For Authentic Brands Group, the future of physical retail depends on a quick and easy e-commerce payment experience. 

The New York-based brand management company is on a mission to resurrect a growing menu of struggling brands it co-owns, including Forever 21, Brooks Brothers and Lucky Brand. The latest step in this journey is the launch of a single-click digital payment experience.

The new checkout experience, the product of a partnership with fintech startup Bolt, will be rolled out on Forever 21’s e-commerce site this week. It will eventually make its way to all ABG brands that operate e-commerce sites, and act as a foundation for a cross-brand loyalty program that will launch in the future, Adam Kronengold, ABG’s chief digital officer, told Glossy.

“Solving an issue like checkout and payment is first on our list, in terms of our digital transformation,” he said. “It’s a massive opportunity for us to increase convenience for the customer and drive affinity and conversion across our portfolio of brands.”

Prior to the Bolt partnership, the online checkout workflow for ABG’s brands was messy: Users had to navigate through multiple payment pages and enter shipping and billing information. The experience caused many to abandon their carts, a problem many digital retailers are working to solve. It’s estimated that the rate of cart abandonment is more than 70% for digital retailers, resulting in an estimated $18 billion in lost sales revenue each year. Beyond salvaging some abandoned carts, the saved payment information will form the basis for customer profiles, loyalty programs across brands and increased customer lifetime value. When rolled out to ABG’s portfolio of brands, Bolt checkout will be available to 50 million shoppers.

In recent years, retailers have scrambled to compete with Amazon’s one-click checkout, the patent for which expired in 2017. Retailers’ options for one-click solutions have grown, including PayPal One Touch, Click to Pay from the major card networks and marketplace solutions like Shopify’s Shop Pay. In addition, startups like Fast and Bolt joined the group of companies seeking to enhance retailers’ access to one-click checkouts.

The timing for an updated checkout experience aligns with the enhanced importance of e-commerce during the pandemic, said Daniel Keyes, a payments and e-commerce research analyst at Insider Intelligence.

“During the pandemic, e-commerce is, if not a retailer’s only selling option, way more important than it’s ever been. And you need to avoid causing consumers to abandon the cart and abandon the purchase because of friction at checkout,” he said. 

ABG said it chose Bolt because of its ease of use and ability to operate alongside the various tech stacks across the ABG brand portfolio.

The Bolt checkout process features two transaction flows: one for guests and another for members. The guest payment onboarding process takes place entirely on the same page and takes 30 seconds, because it eliminates the need for a billing address and pre-fills other information wherever possible. If the customer agrees to save their payment information and create a profile, they become a member and can purchase goods with one click and shop at other brands that use Bolt checkout. Adding Bolt checkouts increases conversion rates by around 10%, according to the company’s CEO, Ryan Breslow.

“We all want instant experiences; we have instant access to movies and transportation and we have instant checkout on Amazon. But when we shop at independent brands, we suffer from a consumer experience standpoint,” he said. “Every brand needs single-click [checkout].”

For ABG, payments underpin a customer loyalty approach that will also likely influence the physical retail experience of the future. A cross-brand membership program, which the company expects to roll out in the coming months, will tie in experiences across the brand portfolio, including those that aren’t in the fashion category, the company said. Its non-fashion companies include brands such as Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and Sports Illustrated. ABG’s portfolio of more than 50 brands reportedly generates $14-plus billion in annual retail sales.

“The giant advantage of standardizing the checkout and using Bolt across our portfolio is that it allows us to use it as a building block to create loyalty programs across the portfolio,” Kronengold said. “We’re extremely bullish and excited about these digital adventures, in conjunction with Bolt, to improve the customer experience and how customers interact with our brands.”