How Bolt helped Akira transform their checkout into a customer-centric digital experience
AKIRA was founded nearly 20 years ago as the local destination of choice for Chicago women to buy outfits for their big nights out. Since then, it has expanded to over 30 locations across the midwest and an extraordinarily fast-growing ecommerce brand.
At the core of all this growth is their dedication to providing an incomparable customer service experience from first interaction all the way through to return purchase. Over the past two years, they’ve built out an entirely vertically-integrated system that’s transformed their ecommerce strategy. While their competitors take weeks to deliver a package, they’re always able to ensure their package arrives before the weekend. All orders ship out the same day they’re placed, often resulting in same-day delivery. And it’s not just their fulfillment system: their social media feed is inundated with happy customers commenting about how incredible their entire experience has been.
There was just one glaring exception: their online checkout experience.
"The checkout experience is so important - one of the top three most important factors of the site. Bolt made it possible for us to implement a fast and easy checkout that allows our customers to complete their purchase in a matter of seconds."
How a faulty checkout nearly undermined AKIRA’s customer-centric advantage
“Our checkout was the worst, absolutely awful,” remembers AKIRA’s director of ecommerce, Sara Kim. “It was so time-consuming, and everyone always complained about it.” Counter to their otherwise speedy and frictionless brand experience, their checkout spanned multiple steps, with seemingly endless fields. Sara had tried to implement a simplified checkout solution several times before finding Bolt, but they failed to integrate each time due to “backend compatibility issues”.
“Everyone’s so impatient these days, and frankly, no one wants to sit there for a few minutes and fill that out,” said Sara as she recalled her frustration. “We’re customer-centric, but if they don’t even finish the checkout, we can’t show them that. We were experiencing so much drop-off.”
Worse, their existing fraud software lacked the sophistication to truly protect them or the interests of their customers. As configured, it required extensive resources and staff hours reallocated from the customer service team to do deep dives on their customers. By the time they found Bolt, their customer service team was spending over 30 hours a week that they could have been supporting customers instead managing the backend of their fraud and checkout. Internally, the poor checkout and fraud protection threatened to undermine AKIRA’s otherwise impeccable customer service record, and by extension, their brand.
The Bolt difference
Bolt changed all of that. Finally, AKIRA’s customers have a checkout experience that matches the ease and over-performance of the rest of their systems. “The checkout experience is so important — one of the top three on the whole site — but without Bolt, it’s hard to create one that’s really high quality and produces the conversion results we wanted,” says Sara.
For AKIRA, the switch to Bolt meant the replacement of a clunky, outdated checkout experience with a modern, streamlined one, complete with reduced form fields, zero redirects, and a simplified user experience. Bolt’s checkout design was a natural pairing for Akira’s core demographic: a young, predominantly millenial and Gen-Z customer base shopping mostly on mobile. As a truly mobile-optimized checkout experience, Bolt provided a preferred alternative to the previous design.
On top of Bolt’s improvements to the AKIRA checkout experience, the Bolt fraud review process and zero fraud guarantee has meant the elimination of tens of hours per week of manual fraud order review by the AKIRA team. Their team’s back to spending their time on actual customers again, too, instead of the endless hours vetting fraud that often still ended with AKIRA getting the chargeback. Says Sara: “Bolt came along, and really took the risk out of the equation. We’re not rejecting good orders any more, we are rejecting the bad ones, and it’s saving us a ton of time.” Overall, Bolt’s many improvements have allowed AKIRA’s core checkout experience to match their inherently customer-centric digital strategy, and the elimination of chargebacks and the need for manual order review allowed them to put the focus back where it belonged: on their customers and growth.