Bolt: Interview with CEO Ryan Breslow on the Future of Ecommerce
An interview with Ryan Breslow, CEO of Bolt, on Bolt's role in ecommerce and where the industry is heading.
Back in October I sat down with Ryan Breslow from Bolt to get his hot takes on where ecommerce is heading and how Bolt is influencing the landscape. Below is a transcript(edited for clarity and readability) of the conversation. Enjoy!
J: Hey Ryan, thanks so much for chatting. So to start off, can you give the 30 second pitch on Bolt and why you built it?
R: Sure. Bolt is the first checkout experience platform. It's a new category of software and a commerce platform all centered around checkout. So we don't only make the front end of that. The buying experience is also for consumers, we provide all the hard technology that goes into a transactional stack underneath. So everything from your payment methods, alternative payment methods, gateways, tokenization to tax, shipping, fulfillment integrations, card integrations, OMS ERP in an end to end full stack checkout.
That's what we do. And you know, we also have this really amazing single click product where anyone that checks out once on the Bolt network can check anywhere else. So at the end of the day, large retailers use us to improve the buying experience, reduce their technical overhead and push that to Bolt benefit from this amazing one click network.
J: Awesome. And could you explain a bit about the difference between Bolt and some of the newer players like Fast who are aiming to provide one click checkout?
Unlike Fast that functions as an alternate payment method, Bolt is the core checkout flow. So we handle guest checkouts as well as integrate with other payment methods and digital wallets like PayPal or Apple Pay, AfterPay, and Google Pay. Those are all encapsulated into the Bolt platform rather than compete with them. So we’re solving checkout end to end, not just adding another button to an existing checkout.
We're not a digital wallet necessarily on our own, even though we do have this saved profile information across the network.
J: That makes a lot of sense. I think a lot of people don't understand that distinction. So where do you see ecommerce going in the next five years … the next 10 years?
R: Well, I definitely see it growing considerably. You know, pre-pandemic brick and mortar was the dominant platform for commerce - a hundred trillion dollars globally in brick and mortar ecommerce - only 3 trillion was ecommerce. That hundred trillion is moving online faster than ever.
Every single retailer around the world is in their board rooms or their Zoom room saying “how do we digitally transform and bring our business online?” Everything is moving online … there still will be brick and mortar, but that's going to be a lot more lightweight. Brick and Mortar is going to turn into fulfillment centers, showrooms … they’re not going to hold as much inventory. At least that’s my bet!
J: Like an Amazon four star?
R: Exactly. Yeah. And I think digital is going to be the dominant platform for commerce. The problem though is that digital is so far behind technology-wise and folks can barely get basic commerce working, let alone doing cool things, and advanced things. So that's what we kind of hope to solve.
J: Totally. I would say, over the past 20 years traditional commerce has kind of stagnated in terms of the platforms that have been used to sell goods.
I don't know how closely you follow the Chinese market around ecommerce… do you see the potential of social commerce coming into play in the US more and more?
R: Yeah, I think with social commerce we've already seen that with kind of Instagram shopping, to some degree. I think we're going to see more of that, to some degree, for sure.
And, you know, I still do think that the kind of traditional ecommerce is going to grow significantly where you're discovering products by a search with high intent to purchase … or I think what we're seeing is kind of the proliferation of brands. For essentials, you're going to go to Amazon. And if you want to buy a laptop stand at a reasonable price, reasonable quality, and get it delivered quickly you’ll go to Amazon.
But then we're going to see brand affinity become really important. So you look at Nike with their shoe drops or Supreme. We're going to start becoming followers of brands and hooking into their communities and their loyalty, and then buying in that way, I think is a very kind of dominant trend.
J: Do you see people(influencers/celebrities) being more attached to ecommerce than brands in the future?
R: They're going to be key ingredients in terms of brand building. I think they're going to actively shape commerce more than ever before ... and they already are. So yeah, absolutely.
J: What's your take on headless commerce? There's a lot of companies building for headless ecommerce … what do you think?
R:Yeah … I think there's a big need for it. There's always going to be the need for your end to end closed ecosystem … Shopify for your upstart apparel business that wants everything taken care of for them. That’s certainly always going to have a use case, but for the folks that have complex commerce workflows that have international requirements, are omni-channel or, you know, in different industries that have different types commerce experiences are definitely going to need open commerce tools … we see a lot of that at Bolt. A lot of our customers are integrated with some type of open commerce platform. I think the trend is going to continue and you're going to need open tools and then you're going to also need hosted solutions for different parts of your stack.
So that's where we come in at checkout … you shouldn't be rebuilding the checkout stack. You’ll do a really bad job at it, it costs hundreds of millions of dollars to do correctly. And Bolt isn’t super bespoke ... we can style it to match your brand.
J: It's functional. The core of it isn’t UI, right?
R: Yeah, exactly. Innovate in your products … like how that podcast is displayed and targeted to customers and how people navigated through your products on the website … that should be what differentiates you.
J: Yeah, totally. That makes a lot of sense. I'm curious, how many countries do you guys service right now?
R: So we today have worked with only US domiciled merchants … but we work with complex international requirements.
J: Have you ever thought about servicing other countries?
R: It's definitely on the roadmap.
J: If someone's looking to innovate in the ecommerce space, where do you think there's still a major gap outside of checkout and outside of what you're working on … where do you think there's still a major hole in the market?
R: I think there are a lot of holes in the market. Where would I focus? So I think backend type things like ordering management and fulfillment systems are very clunky and very old school. Startups don't work on them because they're not familiar with them … but businesses need to run off these systems.
It's not sexy, but businesses need to run off of these systems. ERP’s as well. And we don't really see anybody doing great work there. As far as new tech, I think personalization as well pre checkout… so how you custom tailor your ecommerce experience depending on the shopper that's landing on your site.
Not showing the same thing to everybody.
J: So like a Clearbit for ecom?
R: Yeah, exactly. I think that's a big opportunity. I think there's a lot of companies doing smarter fulfillment routing, so they're like Amazon prime 2 day. For example, this company Deliverr does smart routing between your warehouses and helps you ship things out to be able to maximize your percentage of products that you can ship today.
So I think that competing with Amazon two day shipping is a great category as well. Loyalty is another one that's kind of really clunky and nobody really does well. So those are my initial thoughts.
J: That's awesome. Thanks so much for chatting Ryan