We chat with Nilla Ali, the Senior Vice President of Commerce at BuzzFeed.

Can content and commerce coexist within a platform? How does the shift into shopping digitally affect the way that retailers and advertisers reach to consumers?

CONTENT AND COMMERCE

  • There has been an Increase in traffic and consumption on BuzzFeed during COVID-19.
  • BuzzFeed Shopping has been introduced, a native checkout feature on BuzzFeed which optimizes a consumer’s experience and increases revenue for featured products.
  • Creating content drives discovery and can enhance partnerships with retailers, providing an ease-of-use experience for consumers to get products through retailers. 
  • Because of commerce switching to primarily digital, content will start playing a huge role in those experiences. Content and commerce coming closer together is a natural progression.

INTEGRITY AND CONSUMER TRUST

  • BuzzFeed Shopping has a self-regulating business model that is mutually beneficial to all parties.
  • BuzzFeed has to understand their consumer well enough to recommend products and create an ease of use system for the consumer to use.
  • Editorial integrity wouldn’t be skewed because BuzzFeed Shopping is enhancing what they’re already doing  - it’s not a threat or competition to retailers, but a way to coexist, to bring content and commerce closer together.
  • BuzzFeed shopping is ‘employing the highest levels of integrity’ to prove trust with consumers. Providing customers not only with products to buy, but also with resources and details to aid them in making a good decision.

LINKS

Phillip: [00:02:09] Hello and welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast about cutting edge and next generation, BuzzFeed Commerce, or at least for today anyway. Hi, I'm Phillip.

Brian: [00:02:17] And I'm Brian. And today we have Nilla Ali, Senior Vice President of Commerce at BuzzFeed, back on the show. Welcome, Nilla, yet again.

Nilla: [00:02:26] Thank you for having me back. I'm very excited to be here.

Phillip: [00:02:29] I'm excited, too. We saw you in The Wall Street Journal and we thought, you know, I don't know whether I should feel like we've been brought up to the level of the journal or that it's been brought down to our level. But one of the two has occurred.

Nilla: [00:02:44] {laughter} I think we've all...

Phillip: [00:02:45] I tend to believe that it's the former.

Nilla: [00:02:46] I think we all reached the same level, which is what we're all striving for anyway. So kudos, everyone.

Phillip: [00:02:54] That's exactly true. You have some really big news and we'll get into that. But I just want to give everybody an opportunity. We had you on the show a few months ago, back when the world was sort of normal ish. I'd love to just catch people up real quick on who you are and your role at BuzzFeed and why you would be on Future Commerce talking about commerce.

Nilla: [00:03:14] Yeah, absolutely.

Phillip: [00:03:15] Because isn't BuzzFeed like a media property or something?

Nilla: [00:03:18] It's something along those lines. You may have heard about it in some format. But yes, we are a media company of some sort.

Phillip: [00:03:29] {laughter} And your role at the media company of some sort?

Nilla: [00:03:32] I will get into that important topic. So a little bit of a change since the last time we spoke. I do still oversee our commerce division, but I also oversee our advertising division on the retail and direct to consumer side. So really a big focus of ours right now is understanding what the user experience is with media and what that means for advertising partners. A big focus of mine for the past three years has really been, or even five years in my work prior to this has been, the relationship of media with consumers as it pertains to commerce and discovery and finding products through the lens of editorial. But now we know that that kind of exposure across media doesn't just mean lower funnel activity. It also means brand awareness. And we think that that's something advertisers are obviously thinking about, considering that's what the job of an advertiser is. So, yeah, so now I'm kind of more holistically thinking about our relationship with both advertisers and consumers. And it's a really, really exciting time to be kind of cracking the space.

Brian: [00:04:34] Yeah, no joke.

Phillip: [00:04:36] And this is the perfect time while people have nothing else to do, but scroll BuzzFeed.

Brian: [00:04:43] Yes.

Phillip: [00:04:43] I think it's really interesting, too, in that this is a recurrent theme. We just had Evan Moore from NBC Universal on talking about a similar thing of the sort of being a magical time. Before we jump into the actual news that you have, has BuzzFeed seen like stickier engagement in sort of this time while folks have been engaging in media a little more often?

Nilla: [00:05:08] Definitely have seen an uptick in media consumption specifically on our properties. I think what's been really exciting is seeing consumers lean into things that are tried and true to BuzzFeed. So we're definitely seeing an uptick in our commerce content. So I think that's no surprise as more and more consumers are having to shift to digital shopping and are looking to content to help them discover what to find. But we're also seeing a really big uptick with things like our quizzes, which, again, no surprise, we know that there's this big shift towards gaming. So we actually just recently launched something called Quiz Party, where people can take BuzzFeed quizzes virtually at the same time.

Brian: [00:05:45] Cool.

