Contextual commerce is coming – Carolyn Breeze tells us how to use it and where it’s going
Contextual commerce is the marketing phenomenon that will sweep the industry, says Carolyn Breeze, allowing businesses to capture and process a customer at the point of discovery. Marketing speaks with Breeze, head of Braintree Australia, about its new contextual commerce tool.
Contextual commerce goes beyond leveraging impulse purchasing, and although the technology is still emerging online, applications of this concept are already being seen in real-world examples. Firms are partnering to utilise this technology to get the most out of their platforms, no longer are ads only exposure pipelines, but points for conversion and customer acquisition.
Marketing speaks with Carolyn Breeze, director and country manager at Braintree Australia, to learn how contextual commerce will change the industry and its new Braintree Extend tool. Braintree is a payments platform facilitating processing, fraud detection, vaulting (securely storing customer information) and tokenisation for clients end-to-end, developing technologies such as PayPal One Touch.
Marketing: How would you define contextual commerce?
Carolyn Breeze, head at Braintree Australia: Contextual commerce is the idea of capturing a sale or a customer in the moment of discovery on any platform where they discover your product or service, so ultimately where their intent is at the highest. We think of where consumers find products as discovery platforms, which may be Facebook, Google, an article they read, Instagram, a blog or it may be someone else’s website. That’s where you’re discovering the product or service and ultimately where that product or service is distilled to the merchant of record. The idea around contextual commerce – basically from a marketing perspective or a retail perspective– is you can sell anywhere on the internet, not just your own site.
When you think about the cost of customer acquisition, the cost of getting eyeballs to site and those types of metrics; imagine that where you advertise – all the affiliate partners you have and the programs you have in place – where they are finding those products you can actually close them in that moment, as apposed to having them redirect and come and find you later. So that’s the purpose behind the tools. If you think about a discovery platform and a receiving platform, theres a bunch of information that needs to be shared – the length of insurance plans, the type insurance plans or the size of shoes – capture that and send it through to the merchant record, the retailer or the organisation for processing. That piece, people could probably do themselves but the barrier to market for a lot of these in context shared user experiences has been this idea around securely sharing payment information.
So the products we have created allow the discovery platform to also tokenise and vault this credit card information (or payment information) and securely share that with others. So in its rawest form, the genesis of these tools was Pintrest, he first example that we brought to life in the States. Pinterest wanted to go from being an inspiration platform to potentially a marketplace for a lot of the people that use the site to market their goods. It started vaulting with us and created ‘buy now’ buttons on listings. So now, if you see something you like on Pintrest, and you can buy it. You can click ‘buy’ and securely send that payment information and order information through to the retailer to be fulfilled. This is something that Pinterest couldn’t have done before, it would have had to redirect and send them off the site, and lose them out of context; And then you’ve got card abandonment, people changing their mind, or just a sub-optimal experience in general.
Where Braintree Extend came from is: we had Skyscanner Live, and the metrics on that just proved that we were doing the right thing. So instead of being directed to the airline, you then stay in the context of Skyscanner. Skyscanner had paid all this money for marketing, getting eyeballs to site and acquiring new customers to then just send them off to an airline. So this kept them on site, it increased their ticket sales, it increased their mobile conversions by 50%, but more importantly it increased their auxiliary sales – insurance, hotels, accommodation –by over 100%. We launched the tools, and then we had big organisations like telcos, insurance companies and airlines coming to us and saying, ‘Yes, we get that people are discovering our products in different places and we can now literally sell anywhere on the net. Basically anywhere we are advertising, we should be selling. However this is also a really fantastic tool for us to be able to get more of a central view of our customer.’
Trust has been a big issue lately given recent events, and with consumer data at the forefront of a lot of people’s minds – are direct transactions between customers and brands more important than previously? And are you confident that customers are willing to make transactions in apps and social platforms that they don’t necessarily consider a shopping platform?
When you’ve invested down to the point where you’ve downloaded an app, for example, you pretty much trust that brand. I think there’s almost a customer expectation now that the data is being held securely. When you put your data into a website, an app or anywhere, you expect that data is going to be held securely and there is an expectation that it is going to be encrypted. It’s unfortunate there has been a few security things lately, but I just can’t heighten the importance [enough] around working with a partner that is securely holding that data. All the tools that we’ve created, either the discovery and the receiving platform enter into an agreement, or if its two platforms sharing their data they enter into an agreement – and the customer is always aware that their data is being held.
