shoppers are automatically recognized by their email or phone number, they can move through Forever 21’s checkout without ever having to enter a password, payment or shipping information — despite having never shopped at Forever 21 before.
Know Your Customer When They Arrive — and Keep Them in Your Orbit Once They Leave
By upgrading its checkout experience with Bolt, Forever 21 was able to increase its conversion rate dramatically, notching a 63 percent checkout rate for Bolt accounts compared to a 40 percent checkout rate for guest accounts. That’s the power of simplifying checkout, reducing friction and seamlessly logging customers in.
Thanks to today’s technology, brands can know who a customer is right when they arrive, and a mere email address or phone number can yield everything needed to help them complete a purchase. Automated recognition of shipping, payment and account information can seem simple, but it shaves precious seconds from the buying process and thus eliminates lost conversions. In Forever 21’s case, Bolt account holders breezed through checkout 43 seconds faster than their guest checkout counterparts. In an era in which consumers’ attention is pulled this way and that, every second counts.
Crucially, these same enhancements must exist across platforms: phone, laptop, tablet and desktop. Consumers are expecting the same seamless experience on social platforms as on native websites, and brands will have to make sure to unify their presence anywhere their customers are.
It sounds daunting to undertake this kind of change, but it doesn’t have to be. And the rewards are self-evident: Customers can check out friction-free, and retailers benefit from higher conversion rates, lower cart abandonment rates, and retention of key first-party data.
Shilpi Narang is the senior vice president of customer experience at Bolt, a checkout technology company, where she leads the organization in charge of delighting Bolt’s retailers and their customers.
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Shilpi Narang is the senior vice president of customer experience at Bolt, a checkout technology company, where she leads the organization in charge of delighting Bolt’s retailers and their customers. Previously, she worked at Facebook’s first enterprise SaaS business, spearheading the growth of their largest and most complex customers. Shilpi has 20+ years of experience in creating go-to-market teams that deliver high growth and consistent results. In the workplace, Shilpi has always been passionate about supporting and advancing women in technology and leadership.