04 Jul The Future is in Contextual Commerce
For years consumers have been teased with the idea of frictionless commerce, a world where they can seamlessly purchase their latest desires on impulse, when they want them, wherever they are. The reality has for a long time, not quite matched the marketing buzz, from initiatives like ‘Press the Red Button to Buy’ on our TV’s to being presented with a 3D Secure screen asking you for your credit card password details mid checkout flow (admittedly this is mainly a European problem), purchasing what you want, when you want is a much bigger hassle than we are led to believe.
However, we are finally starting to reach a tipping point, where the convergence of hardware, software and custom crafted user experiences which are built for the device you are using, are coming together to bring us truly frictionless online shopping experiences, and with it the ability to buy a product whenever you want, that is contextually relevant to any scenario you find yourself in. That is where ‘contextual commerce’ comes in.
Contextual commerce is experiencing rapid growth as the devices that consumers have available to them while going about their daily lives become ecommerce enabled. This means that consumers can do simple things like buying their favourite team’s sports jersey, as they are watching them in action, in the moment that they are feeling most passionate about that team. Whether that is sitting at the stadium and buying it through their phone, or by hitting buy inside the streaming app they are using to watch the game on their connected TV. It’s all about enabling a simple way, no matter what the device or the interface, to checkout a product that is presented to a user relevant to their situation.
China is perhaps the most advanced society when it comes to contextual eCommerce, thanks to both their extensive use of the app ‘WeChat’ and the move towards a cashless society. ‘WeChat’ is a Chinese multi-purpose messaging, social media and mobile payment app developed by Tencent. Through this app one can order a taxi, buy groceries, order food delivery, make reservations and so on. Most Chinese retailers do not accept physical money anymore and this rejection of a physical wallet is so widespread that even Chinese homeless people have taken to using QR codes when accepting donations. It follows that with the majority of purchases being made by smart phones regardless, users are even more likely to purchase contextually relevant products if the opportunity is presented to them at the right time. The key is for the retailer to know when that time is.
At present, it is theorised that social commerce in China is already 10 years ahead of other nations and this is in large part thanks to ‘WeChat’. Though China might have it all figured out it seems America is behind in this field. One can see how eCommerce sales only account for 13% of total sales in America, so clearly there is still room for growth and ingenuity. Providing an easier way to purchase for the user will entice them to shop online rather than venture out to the mall. Or if they do choose to go out, ensuring a purchase for the retailer regardless. It’s really the extension of what retailers have been talking about for a long time – omnichannel retail. That by giving consumers a purchase point everywhere you are more likely to make a sale. Where contextual commerce fits into this is by using the digital elements of this omnichannel strategy and linking them in with moments that a consumers purchase intent is highest, like in the example of buying the sports jersey outlined above. Thus, one could see how contextual commerce could be the key to bridging the gap between online sales and retail sales and enhancing retailers physical sales presence using digital eCommerce.
One battleground where this convergence of the physical and digital has been fought is in the area of Showrooming. Showrooming is a trend retailers have been trying to quash for years and is defined as when a customer visits a store to see a product which they then buy online from a competitor. Thus the retailer has effectively lost the sale before the customer has even entered their store. Other aspects of showrooming are for example when consumers are walking around a Walmart, smartphone in hand, they see a product they like and instantly search online for said product to price check and read reviews by other shoppers. Statistics show that when searching for a product the retailer is overwhelming the least likely option and Amazon the most.
By creating a contextual commerce experience here, where a user can link the product they are looking at to an instant digital experience hosted and controlled by the retailer, retailers could recapture that sale and a service satisfied customer. Contextual commerce is not an online only experience, in fact any moment can benefit from it, whether it be on TV, on a site, in a game or even in a store. Perhaps the retailer could place a NFC tag beside the product for the consumer to simply tap which would bring them directly to a product basket that the retailer controlled, with all the reviews, prices etc built in to it, so the consumer didn’t feel the need to look up the product somewhere else. With the popularity of self-service checkouts rising this would also provide a stress free checkout with no need to wait in long queues.
So as US retailers try to catch up with their Chinese counterparts, they have to start thinking about how contextual commerce can trigger a sale from anywhere for their consumers. Any moment can benefit from contextual commerce, even the humble TV. We’ve seen recently with the enablement of our Mall X Mini Mall inside the trailer app, Trailer Freek on Xbox One, that by delivering contextually relevant products to the content people are watching, you can entice consumers to purchase products in environments that they traditionally wouldn’t have thought about.
For example the Spiderman Into the Spiderverse trailer was recently released to much applause and delight and the Jordan’s worn in the trailer by Miles Morales caused a frenzy amongst Twitter users. So as users watched the trailer on Trailer Freek they would see an option to buy said Jordan’s in an automated cart at the side. No need to search for them on google, or tweet about them. We could fulfil that fan passion immediately while it’s at its peak but the user never had to leave that trailer page or go anywhere else, they could buy them right there and then in a native checkout experience and Trailer Freek still retained its user and traffic.
There is no need for the customer to shift through a multitude of items in order to find something that appeals to them. Instead they are offered optional purchases based off the content they are interested in. It also means, in this new world of GDPR that we don’t require data mining from other sites or following consumers around the web via cookies. By making the product contextual to the content and instantly purchasable, there is less of a need to follow the consumer by tracking cookies and thus giving the consumer a safer and less invasive environment in which to shop.
In a world where everyone is looking for the extra edge, Contextual Commerce enables retailers to give consumers the products they want, when they want them, in a less invasive manner, leaving the retailer with a sale and more importantly the customer with a smile on their face.