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Contextual Commerce: Paving the Way for Contextual Banking

When it comes to e-commerce, frictionless has been the name of the game for several years now.

The rise of in-app purchases makes it clear — consumers want to stay within the channels they’re in, and they want purchases to be quick, easy and convenient. After all, more than half of consumers have made a purchase directly through a social media platform, and with four out of every five consumers on social, this percentage is likely to only increase. This consumer desire, along with many other factors, has led to the rise of contextual commerce.  

Here’s what you need to know about this trend, and it’s impacts on financial services: 

What is contextual commerce? Contextual commerce is a simple but very important concept, especially in today’s on-demand culture. It’s the idea that consumers can buy anything, anytime, anywhere with the simple click of a button or voice response to their AI-powered device.

It’s all about removing friction for the consumer. Think Alexa offering to order a household staple; shopping integration into Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest; ordering takeout from the dashboard of your car via Olo. These innovations have created a consumer expectation — that they’ll be able to buy desired goods, services or experiences in the physical or digital environment they’re in at any given moment, and that it will be easy. For many merchants, this means keeping the process as simple as possible, so as to not dissuade the consumer from an impulse buy. Now, it’s easier than ever to snatch up the new shoes being worn by your favorite influencer on Instagram — all without leaving the app.

What is contextual banking? And, what does it mean for the payments industry? Many financial services platforms and technology companies see an opportunity to deliver add-on digital banking experiences contextually within their websites and apps to keep users in their ecosystems. For instance, ride-share apps now offer their drivers a debit product so their earnings can be instantly spendable on any expenses the driver may have mid-shift. Or, some investing platforms have added in a debit offering to prevent their customers from having to constantly move money between the platform and their traditional bank accounts. Like contextual commerce, contextual banking is a modern banking experience, wherein banking is personalized and seamlessly integrated into consumers’ lives.

As more companies try to be “contextual,” many are turning toward creating their own, branded debit accounts. Consider this: when given a choice, the overwhelming majority of consumers choose to make payments with debit cards. It’s also worth noting, per research: nearly one-third (31%) of consumers are open to banking alternatives from trusted brands like Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, and that percentage is even higher for younger generations.

How can banks and payments companies do this? Research indicates consumers are interested in banking (and spending) contextually. Rather than keeping all their funds in one place, they’re more interested in staying within the technology ecosystems they’re already in. This is true for consumers, as well as freelancers and business owners. This opens up the potential for multiple debit accounts to fulfill the management of money earned and spent in different platforms. For example, a consumer might have a traditional debit product via their local bank, along with one via a P2P payments app and another tied to their side gig employer. For a business owner or freelancer, it may be more convenient to use a debit card and bank account made available through the technology platform they use to manage their business or sell their services online, because it more easily integrates into ordering business supplies and balancing their books. With technology, it’s easier than ever for brands and tech companies to provide users with a seamless view of all their accounts, while maintaining contextual banking experiences. 

Banks and payments companies should take note: the opportunity exists to introduce debit as part of the contextual commerce equation. This could be a win-win that gives tech companies an additional consumer touchpoint within their ecosystems, while allowing banks and payments companies to expand their offerings with new debit applications.


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