You’ll notice that when you go to a checkout experience there will be a little checked box that says ‘we’re going to record your information for next time’. And not only are consumers expecting that it’s safe, but they are also expecting that the customer journey is going to be seamless and the payment is going to be frictionless. It really is up to the organisation to make sure they’ve got those measures in place, and are working with partners that can support that.
Do you have any recommendations for brands and marketers who are looking to develop contextual commerce into their strategies?
I’ve seen the most success when organisations and retailers really understand their consumers and where they’re spending their time on the internet. Understand where they are spending their time, so that you then know how to activate it and what new channels you can activate to get their interest. Really understand who they are. Understand who else they are buying from as well: who are they shopping with?
The most detailed marketers can competently stand up and say, ‘my customer is a she, her name’s Emma, she’s 35-42, she lives predominantly in X, she drives a car that’s one of these three models, she has coffee with the girlfriends on this day, she gets a blow-dry once a week…’ Really know who your customers are – then your ability to be able to capture them in the context of their everyday activities is so much higher.
Also, make sure that you’re using a payment partner that is securely capturing and holding the payment information for the user, and maybe other bits of identification that you would like to have for that user. If you’re an airline, you might want their passport number saved, you might want their frequent flyer number saved. If you are ticketing company you might want their member number saved. So, choose a partner who can actually securely capture that information on your behalf and store it for you, but also give you that one central view of the customer.
The challenge for marketers moving forward is to not only find ways to activate the activity and the things they’re working on today, but look beyond that into: ‘Who could we work with? Who could we partner with where we could actually create an experience unlike any other?’ Similarly, would be a ticketing company – when you tick insurance, that should just go off seamlessly without any backend operational issues or redirection. But anywhere you think where you have to redirect and therefore channel people, that’s an opportunity.
With platforms such as Instagram implementing this sort of technology only very recently – how do you see this space evolving and shifting in the next five years?
Can we just stop on the Instagram one for a minute? I have an opinion! If you have to be redirected, its not ‘in context’. So the Instagram experience is: Before you could advertise on the site, and there was a ‘shop now’ button that took you to that person’s Instagram page. Then you had to go find their website and find the product that you like. So what Instagram has done is bumped that down a few rungs and said, ‘now, we’ll just send you to that product straight away.’ That’s still not in context. In context for me is: ‘buy’, and I stay in Instagram and I flick my thumb onto the next picture – that’s in context. It’s the right idea, but its not true ‘in context’. It’s definitely moving along the steps and it’s much closer to where it needs to be, but it’s not in context.
It’s interesting, I get to sit on a lot of panels and talk about contextual commerce, and Braintree is one piece of it – we’re the payments facilitator which is ultimately the barrier to a lot of why this stuff hasn’t eventualised before, its all been about sharing this payment information. We’re very fortunate that we’re in the front seat on this, but people have had ideas like this for a long time. I often get to sit on panels and listen to organisations talk about their own ideas around contextual commerce – like being in a dressing room or being at home with your mirror connected to the internet, and you are able to purchase things through it, literally have things flow across the screen and buy them, with your payment details saved, you don’t have to put those in again. Or when you purchase a car, imagine having your payment information linked to the car – then you have cashless gas and food experiences. Things like that.
Online makes sense to everybody, everyone can kind of wrap their head around being able to sell anywhere on the internet because everyone can picture a ‘buy’ button. Then when I end up describing, and Braintree describes to people, ‘hey! When you have the ‘buy’ button, we’ll take it the rest of the way. They won’t be redirected and we’ll make that all happen’, that’s really easy for people to understand, but some of the future-thinking stuff we’re seeing is really crazy. We did a trial in the States with Eventbrite. Eventbrite sold tickets and the payment information that you used to pay for the tickets – we link to an RFID wristband, which was your entry into the park. So it not only identified you, being your one-use entry, it then created a cashless, cardless experience for the whole day during the festival. Any drinks, food, t-shirts, or whatever you needed, you didn’t have to pay for with cash – so it eliminated queues, it was just incredible. People are taking these ideas and going ‘hmm, I wonder what else I can do with that?’ Now we’re talking to a couple of stadiums in Australia about actually activating the stadium or your season membership with RFID, so that game you go to – you don’t have to produce any cash.
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