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Editor's note: Special contributor Sheryl Kingstone leads 451 Research coverage of Customer Experience & Commerce, which explores customer experience as a catalyst for digital transformation.
Consumers want to be able to act on impulses and buy at the time and place of their choosing with as little friction as possible. This demand, fueled by the growing mesh of digital touchpoints surrounding us as consumers, has shifted expectations, blurring the lines between shopping, buying, and browsing. The marketplace is becoming wherever consumers are and however they wish to interact.
This shift is unlocking new sales opportunities for retailers, but not without obstacles. Well-defined paths to online and physical storefronts have transformed into a maze of digital approaches to commerce, including social media, connected devices and third-party apps. While these emerging touchpoints are primed for commerce, they hold multiple points for abandonment. This often includes the need for shoppers to enter a separate website to transact, fill out lengthy checkout forms, or travel to physical stores. Each of these layers of friction results in missed opportunities and dollars left on the table.
Put simply, contextual commerce can be defined as frictionless shopping experiences tailored to shoppers’ immediate impulses and environments. Leveraging innovations such as social and conversational commerce, contextual commerce enables merchants to meet shoppers at their desired medium and usher them through the purchase process in a single, tightly-knit interaction. This greatly reduces the potential for abandonment while allowing the sale to be captured when the demand is strongest.
While contextual commerce remains early on, the opportunity is glaring, and the underlying technologies are primed. Those merchants best able to navigate new sales channels will best be able to turn shoppers into buyers, attract new customers, and deliver a differentiated retail experience.
Near-term contextual commerce scenarios include:
The forgotten ingredient and the smart speaker
The fashion brand and the social post
The business traveler and the lifestyle application
Consumers are clearly demonstrating that retailers who provide convenience and speed are winning their loyalty. A contextual approach to commerce, removing friction and allowing shoppers to act on impulses, serve as an ideal response to these demands. Fortunately, many of the tools necessary to curate an effective contextual commerce strategy have already arrived. From intelligent social media targeting and delivery service partnerships to smart device integrations and geolocation capabilities, a contextual ecosystem is developing through which retailers can reach new and existing customers. Further, through network tokenization, payments across mediums and partners can be streamlined and secured by converting sensitive payment data into unique digital identifiers.
For contextual commerce, the table is set, and consumers are hungry. Those retailers best able to meet consumers at this developing set of widespread, but critical junctures, and serve up relevant and streamlined shopping experiences are best positioned to capitalize.
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