What is Contextual Commerce? Simplified, contextual commerce is buying, in context. It means making a purchase while you’re busy doing something else, like cooking, commuting, or browsing on social media.


And all internet users, no matter how old they are, increasingly view social networks as equally important as other information sources when it comes to making purchasing decisions.


Not to mention the fact that the devices enabling this new style of commerce are exploding. Smart speakers will soon outnumber tablets, there is a new updated smartphone out almost monthly whilst retailers are always pushing technology to edge ahead of their fierce competition.

The future of retail


There are still many retailers that think of channels as discrete entities, secondary marketing so to speak. They consider their physical store first, their digital store second, and social and digital media in third as a supporting structure rather than the main player. Some even categorise consumer desires separately by channel. This is beginning to change as more retailers appreciate that delivering well on digital platforms ensures consumers can purchase any product they see, whenever and wherever they want. Slowly but surely they are being recognised as a key component in the market and the sooner business owners adopt this approach, realising the potential in front of them, the better their profits will be.


Successful retailers have something in common. They view digital and physical on the same plane, and contextual commerce, or allowing consumers to purchase in any context or setting, is growing in importance. Contextual commerce means thinking well beyond the boundaries of the traditional storefront and not limiting your brand to follow tradition only. It’s the future of retail, as it drives new opportunities to capture new audiences and incremental transactions on a much broader scale than could ever be imagined. Retailers that are willing to move early will benefit from higher conversion and increased sales, they will be the ones reaping the rewards as their business goes to the next level.


Converting more shoppers into buyers


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. It is this kind of freedom of purchase that makes it so attractive. 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. It is fresh, it is modern and it's not going to go away. The marketplace is becoming wherever consumers are and however they wish to interact as technological advancements rule the world and in particular, the retail world.


This shift in trend 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. This includes social media, connected devices and third-party apps that are relentlessly emerging. While these emerging touchpoints are primed for commerce, they hold multiple points for abandonment. The slightest annoyance presented to a customer that one of your competitors does not have will immediately defer them away from your product. 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 money left on the table or worse, given to a rival.

The glaring opportunity that is contextual commerce


Cut short, contextual commerce can be defined as bespoke shopping experiences provoking a shoppers’ immediate impulses in any environment. Embracing innovations such as social and conversational commerce, contextual commerce enables merchants to meet shoppers at their desired medium.  Leveraging them through the purchase process in one swift tightly-knit movement. This significantly decreases the potential for abandonment while allowing the sale to be captured when the demand is at its peak..


While contextual commerce remains infantile, the opportunity is glaring, and the underlying technologies are oozing with money-making potential. Those merchants brave enough to force new sales channels will best be able to turn shoppers into buyers, attract new customers, and deliver a differentiated retail experience by navigating through this exciting new opening in the market.

Location and speed are key to success


Anyone targeting millennial-aged consumers and younger should anticipate that the first impression they make will be most impactful through a social media platform. For fashion brands and retailers to capitalize on the impression and impulse they’ve created, social media posts can be transformed into ‘shoppable’ advertisements. It subconsciously indoctrinates the consumer by offering the perfect way to instantaneously execute a sale and simultaneously converts a browser into a buyer. 


Consumer behaviour these days emphatically demonstrates that retailers who provide the convenience of location and speed of delivery are earning their loyalty. A contextual approach to commerce, removing tension and encouraging shoppers that impulse buying is a good thing, serve as an ideal response to these modern consumer demands. Fortunately, plenty of the necessary specifications to curate a prominent contextual commerce strategy have already been created and established. From wise social media pinpointing and delivery service agreements to smart device integrations and geolocation potential, retailers can reach new and existing customers from a contextual ecosystem that is developing in front of them. Also, by converting sensitive payment data into unique digital identifiers through network tokenization, payments across mediums and partners can be streamlined and secured.




Consumer expectations have risen to unimaginable highs. If retailers want to firstly, stay relevant, still compete and eventually grow, they’ll need to evolve with the times and embrace the changing world of retail. A crucial element of this includes planning for and adopting contextual commerce. The ability to enable anytime, anywhere the contextual shopping that enriches bespoke experiences across channels. With consumers now shopping all over social media, retailers are releasing the store isn't enough. They are using consumer data to tailor the experience through specifically targeted messages, ads and emails. The initial experimenters haven’t hesitated to introduce fresh personalised shopping experiences, technologies and platforms to capture substantial customers and revenue. The same customers that were before, completely out of reach and are now generating conversions in new places and channels for these businesses. They are cementing themselves as innovators while using the convenience of contextual commerce to nurture loyalty and re-sales among millions of customers.