Turning browsers into buyers has a lot to do with capturing consumers at the right time, in the right context and at the point they are ready to convert.
Getting from point A to point B, of course, isn’t always an easy feat. It’s also why one key trend defining 2016’s ecosystem has been all about the concept of contextual commerce. But bringing context to commerce is more than just providing an app or having a social presence. It’s about being part of the environment where the consumer is spending time on an Internet-connected device, which today is predominantly a smartphone.
It’s also about making sure that environment is one where a consumer feels comfortable transacting, and one where merchants want to be.
In today’s world of savvy, smartphone-connected consumers, those consumers are increasingly grazing online, — whether it’s to check email, read the news or to browse their favorite retailer. The problem for the latter, of course, is turning that browser into a buyer.
From XpressBuy’s perspective, it’s about providing the consumer (shopper) with “snackable moments.”
Enter contextual commerce and the ability to provide those “snackable moments.” Consumers are connecting to brands through more channels than ever, which has made it even harder for retailers and brands to understand which one can deliver the most bang for its buck when planning their marketing strategies.
In a conversation with XpressBuy CEO Murali Subbarao, MPD CEO Karen Webster discusses the challenges brands and retailers have managing the various environments with which consumers interact. This means social channels, e-mail, mobile ads, apps and, of course, the traditional Web browser.
The biggest challenge for brands today, he noted, is that consumers are spending majority of commerce related time on browsers rather than apps, and many companies have underinvested in the mobile Web. So much of the eCommerce experience is rooted in the desktop versions. But that doesn’t work for mobile. The mobile sites are overcrowded, load slowly and are difficult to navigate.
Instead, brands have been focused on mobile apps, because of the great user experience they create. But the problem? For most retailers and even big brands, that app is used by a very, very small set of engaged, highly motivated consumers who are already focused on that brand.
And for the rest of consumers?
“You have micro moments with the mobile device,” Subbarao said. “As consumers we consume – snack – on small amounts of content on our mobile devices, go do something else, come back, snack some more. So how do you present just enough content that can keep them engaged so that they want to stay longer.”
That’s where XpressBuy’s service comes into play — by helping brands close the gap between marketing and commerce.
“What we have come up with is a service that marries marketing and commerce. It drives mobile commerce through delightful app-like experiences everywhere. It is designed to engage the consumer to boost purchase intent, and handle the checkout right in that context without directing the consumer to the retail site.” he explained. This also means integrating its API to make the commerce process standard across the payment and processing systems of the retailer. It also helps brands optimize their content for mobile devices to better connect with consumers.
That’s done with the service that allows marketers to create unique experiences for a marketing campaign with a narrative and with any call-to-action, such as buying, with great ease, without needing IT involvement. This is delivered as a URL, to run in a browser or within the web view of an app. This URL, embedded with full shopping functionality, can be placed in an email, a mobile ad, an Instagram photo, a social media post, or a third-party shopping site – once set up, it can be used anywhere. This is particularly relevant, as there’s been one major problem identified across the industry: mobile conversions.
“There is also a desire for the brands to directly connect with the consumer in digital channels and increase their direct commerce. They are looking for a more seamless experience than they have today. We can create the experiences that are app-like, at a fraction of the cost” Subbarao said.
Subbarao explained that the mobile-driven consumer wasn’t created because they have more time, it was born out of the sheer fact that interacting on a mobile device has gotten easier with each innovative launch into the market. That’s opened up entirely new channels for customers to explore and connect through, which means more ways for brands/retailers to interact.
But how do brands and retailers take advantage of consumers wanting multiple channels to get the same experience?
“That’s the challenge. It’s about engaging the consumers in those short, bursty moments on their phones,” Subbarao explained. “And if they can keep them engaged with the product enough to drive up purchase intent they will eventually get to the point where they are ready to transact.”
Whether it’s browsing content, browsing for a specific item, or just browsing to browse, consumers are “snacking on [information] all along. And for commerce-related activity, that’s all occurring on the browsers,” Subbarao said.
“The commerce-related information is predominately happening on the mobile browser,” he noted. “These contexts are places — it could be social media, it could be marketplaces, it could be a blog, it could be a message that came in. It could be a photograph that they saw.”
That leaves one very complex question, but with a lot of different paths: How does a brand do better than just sending a consumer back to the website?
To put into context how XpressBuy’s platform serves that gap, Subbarao provided a hypothetical scenario for how their platform serves brands and retailers in a way that gives them multiple channels, and multiple options to grab the consumer’s attention and boost purchase intent in the product they are after, and make it easy to buy right there.
Take, for example, Instagram. It’s a popular social platform for brands because it has user-generated content and consumers promote brands without brands having to prompt them too. It’s also a powerful medium for brands to connect a customer directly with their products.
Traditionally, there are a few ways this can be accomplished. The brand either directs the consumer to the site via a URL on the Instagram account profile, or there are solutions that allow tagging a photo to direct them to a specific product on the site, or tagging that photo to direct them to a few different products on the site.
These methods work poorly. The navigation is clunky and long. It can lead potential buyers astray and take them further away from their purchase intent of what they were initially interested in. And the consumer still has to deal with all of the challenges – slow page loads, overcrowded content and poor navigation – on the mobile site of the brand.
XpressBuy’s approach is disruptive. Using the XpressBuy service, the brand has the ability to provide the customer with one link in their Instagram profile that dynamically creates, in near real-time, with no agency or IT involvement, a mini-store tailor-made for all the Instagram photos.
“We make an Instagram photo ready for commerce in seconds. Any of the photos can engage consumers with a single product or multiple products,” Subbarao explained. “When they are ready to complete the transaction, all the relevant product information is brought to that Instagram context. It allows them to make an informed purchase through our service. And we provide the brand picture-to-purchase tracking.”
That also matters from the brand or retailer’s perspective.
“With a unified URL that they can place in different contexts such as Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, mobile ads, and blogs and other publishers, they get the engagement data from these contexts that helps them understand how things are performing, and figure out where they need to optimize and drive up further engagement and tweaking of their marketing campaigns.
Why that last part is key, he continues, is because not all snackable moments turn into sales “by engaging the consumers in context — providing them all the relevant product information, with the right experience, and allowing for the commerce transaction to be completed you increase the odds of more snackable moments becoming buying moments.”
“We have a better understanding of the purchase intent. We can tie it into a retargeting program. We allow you [the retailer or brand] to retarget through another channel, to reconnect with consumers,” Subbarao added. “When [consumers] are ready and have the time, we can capture the sale.”
All without being redirected away from the initial experience with which the consumer engaged. And with its connection to services like Visa Checkout, XpressBuy has streamlined the checkout process even more — taking away the need for customers to even click onto the brand’s website.
“We create the buying moment. They click and immediately own it,” Subbarao said.
What XpressBuy’s philosophy matches is the understanding that in the mobile dominated world we live today it’s critical for brands to be where consumers want them, when they want them and at the time a consumer is motivated to buy. That’s how “snackable moments” turn browsers into buyers, and drive up mobile conversions and marketing ROI.