Enabling commerce anywhere gives retailers a stronger chance of converting customers on their digital shopping journey. Contextual commerce is seamlessly integrating shopping experiences into a shopper’s everyday environment and activities. 

This could be anything from the ability to purchase groceries through Amazon Alexa whilst you’re in your kitchen, or Instagram’s ‘Shop’ feature. It is about capturing customers in the moment of “I want that” and providing purchasing opportunities in that context, rather than waiting for customers to seek out the retailer online or in-store. 

Contextual commerce is what turns a browser into a buyer. With only around 2% of a retailer’s web traffic completing a purchase at any given time, that represents a 98% opportunity for contextual commerce interactions. For example, we’ve seen retailers adopting Reserve In-Store solutions organically increase online conversion by over 50% and retailers using video-enabled commerce increasing order values by 5-6 times.

What are some ways to implement contextual commerce?

Traditionally, the space has been dominated by abandoned cart and loyalty or member journeys, rather than seeking out customers who have not previously interacted with the brand. But now we’re seeing retailers successfully utilise tools like:

  • Adding call to actions to e-commerce sites or social media, for example, adding reserve in-store buttons
  • Clienteling and customer data tools to better understand customers for more personal interactions
  • Direct to staff online chats
  • Video enabled commerce that lets you connect virtually to stores from wherever you are
  • Visual search tools are exploding. For example, Forever 21 reported a 20% increase in purchase price and increased conversions among online shoppers who used an AI-powered visual search tool to reduce the number of steps to checkout. 
  • QR codes that provide information and create retail activations that can extend the store experience anywhere in the world

With COVID-19 reducing in-store purchases and pushing more people to purchase via online platforms, it only makes sense that we’ll see more and more brands turning to contextual commerce to capture buyer attention in more organic ways. 

What are the challenges in implementing contextual commerce?

The challenge for retailers is engaging customers with frictionless experiences that help customers find the right items and ultimately lead them to make purchase decisions. Digitally this can be difficult, with customers wading through a sea of email and pop-ups. 

Retailers need to make purchasing part of the customer’s online journey in more ways than simply adding items to cart and checking out. It’s about humanising the online experience and bringing a higher level of customer understanding and interaction. All these factors need to be considered in great retail experiences.

How can retailers get contextual commerce right?

  • Understand your traffic through every environment. This means in-store, web, mobile and advertising traffic. Every one of these interactions is an opportunity for a retailer to join the conversation with a customer.
  • Utilise technology that opens pathways to communicate with customers at every touchpoint. When a customer is browsing your website, enable features that let customers connect to staff. That could mean through in-store reservations, live video sessions or direct to store chat. From there, open pathways within your customers’ shopping journey, for example, connecting live via video from a product page is a way of humanising the digital shopping journey and becoming a part of the shopping conversation. 
  • Convert customers in the moment. Every interaction needs to lead to a purchase opportunity and the technology you use should remove friction from the journey. Interacting with customers and transacting in the moment – that’s the definition of a great shopping experience.

Lee Hardham is founder and CEO of Brauz.