What Is It?

“Contextual Commerce” is the idea that companies can seamlessly implement opportunities for consumers to buy into everyday activities and natural environments. People will be able to buy anything, anywhere. At it’s most basic, it is the idea behind the buy buttons you’ve seen rolling out on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.

We’re increasingly living in a contextual world with a whole bunch of data and signals about the user providing ample opportunity for sellers to be in contextually relevant places. All the time. The E-commerce engine of the future, therefore, is more about managing activities that happen anywhere, wherever the user might want it to happen. Not just on your own website or affiliate network.

Enlisting friend networks in your shopping experience is just one of a number of new contextual commerce strategies disrupting the traditional customer-merchant relationship.

As online commerce picks up steam, those who don’t keep up with conversion rates and fast checkouts will be left behind very quickly. If you’re not first, you’re last. It is critical to shorten the cycle between engagement and purchase.

That’s just one of the reasons why marketers have set laser-sights on unlocking the potential of finding or creating targeted content that is relevant to consumers habits.

At Its Simplest

One of the simplest ways to think about Contextual Commerce is the role of targeted adwords. Everyone who is serious about marketing has SEO programs in place. But what else is possible? Generating relevant content, even an article or photos for your various feeds, is the beginning of the Contextual Commerce process.  Anything that will, at the very least, get people thinking broadly about your product category is fair game. And it all provides data for future opportunities.

Virtual Reality

To take it a bit further, if today’s media is all about social media, tomorrow’s will be virtual reality. While people now craft social profiles and curate online photos, the future will be full of avatars and virtual shopping, travel, and experiential content opportunities.

The past few years have ushered in an evolution in attitudes about VR’s potential, as well as technology, that have marketers of all sizes delighted by the e-commerce possibilities within the context of these new virtual worlds.

VR2-1400

For merchants, the benefits of an immersive approach will be many, both in online spaces as well as in actual physical storefronts — it’s the ultimate market research tool about in-store patterns, as well as a way for on-the-fence customers to road test their purchases and finally pull the trigger.

Though the current launches of VR products tend to largely focus on gaming and entertainment, it seems clear that with wider adoption, retail applications for the technology are forthcoming.

Whatever outcomes you may be considering now, thinking about contextual commerce, in whatever form, is something you should be doing now. Even if only exploratory.