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What if the whole internet were an e-commerce site?

Imagine if you could sell anywhere on the internet, not just your own e-commerce site.

“The bugbear that online retailers in particular have around the cost of acquisition – getting eyeballs to site – could be reduced by making conversion and payment frictionless,” Carolyn Breeze, country manager for Braintree Australia, told Internet Retailing in a recent conversation about the future of online shopping.

Braintree, the electronic payments company that pioneered the concept of frictionless payments with Uber, in March released a new suite of tools that enable ‘contextual commerce’, where shoppers can buy a product online from a brand or retailer without needing to go to their specific website.

Braintree Extend enables shoppers to click on a product they like and buy the item then and there, without being redirected to a separate page. Virtually any web page could be turned into an e-commerce site, as long as the parties involved sign up for Extend.

Capitalising on the moment of discovery

Contextual commerce is already prevalent in Asia, where retailers have long been able to sell products and services within third-party apps like WeChat. But while it has yet to take off in Australia, Breeze said the conditions for it are perfect Down Under.

“There’s a perfect storm in Australia. Mobile penetration is really high. Credit card penetration is extremely high, particularly in comparison to Asia. There’s a propensity for social channels …reading blogs and things,” she said, noting that more than 72 per cent of Australians are already shopping on mobile and more than 80 per cent are already researching online.

“There’s a huge opportunity to capture consumers in the moment of discovery,” she said, adding that this is when consumers’ intent to buy is the highest.

“If you think about the e-commerce landscape and where we’re heading, everyone is starting to have a similar view of where it’s going. It’s about being present, being where the consumer is and creating more frictionless interactions.”

The typical customer journey today occurs across several channels, and many retailers invest considerable resources into making the transition between those channels as seamless as possible, since every juncture is an opportunity for someone to drop off.

“In the best case example, an online retailer would be advertising on someone else’s website or channel. If their product is relevant and the consumer wants to know more, they click through and get redirected. Hopefully the site is mobile optimised and they can add it to cart, enter their payment details and check out. That’s the best case and it’s at lease three to four steps and at least one re-direction,” Breeze said.

Universal buy button

As Breeze explains it, the idea for Extend came about because the visual discovery platform, Pinterest, wanted to allow users to sell their products on its site, but it didn’t want to have to hold stock or handle credit card payments itself. The suite of tools allows Pinterest to capture payment information securely and share it with merchants, who are then responsible for processing orders and sending out goods.

Breeze said there are now several organisations in the US, UK and Singapore using Extend. One of the primary use cases is for what she calls ‘discovery platforms’, websites like Facebook, Instagram, blogs and comparison sites like iSelect or Skyscanner, where in the past consumers have seen items they may want to buy, but not been able to purchase them.

In some cases, the possibilities cross over into the physical world as well, according to Breeze.

“Imagine if you could connect a mirror in a shop to the internet. You could sell through that. You could link payment information to cars, so you could have cashless gas and food experiences. It would be like having a universal buy button,” she said.

If that were to occur, it would significantly disrupt the current state of e-commerce, where marketplaces like Ebay currently hold sway as the one-stop-shops of the internet.

“If you could buy anything you want on any website, I guess the value in going to a marketplace will become less and less compelling, because those products are being surfaced elsewhere in the moment of intent,” she said.

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