Recontextualizing Contextual Commerce (Part 1)

This is a two part series dedicated to Recontextualizing Contextual Commerce. There are three steps to changing the way you think about contextual commerce. These include the Customer, Reverse Auctions and Directories.

The more things change, the more they stay the same – Alphonse Karr

The Formula for Success

In the beginning there were stores. People came and went, they spent money, they bought products. Companies sold products and made money. Then came the web- with its e-commerce and paradigm shifting changes. Although this simple money-making formula was challenged for some time, through billion dollar brand building campaigns, at the end of it all companies have realized they still need to make money.

This time tested formula can be expressed as:

Products x Customers = Earnings ($).

A new concept has been recently introduced with one objective in mind: increase the number of purchases (or products sold). According to Business 2.0 it is “new breed of tools that enable so-called ‘contextual commerce’, a scheme that promises marketers a better kind of stickiness.” The idea is that if content sites can offer web surfers the ability to make a purchase, customers will stay around longer (and these sites can make a profit in the process).

Contextual commerce examples can be seen on multiple sites. Take a travel site as an example: You pick out your trip, you make your reservations, you push the buy now button and BOOM! Suddenly ‘Would you like a nice digital camera to record your memories?’ appears. This is contextual commerce American style: the “As long as weÕve got you in the store-Would you also be interested in some of our other lovely products?” mentality.

This philosophy is based on increasing the number of products purchased (or sold). But what happens if we look at the second variable, customers? This is step one in understanding the change that is coming: The Customer.

How can we increase the number of customers making purchases? Conventional wisdom tells us marketing is the way to increase our number of customers. More advertising equals more eyeballs, which equals more customers. What if, say, instead of a company actively recruiting new customers, they made themselves passively available to meet a customer’s needs? What’s that? Passively available? This is step 2 in understanding what is changing.

First Push, Then Shove

The “more marketing” response still depends on “push” commerce. Push, intrusion, interruption- whichever word you prefer. In any case, it isn’t asked for. But who pushes? Up until now the company pushes. I have needs, too. And I think it’s time to push back.

A customer push system is analogous to a reverse auction. A reverse auction is where a buyer puts out a request for a product or a series of products in the market and suppliers or vendors bid to meet this need.

Instead of the company emitting offers, I transmit preferences, needs or wants. Companies capable of fulfilling those needs would win the bid, and get my business. This shifts the focus form maximizing P (products) to maximizing C (customers). Customers- and that means me.

Now that we have shifted the focus from the company to the individual, we need to explore some of the nuts & bolts for this to work. That’s the focus of Part 2 in Recontextualizing Contextual Commerce. I’ll be addressing Me-commerce, Lists and the Local Store. Please join me again in 2 weeks, the same place at the same time for the continuation of this mini-series.

Until next time- Happy Pushing!

Jason Ball

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