A trend doing the rounds is ‘contextual commerce’ – that is, products that are ‘delivered’ to a consumer whenever they are online. The promise of contextual commerce emerges from the power of data, especially data delivered by devices like smartphones and wearables that capture consumers’ behavior when exploring both digital and physical spaces. “Contextual commerce” connects merchants and consumers in these two areas, presenting purchase options at the very moment of discovery. For example, if you were browsing the Pinterest app previously, you would need to exit the app and search for the item on your browser to buy it. Now, with Pinterest’s Buyable pins, you are able to make your purchases directly within the app.
Kick-starting contextual commerce
It’s no secret that Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram gather vast data on our general interests, product browsing history, and purchases. To the consumer, these are apps to interact with friends and family, or to discover new products or services. However, this intersection of word-of-mouth trust and discovery is exactly what is valuable to merchants. With just a few taps from within a social media app, consumers will be able to make purchases rather than having to click through to another website to make a purchase, enter the credit card number and shipping information, so on and so forth. Transactions that used to take two minutes will now be completed in less than 10 seconds.
Merchants can take advantage of this by activating a “buy-now button” directly within social tools. To cost-effectively participate in these channels, they must merge digital commerce with their existing social media strategies and broader advertising business models. Below are some thought-starters for merchants to optimize their social media strategy to help find new buyers and increase sales.
Create interactive product experiences distinct to the channel
Tools like Facebook make it easy for users to comment, share, rate, review, and of course, see images of products. Merchants should take advantage of this, and enable their marketing to be shareable and work within the context of the user experience in that channel. Not only is it a more engaging form of marketing but it drives trust with consumers, as shoppers find interactions and feedback from other consumers more authentic than traditional marketing or advertising. Shoppers trust the voices of other consumers who have experienced your products, and these tools can help you create a trustworthy discovery experience for your prospective customer.
Embrace engagement-based incentives and loyalty programs
Social media channels present ample opportunities to introduce engagement-based loyalty programs. For example, a program such as “share with 100 friends, and get 25% off your next purchase” can help merchants deepen relationships with their existing customers, and attract new ones. To enable this, make sure the best customers have the opportunity to easily tell their friends about your products and services. Have social media links displayed prominently and frequently on your website and on your mobile site. Make it as simple as possible for shoppers to tell their friends how great your shop and your products are. Combined with loyalty programs, you can easily encourage your shoppers to spread the love, and then reward them for doing so.
Enable seamless checkout with “buy buttons”
When a user sees a product online, it’s really a split second in which the decision is made to purchase a product or not. In your social media marketing, make sure your “buy button” is prominent, and supplement it with meaningful information about your products. But do not assume that all customers who discover you in social media will want to check-out in the contextual experience. In other words, ensure your check-out process is as simple as possible too. Create seamless shopping experiences in all your channels. Merchants can integrate with payments partners that enable seamless checkout regardless of channel.
So do not wait to get on-board. Now is the time for contextual commerce to deliver exciting growth opportunities for merchants, and to simplify shopping experiences for consumers.