Contextual commerce is rapidly evolving, growing both in scale and in scope, growing more common and becoming integrated into more parts of consumers’ routines. One of the common forms coming to the fore is shoppable content. From social media platforms’ shopping tools to retailers’ own shoppable content suites, commerce is gaining a hold on consumers’ digital entertainment and education behaviors.
Among the most fertile ground for these sorts of integrations is recipe content. Today, the amount of time between seeing an ingredient listed in a recipe and purchasing that ingredient is getting shorter and shorter.
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“Recipe content has always been incredibly shoppable,” Jason Young, president of digital shopper marketing platform Chicory, told PYMNTS in an interview. “What’s happening is, we now have the pipes all connected so that you can go very directly from content like recipes into transactional moments. But if you look at recipes historically, they’ve always been a point of inspiration, a point of kicking off the food shopping process.”
The company works with brands and eTailers ranging from General Mills to Amazon and with top publishers to allow consumers to put together grocery orders as they browse. Last month, the company announced a partnership with women’s lifestyle media brand PureWow that expands its reach to tens of millions more readers.
In the past, Amazon has had something of a monopoly on contextual commerce, with Amazon Associates, the eCommerce giant’s affiliate marketing program, being by far the most common shoppable integration. Now, as a range of businesses find alternative ways to integrate commerce into their content, the space is expanding.
“[Amazon] figured out how to play that game well,” said Young. “I think what you’re seeing now — and this is good for the consumer — is that there’s more sophisticated shoppability experience and choice being given to the consumer.”
He added that, rather than being restricted to Amazon’s offerings, consumers can now “choose the retailer that’s most relevant to them,” whether that means choosing their favorite retailer or choosing the one closest to them for buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS).
These integrations not only allow retailers to make the sale as soon as the desire emerges, when it is most relevant, but also to integrate their offerings into more of consumers’ digital experiences, which is key to building relationships with consumers in today’s connected economy.
Young reflected that shoppable content has “really jumped forward,” an acceleration enabled by two main factors. The first is the “continued proliferation of eCommerce as a viable source of transactions in the grocery category.” He noted that, with the rise in online grocery occasioned by pandemic lockdowns and social distancing, the audience for grocery integrations has grown. Second, he cited the rise of companies like Chicory that have the technology to meet this growing demand.
Pulling Ahead With Centrality And Accuracy
Young noted that, in the past, the United States has been far from a leader in eCommerce integrations.
“There are other markets globally where contextual shoppability is more of a core part of how products are bought and sold real-time through marketplaces,” he said, adding, however, that the U.S. is quickly catching up.
He added that these integrations have seen the most success on platforms in which the publisher has made contextual commerce “a core part of [their] value proposition to [their] readers.” He added that the leaders in the space are those that are “leaning in most aggressively,” looking to make their entire content suite shoppable rather than tacking shoppable features on to a handful of stories.
The other feature, an admittedly unglamorous one, that sets top performing shoppable content apart from the rest is accuracy — sending readers to the correct products to avoid the “horrible experience” shoppers have when they are misdirected, discouraging purchases and future engagement.
Realizing The Vision Of The Internet
Young argues that these contextual commerce integrations are the fulfillment of the promise from the early days of the web of what the internet could be.
“Content leading to commerce was always the vision of digital publishing and digital media, of the internet as a whole,” he said, noting that it took “25 years to get to the reality.”
Looking ahead to the future, Young believes contextual commerce will grow to ubiquity. He pointed out that it is already “being brought into walled gardens,” with shoppable features being added to social media platforms including Pinterest, Instagram, and TikTok.
He believes that the next categories to follow in the footsteps of recipes might be “health and beauty or technology or home improvement/do-it-yourself,” with all of these forms of content presenting very straightforward opportunities to build in shoppable moments.
“I think about the day where every contextual commerce content moment is shoppable, where every consumer is given a true frictionless, multi-option path to purchase,” he said. “That’s what I fully expect to happen in the next three- to five-year period.”