Contextual commerce is about to disrupt online retail, and brands need to watch out. Source: Shutterstock

Contextual commerce is about to disrupt online retail, and brands need to watch out. Source: Shutterstock

What is contextual commerce and how will it disrupt online retail?

ONLINE RETAIL is complicated, crowded, and challenging — and contextual commerce is here to disrupt the industry all over again.

According to a recent report published by Herbert Smith Freehills, contextual commerce seeks to leverage the “right here, right now” mentality.

Contextual commerce, the firm believes, capitalizes on the purchasing “pull” of the “consumer moment” – the moment when a consumer sees something and thinks “I want that” – by using technology to integrate purchasing opportunities seamlessly into the consumer’s everyday activities and surroundings.

In comparison, online retail or e-commerce requires an individual to visit the website or web application of a retailer in order to make a purchase.

To make contextual commerce more relatable, the report points out that the concept behind the buy buttons on social platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook is a great example of the technology and trend.

The technology seems almost surreal at first, but given the direction that the world is quickly moving towards — think autonomous vehicles with in-built virtual reality (VR) experiences — contextual commerce is definitely more intuitive, engaging, and perhaps even practical.

The study cited above points out that companies are quietly gearing towards a future with more seamless shopping experiences, creating technologies and solutions that aid retailers looking for an edge in the crowded marketplace.

PayPal, for example, recently patented a new technology that auto-suggests items for purchase to users based on objects they’re looking at through a pair of augmented reality (AR) glasses.

That patent could be incredibly valuable in a future scenario where AR glasses become commonplace and serve as marketing platforms as well as sales opportunities.

However, in the present day, as contextual commerce is still in its infancy, players in the market are simply looking to remove barriers to the sales process to make it more seamless, more instantaneous and  “in the moment”.

A variety of e-commerce players online, for example, are increasingly collaborating with interesting new-age payment processes these days to shorten the time and clicks required to make a sale online, even accepting payment from existing mobile wallets.

Others, like Mastercard, are working on helping integrated chatbots complete transactions to avoid users moving between platforms and interfaces.

In effect, contextual commerce just puts a name to the ‘innovative’ efforts of online retailers looking to make shopping a better experience, irrespective of where a user is and what they’re doing.

Companies that neglect to find avenues where the user experience can be smoothened and the overall journey can be shortened will ultimately lose to competitors who capture attention on new and interesting platforms.