Nilla: [00:05:45] We really wanted to lean into something that we were seeing kind of stick and resonate with our readers. So, yes, I think that trend is very much being seen across publishers where consumption of content is up. And we definitely are excited that we can service people in that way during this very odd time.

Brian: [00:06:02] Not only that, but you launched something entirely new, which is your big news. Talk to us a little bit about BuzzFeed Shopping.

Nilla: [00:06:10] Yeah. So BuzzFeed Shopping has been around as a concept for a very long time. And it's, again, something that I've been very heavily focused on. But a lot of our shopping initiatives were essentially powered by affiliate in the very traditional sense where we had roundups of products across retailers. You click through and you're driven to the retailer site to then convert, which very much like a still a big part of what our strategy is. But as of last week, two weeks ago... Time is a construct now. I can't remember what it is. But we launched a new piece of what we're doing, which is enabling native checkout. So what we know is consumers obviously, again, use content to find things and buy them. But there's still this kind of frustrating experience of if you're reading a piece of content, you love multiple things within that post or you love multiple things within your session at BuzzFeed, you basically have to go back and forth between the content and the retailer to actually complete that purchase.

Phillip: [00:07:06] Right.

Nilla: [00:07:08] So which I strongly believe results in either just people bouncing or people not buying as much as they intend to because it's not an optimal experience. So we started exploring what it could look like to enable native checkout on our sites, not to take the experience away from the retailers. I think that's really important. But essentially to enhance the experience on BuzzFeed and to make it easy to shop across retailers across content. So we're still in early stages. You can actually engage with the experience today, but we really want to be thoughtful about what the next phase of this looks like, because if I learned anything, you can't just add a link to a piece of content and expect that people will buy things. You have to think like a retailer. So at this stage, we're really trying to understand how do people engage with this? How are they finding it? How many products do they have to cart? And then for us to kind of refine the experience over time.

Brian: [00:08:00] Really, really interesting experience, and I totally agree with you. I think if you've ever shopped because of being influenced by a piece of content you may click through, you may not click through. It's one of those... It's challenging. It is challenging. And I think affiliate is amazing. But I love that deeper, more specific connection to customer that BuzzFeed is, or to your readers, that you're bringing to the table with this. Talk to us a little bit about how you've brought this about. Like what tools that have you used? I think in the WSJ article it talked about your partnership with Shop Bonsai Inc. Talk to us a little bit about how you accomplish this.

Nilla: [00:08:41] Yeah. So I met Saad in Toronto quite literally during COVID, but before kind of we all knew it was a real threat on this side of the world. But we met in Toronto over lunch and him and I were just vibing on all things content and commerce. And Saad Siddiqui is the CEO and Founder of Bonsai. And I was just incredibly impressed with the way he was approaching the space and ensuring that it wasn't kind of this prescriptive one size fits all solution. He very much is a firm believer in a publisher's relationship with their audience will vary depending on who the publisher is. And there's many publishers before us who've kind of tested this model of the universal cart or native checkout. But what we both kind of agreed on is BuzzFeed is this mass publisher. But we're also a platform to some extent, and a platform that drives discovery of culture, of content, of commerce. So while that means we have a lot of scale, it also means we might not necessarily be the first place someone thinks of when starting their shopping journey. And that is something that we kind of beyond this need to check out. It's something that I've been thinking about a lot, and we're making a lot of moves to try to solve for that. But in speaking with him, we just realized that there was a lot of strong synergies around how he's thinking and how we've been thinking about commerce at BuzzFeed. So we are leveraging their technology to power this experience and we're really, really excited about it. The initial results are really promising. I actually was literally just served an ad on Instagram that drove to our own article, and I was really impressed by the experience, so I'm very excited to partner with them on this.

Phillip: [00:10:20] Nice. Congratulations. I'm soft golf clapping for you. I don't know if... You know it's interesting, I feel like not everybody has been so rosy to you around the approach. And so I thought maybe we could broach the topic a little bit.

Nilla: [00:10:37] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:10:37] According to some research that I did in preparation for this interview, there's one source says affiliate drove up to 300 million in product sales last year for BuzzFeed. So it doesn't sound like it's a trivial or small part of the business. So it seems like a real area for growth. I'm curious. Yeah, I'm curious if the strategy and the partnership with Bonsai, which I think we can unpack a little bit, if it's a bridge to something bigger or if this is a longer term opportunity for you to be able to reach more people quicker without becoming entrenched in all the things that it would take to actually to carry inventory. And talk to me a little bit about like that balance of that speed to market and the ownership of the commerce experience.

Nilla: [00:11:36] Yeah, I would say a BuzzFeed is no stranger to the challenges and responsibility of taking on the full kind of supply chain and becoming a retailer. We've had many kind of efforts in the commerce space. Many of you might remember the Fondoodler that we launched. We have the Tasty cookbook business.

Phillip: [00:11:55] Yes.

