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The biggest holiday shopping season is around the corner. And every merchant is wondering what they can do to grab a healthy slice of the $17 billion in projected sales this year.

In an effort to help you prepare for Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM), Bolt has been diligently tracking merchants’ Q3 year-over-year numbers and diving into recent customer success stories to capture insights.

Here’s what the numbers from a select group of Bolt merchants say about what to expect from this BFCM season.

1. Even though the pandemic is slowing down, ecommerce sales are not

The pandemic dramatically changed the ecommerce landscape. In a matter of a few weeks, traditional retailers moved sales online, and established ecomm businesses innovated at lightning speeds.

As a result, ecommerce sales skyrocketed. In fact, eMarketer reports show that ecommerce reached an all-time high in 2020, accounting for 16.4% of total global retail sales. And McKinsey reported 10 years’ worth of ecommerce growth happening in the 90 days from the end of 2019 to Q1 of 2020.

This story of ecommerce growth is remarkable—but the real question is, “will the ecommerce momentum continue through BFCM?”

Stats from Bolt say, “Yes!”

When comparing numbers across Bolt merchants from Q3 2020 and Q3 2021, total revenue is up by 12%. This shows an upward trend in online spending that will continue through BFCM.

Additionally, the total number of transactions is up 1%. At first glance, a 1% increase in transactions might not seem significant. What’s significant, however, is that ecommerce transactions are rising, even as the pandemic slows.

What does it all mean? It means the time is now to sort out your online checkout process because customers are still buying online in abundance.

2. Retail sales will increase the closer we get to BFCM

Here’s another interesting data story from crunching Bolt’s numbers. While total transactions were down YOY in July, they increased by 4% and 3%, respectively, in August and September.

This says that consumers are following traditional suit and spending more money online the closer it gets to BFCM.

Here are three different ways to quantify the increase in online sales this quarter of 2021.

1. There was an increase in the number of transactions in August and September compared to last year. Translation: People are making more purchases this year.

2. Revenue was up all three months when comparing YoY numbers.
Translation: Consumers are spending more overall this year than the previous year.

3. Consumers’ average order value (AOV) is higher this year for both guest users and Bolt account users. Translation: Consumers will spend more per purchase than they did last year.

This is all to say, consumers are spending more this year—especially as we near BFCM. And brands are already working hard to capture a portion of these sales.

Ben Jabbawy, founder of Privy, says we’re already seeing “BF starts now” sales, and predicts we will see the same tactics we’ve seen in the last few years, considering how well they work. These tactics include sitewide discounts, offering a free gift with purchase, BOGO, and tiered spend to save discounts, according to Jabbawy.

Steve Norris, VP of Sales Engineering at TrueCommerce, agrees with Ben’s analysis that we will see earlier BFCM promotions and explains why.

He says, “this year’s “Black Friday” events are starting even earlier because of ongoing supply chain issues. Some major retailers have already started their holiday sales. Black Friday has evolved from a single day to a two-day event to a week or more. But this year, brands are getting started early, and some are making it a four-week event to capture sales and help reduce the strain that a one- or two-day sale can put on an already delayed supply chain and limited warehouse staff.”

Since consumers are already pulling out their pocketbooks and supply chain issues may make it harder to keep up with holiday demand, it makes sense for retailers to start releasing promotions early, and to properly prepare their websites early for an influx of sales this holiday season.

3. Apparel and accessory brands will win out this year

“Demand remains strong as fall transitions to winter, particularly with such a seasonal offering such as sweaters.” -Rose Smullen, International eCommerce Manager at The Sweater Shop.

When comparing Bolt’s YOY revenue gains across different verticals, the apparel and accessories vertical saw the most significant increase. Stats showed a 70% rise in sales from last year at this time, and there are no signs of sales slowing down throughout the BFCM season.

This YOY increase in the apparel vertical represents a 43% rise over the next vertical with notably high gains. This huge jump means apparel and accessories are a consumer favorite, and people are shelling out the cash to prove it.

Numbers from The Sweater Shop sing a similar tune. Rose said when they closed stores during BFCM of 2020 due to COVID they saw 200%+ ecommerce gains.

While Rose expects the ecommerce numbers will ease slightly this year with retail outlets open again, she predicts online apparel sales will still be notably high.

Other verticals that also so high revenue gains Q3 over Q3 per Bolt’s data are electronics (27%) and flowers, gifts, and specialty items (24%).

4. More merchants will invest in optimizing the checkout process & experience positive results

Cart abandonment rates are alarmingly high. Most recent stats show the average abandonment rate across all industries is nearly 70%.

The same research shows that $260 billion in lost revenue could be recovered by engaging in one strategic move—optimizing the checkout process.

The numbers from Bolt support this conclusion. This last quarter, Bolt saw a 17% lift in account creation and significant rises in revenue across all three months.

 

Additionally, there was a 46% lift in the number of checkouts that occurred via a Bolt account either created on a merchant’s site or on a cross-network Bolt account.

To top it off, Bolt data shows that higher checkout completion rates correlate with higher Bolt account registration rates.

“Consumer expectations for seamless, one-click checkout only increased in 2021 and will increase that much more over the Black Friday-Cyber Monday shopping seasons,” said Ian Leslie, Bolt’s senior director of retail advocacy. “The next step won’t simply be offering one-click checkout on your site but extending that offering across social media, affiliate placements and publishers across the Internet.”

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