Contextual Shopping: Breaking it Down
In essence, contextual shopping is the idea that commerce, shopping and transactions can and should happen wherever, whenever. It’s based on the idea that shopping no longer is conducted exclusively within the four traditional retail walls, so why not capture demand and desire where the consumer naturally is living and playing? Contextual shopping leans heavily on the consumer’s omnipresent smartphone as well as prior purchase data, physical location and other valuable bits of information to interact with the shopper in a highly personalized way.
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Contextual shopping is why major U.S. social platforms from Pinterest to Facebook have been integrating “buy” buttons. By incorporating the ability to purchase when a brand or product is featured or mentioned, retailers are seizing upon these important “micro-moments” in the shopping journey.
More than just “buy” buttons, however, contextual shopping includes the rise of voice-activated personal assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa, which enable consumers to place an order just by speaking. In other words, retailers are leveraging context to increase relevance.
There’s been an intense focus on personalization in retail over the past few years and contextual shopping is a logical evolution of where commerce has been heading. Because retailers know where the consumer is located, they’re better educated to deliver a message or offer more likely to resonate with the shopper.
It takes the “right product at the right time” concept even further; instead of sending generalized communications when the consumer isn’t in shopping mode, retailers embracing contextual shopping can identify and message shoppers who are primed to engage in some aspect of shopping activity, whether that’s browsing, researching or actually transacting.
Storytelling Is the New Shopping
Great storytelling always has been a hallmark of great marketing but even more, brands are aiming to blur the lines between telling a story and conducting a transaction. Content that engages, inspires and entertainment can be a useful tool in influencing consumers to act on their desire.
Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop lifestyle behemoth has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a blog focused on healthy living. Today, goop.com leverages interesting content, beautiful photography and, of course, Paltrow’s clout to push the products that that embody the brand. Because consumers are “buying into” a clean-living lifestyle inspired by the actress, the Goop experience feels more like a movement of sorts and less like your typical commerce transaction.
Predicting Future Behavior
Analytics plays a huge role not only in creating a relevant contextual shopping experience but also anticipating future behaviors. If a consumer shops for shoes in your department store nine times out of 10, she might not appreciate an offer on bath towels, for example. Or if he always browses on mobile during his commute home, an in-store discount may not resonate. Take advantage of the rich data about your customers to target them in meaningful ways that demonstrate how well you know them.
Leveraging the In-Store Context
When your shopper is inside your store, how are you serving her? Because she already has decided to visit your location, you have a huge opportunity to steer her journey effectively. Is she in the dairy aisle? Maybe she’d accept your push notification offering 20 percent off a new imported cheese. Did she pick up a pair of high heels? Winter is coming; throw in a promotion for stockings or tights.
Physical stores in particular are rife with micro-moments, and therefore also present abundant “micro-opportunities” to suggest additional products, upsell and cross-sell while adding value for the customer. By demonstrating your knowledge of the customer, you’re likely to increase loyalty and lift lifetime value.
Contextual shopping is a key step in the retail evolution. By meeting the consumer where she is, retailers can enable micro-moments along the path to purchase that create a compelling experience for the shopper while improving bottom-line results.