Contextual Commerce: From Single-Purpose Apps to All-In-One Platforms

The traditional approach to marketing has been built to bring customers to the company’s website. Hence, infinite channel-specific ads and clickbaits are developed with the goal to direct traffic to e-commerce channels. The strategy, however, becomes obsolete as a different approach is being widely adopted contextual commerce.

As Citi puts it in its recent report on disruptive innovations, “Contextual commerce is a simple concept at heart – give a consumer what they want when they want it without requiring the consumer to take the initiative or expend much effort in any way. <...> Contextual Commerce is the concept or technology/platform that enables a consumer to interact and transact with their chosen merchant/brands in the consumer’s preferred context or medium. The context can be a social networking conversation, an exchange on a messaging platform, an online session, a chat or a (voice) call – we have even seen a unique print media contextual commerce example.”

Although the concept of contextual commerce is not new, it has been revived by the growth and development of enabling technology and solutions, such as in-app payments and chatbots allowing to make a purchase right in the middle of ‘conversation’.

With contextual commerce, brands do not drive customers from all channels to their website, they engage and complete the desired action within preferred by the customer channel. The concept shifts focus from brand to customer convenience reaching out to one's comfort zone and providing smooth purchasing experience within the channel.

The only hurdle customers may face with online shopping is the payment. There is a whole science about the perfect e-commerce checkout experience, which contextual commerce is a master in. With contextual commerce, the right payment solution performs the transaction in the background without taking the customer to the payment page. Hence, the customer is free from extra ‘movements,’ which creates a frictionless experience and cuts the sales cycle.

Contextual Commerce: From Single-Purpose Apps to All-in-One Platforms

Image source: Citi Research

As we can see from the graphic, contextual commerce eliminates any step that may cause a delay in purchase or abandonment. As professionals from Citi suggest, “If contextual commerce is properly implemented, it should dramatically cut down on shopping cart abandonment rates because it eliminates the source of friction.”

There are amazing examples of contextual commerce embodiment. Amazon Echo, for example, allows to call a cab, order a pizza. Pinterest Buyable Pins let people buy products without ever leaving the platform.

WeChat is probably one of the most interesting and successful examples of contextual commerce concept in action. The platform is nothing less than a miracle – users can book appointments with doctors, call cabs, book flights, invest in financial products and more.

In comparison to the all-in-one WeChat, any other platform looks like child’s play. However, we can't leave out Facebook Messenger, which will certainly take a direction to commercialization and functionality enrichment. Users now can send money, call a cab within the Messenger and more.

Uber, although it might look like an unexpected player, has been aggressively securing a space for its button within appropriate  third-party apps – Hilton, Zomato, Citymapper & more. Starting March 2016, when users request a ride or set a Ride Reminder through a partner app or site, they will be able to provide users with helpful content during the ride, right from the Uber app itself.

There are certainly more interesting examples, and over time, increased speed and security of online transactions along with open APIs will open up opportunities for seamless integration of a wide functionality, turning single-purpose apps into all-in-one platforms.


MEDICI Team is a group of content writers, bloggers, journalists, researchers, and editors from the MEDICI team who collaborate to create FinTech insights.

Apply to Become a Contributor