Contextual Commerce: Engaging Shoppers On Their Terms

  • Written by  Gerry Gilbert, CashStar

0aaGerry Gilbert CashStar1We’re living in the age of the customer. Retailers recognize the need to enable consumers to shop on their terms — however they want, wherever they are. The introduction of contextual commerce has enabled retailers to seamlessly implement buying opportunities into everyday activities. Whether a shopper is clicking on a Buyable Pin, using Facebook Messenger or talking to their Amazon Echo while doing their weekend housework, shopping is becoming more engaging because it’s happening at the moment of interest and intent to buy, in an environment that makes the experience very natural for the shopper.

We’ve already begun to see forward-thinking brands starting to embrace contextual commerce — mostly in the form of hardware and mobile messaging apps. Specifically, messaging apps have exploded in popularity, eclipsing the top four social networks in active users as of late 2015. What’s more, mobile messaging apps have higher retention and user rates than most mobile apps, and the majority of messaging app users represent the most crucial demographic for brands, advertisers and publishers. With no additional infrastructure required of the consumer, contextual commerce can provide stellar customer experiences as well as interactive customer support.

The Reality Of Millennial Shoppers

The majority of consumers today — Millennials, who are expected to be spending $200 billion annually — value authenticity over the hard sell. They want customized user experiences that cater to their unique preferences, put them in the driver’s seat and make purchasing items seamless and intuitive. Today’s shoppers are constantly connected, using multiple devices at any given time and spending more time on social media than ever before. They expect continual and immediate communication from any retailer they choose to engage with, and they’re not necessarily loyal to large, established brands.

Contextual commerce can help brands meet these new consumer demands and thrive in today’s evolved retail reality. For instance, the technology is able to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to power sophisticated chatbots that can converse with consumers, make product recommendations and even receive orders, all based on an individual’s specific wants and needs. In fact, MasterCard recently launched a purchasing capability via chatbots within Facebook Messenger, enabling brands to expand their e-Commerce options and facilitate browsing, ordering and secure checkout, all within the Messenger app.

Enhancing Contextual Commerce With Gifting

In addition to providing brands with a more convenient e-Commerce access point, contextual commerce can also help brands foster relationships between consumers. By incorporating technology that supports Apple Pay, real-time gifting and real-time gift card activation, contextual commerce allows brands to enable their mobile customers to conveniently gift to friends and family from right where they already are (i.e. in apps such as iMessage and Facebook Messenger). Starbucks has already jumped on the opportunity to further connect with patrons by providing their customers the ability to quickly and securely send gifts through the iMessage app, via a plugin built on the native app iOS infrastructure.

The Cheesecake Factory has also embraced the gifting aspect of contextual commerce. Consumers can purchase gift cards for the brand, personalize their gift cards and complete a frictionless checkout process directly through Facebook Messenger. As an added benefit, The Cheesecake Factory can instantly approve and activate these gift cards via prepaid commerce technology, thereby removing the risk of any fraud liability. AI-based bots simply send payment information stored in a consumer’s digital wallet directly to the digital gifting provider, where the transaction is processed, automatically scored and adjudicated, all without requiring any manual review.

The Future Of Commerce Is Mobile Messaging

In a list of the top 10 mobile apps most used globally, at least six of them are messaging apps. As many as 75% percent of Internet users worldwide have accessed mobile messaging services, and the open rate of mobile messages is 98% versus 22% for email. Facebook Messenger alone boasts over one billion active users each month, and iOS users reportedly send over 200,000 iMessages every second, which equates to a whopping 63 quadrillion messages per year.

For brands looking to stay ahead of competitors and establish long-term relevance, harnessing the power of mobile messaging and real-time gifting technology is critical. Seek out proven, prepaid solution delivery partners to help implement contextual commerce initiatives, and closely watch global consumer trends to continually incorporate the latest platforms — whether they are messaging apps, social buying options, virtual reality or voice-activated platforms — into larger omnichannel strategies. In doing so, brands stand to bolster their reputation, drive additional revenue streams, and facilitate deeper customer engagement and loyalty.


Gerry Gilbert is Vice President, Product at CashStar. He has 20 years of experience in the payments and software industry and deep expertise leading product strategy, management and development for payment-related products. Prior to joining CashStar, Gilbert was a Group Manager at Intuit’s Payments Solution Division where he led teams building merchant focused self-service and CRM solutions. Before that he held various product management positions at Electronic Clearing House, CyberSource and Chase Paymentech.

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