From the name of the business to the core use case, San Francisco-based startup Fast knows what it wants to do and does it quickly.
“The goal at Fast is to make it as easy as possible for people to buy things online,” Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer Allison Barr Allen told PYMNTS’ Karen Webster. “We’re in a world where online eCommerce and online businesses in general are exploding, and we’re still using a lot of the older methods of authentication and login.”
And now, with $100 million of fresh capital to work with, Barr Allen said she’s looking to expand the platform that launched in September to new people and places. The company’s core product, Fast Checkout, offers a one-click purchasing process that does not require a password or manual identification inputs for every order. Shoppers are automatically signed up for Fast after their first purchase and can check out from individual product pages rather than filling a cart at the end of the order.
“So really what we’re trying to do is scale consumers across businesses and make it easier to engage on both sides, which means businesses will get more business because there’s less friction for consumers, and then consumers will be more likely to engage,” she said.
Replicating The Amazon Experience
Barr Allen said beyond the fast shipping, another reason why people love Amazon is because it’s so easy to do business with them. Like Amazon, Fast’s solution combines login and checkout and then adds authentication into the payments process. When shoppers use Fast, they automatically create a profile with that retailer without a need for username or password. By offering the technology outside of Amazon, in a sense, Fast is democratizing one-click checkout.
“Amazon knows who you are, they have a history of all your purchases, they have your payment information stored and have all your addresses set up,” she said. “At Fast, we bring a lot of those same tools and technology to other businesses on the web, so they can still have a relationship with their consumers, and a lot of that goes to identity and payments.”
It also helps to target more than millennials and digitally native individuals, she said.
“I think there’s a huge opportunity to open this up to older people and make it easier for them to engage online and buy things,” she said. “Often baby boomers and older people have the most money to spend. So, I think companies aren’t properly targeting different demographics and thinking about how people of different age groups may use some of the technology.”
A Holistic Approach
As stated earlier, Fast is a combination of essential digital-first elements. Unlike some companies that either focus on the authentication part of a transaction or on the payments side, Fast aims to bring both pieces together for a holistic solution. What that means, she said, is that once you’ve logged into your Google account and been verified there, you shouldn’t have to take the time to re-authenticate when you then buy something with your PayPal account.
“To get that frictionless experience we’re really combining them into one, which will also give us better data over time and a more secure checkout,” she said, which just makes it easier for the consumer, and in turn, better for merchants. While many platforms are applying a “Band-Aid fix to the problem” by using outdated things like autofill technology, Barr Allen said that does not fix the root cause of the problem, which is that your data is stored separately.
“Let’s say you change addresses and suddenly you have to go in and log into every single site to update your address, or they’re not going to have the up-to-date information,” she said.
Working The Data
One of the things that differentiates Fast from other systems is that it integrates with a retailer’s order management system by pulling in SKU-level data about what people have ordered.
While that could be seen as a threat to the merchant-customer relationship, Barr Allen said she has “no plans to sell the data” and doesn’t want to do anything that would break the trust with the consumer.
Fast is looking to use the data it gathers to enable better post-purchase experiences, such as delivery tracking or the creation of an order dashboard, as well as future possibilities like post-purchase support and even subscription management and up-selling with recommendations for other products.
“When you look at some of the biggest companies in the world, you’d think they would have payments and risk and fraud all figured out,” she said. “But when you engage with them, you realize that’s not necessarily the case. They’re not on Shopify; they’re going to have a cluster of sites that they’ve been building for decades.”
Nice To Have, Need To Have
Like most businesses tied to rising eCommerce, Fast has seen many changes brought on by the pandemic.
“We were really bullish on the segment and sector before COVID, but I think COVID definitely escalates a lot of the tech investment that these brands are doing where before it was nice to have, suddenly with COVID it becomes a need to have, like it’s required to survive as a business,” she said.
While Fast is happy to work with larger merchants, most of its business is currently focused on serving small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that are often scrambling to do everything themselves.
“I think payments and checkout and risk and even customer support, it’s often one of the last things that these [SMB] stores want to think about,” she said. “They want to think about their core products. They want to think about how their website looks … and then suddenly it’s like, ‘Oh, wait, we have to figure out how they pay us.’”
Whether consumers are paying for an Uber, one-click buying in Amazon or enjoying automated subscription services, she said the seamless payments process is often misunderstood and under-appreciate — until things go wrong.
“When you work on the product, you realize there’s at least five systems that have to work perfectly for that magical experience to work, if not more,” she said.