Nilla: [00:11:55] So we've actually done a fairly decent amount of moves in the direct to consumer space. My intention is not to discredit or discount that. I think it's a very important thing for retailers to take on. And that relationship with your consumer is a burden, I would say, that retailers take on and one that powers their business. From our perspective, we also do direct to consumer in the sense that we have Shop BuzzFeed, which is where we sell our own products. And that in itself, yes, it's print on demand. But again, it's a part of our business that we've had that we potentially will double down on. I see this as more of an extension of what we know how to do best, and that's creating content that drives discovery. I don't want to necessarily say we're competing with retailers. I actually think, and it's actually quoted in The Wall Street Journal, that I see it as more of an enhancement of our partnerships with a lot of these retailers. And I think us taking on the kind of task of owning the supply chain would mean that we have to very much limit ourselves as to what we're actually taking out to market and servicing our readers with. So what we want to ensure is that we really are that place of discovery across many categories and verticals and different types of retailers. Like we have such a mass audience and it's, I don't want to say nearly impossible, but somewhat for us to get really right what the product is that we need to lean into or what the product categories are. [00:13:22] So having a business that's more kind of agnostic as to what we're actually selling and for us to create more of a platform for retailers and brands to sell their products through, I think that is more powerful and a better use of our platform and kind of what our expertise is. [00:13:38] So I think it's easier for publishers to kind of own an endemic category to get into the direct to consumer space in the more kind of traditional sense. So Goop selling products within the wellness category, like that makes a lot of sense. They have that audience. That's exactly what they're coming to them for. Because BuzzFeed operates in this kind of mass lens, and because we're, again, somewhat of a platform. I would equate us more as to what Instagram native checkout has kind of achieved. Like you're more passively interacting with content. You find something that you like and we're making it really easy to shop.

Phillip: [00:14:14] Yeah.

Nilla: [00:14:14] So I think our role in the customer journey is a little bit different than might be for some other publishers.

Brian: [00:14:19] Interesting. So I heard you say supply chain. Are you going to actually carry inventory then? Warehouse inventory and like run this as like a full stack eCommerce business so to say?

Nilla: [00:14:32] We actually are not touching any of that, which is again, kind of the beauty of working with Bonsai. [00:14:37] Everything is still fueled by and through the retailers. It's more that we're kind of optimizing the front end experience with the consumer. [00:14:45] It also opens up the ability for us to do things like cart abandonment retargeting and/or understanding our consumer or audience's kind of purchasing behavior through our content at a deeper level so that we can again refine our content strategy, potentially have personalized recommendations. Maybe your experience on BuzzFeed is different based on what you're buying or shopping, or maybe we can offer things like loyalty for first time shoppers. So it allows us to do more to kind of service our audience through the lens of commerce. So, again, I very much understand the criticism, and I think it is kind of problematic for publishers or media companies to come in and try to challenge retailers, because I do think it's important for the two worlds to exist and to kind of support each other in the way that they kind of service the consumer journey. But I do think it's almost a disservice to our retailers when we have a frustrating experience through our content. So the intention is more to enhance what we've been doing already.

Phillip: [00:15:47] Sort of coming back again, you mentioned Bonsai. Again, I think that that is a really interesting strategy and approach. I like the idea of it being a partnership and not a service that's just being offloaded. You both stand something to gain here. I think there's something to be said about that. Again, coming back to the criticism... Web Smith... By the way, I am a 2pm executive member. We love Web and we love 2pm. He was quoted in that Journal article, but he had mentioned outside of that in a member letter that he sees this as a convoluted... I'm quoting here, "What this presents is a convoluted approach to content and commerce strategy that absolves the commitment to work the strategy through the inevitably tough periods of retail brand development. Most importantly, the strategy may potentially increase tension between the two sides of the business editorial and the green team." I'm curious what your take is there. It's early days, obviously, but I would assume that you have a different point of view.

Nilla: [00:16:55] I do strongly have a different point of view. It's really interesting to me because there's just there's this general fear of editorial touching commerce being that it feels like it's this conflict of interest. But I think because I come from a retail background, I think of editorial having exposure to commerce and commerce data and understanding what consumers are buying as more kind of, again, a deeper level of them connecting with who they're writing for. So our edit team very much... Obviously editorial is subjective. They have brands that they love. They have products that they want to write about or products that they don't want to write about. Us launching this new initiative doesn't mean that that kind of editorial discretion is going to change in any way. If anything, what I mandate in my business team who is helping power this new experience to do is find the brands that our edit team loves to write about and ensure that they're integrated into this kind of ecosystem so that we can enable native checkout. We also would never not write about a brand because they're not enabled with native checkout. We obviously will still have our core affiliate business, but it more so is like we're going to continue doing what we're doing, but hopefully make that a better experience for our end-user. And again, I think that the very cool and interesting thing with affiliate or commerce and content as a business is that if we're not honest about what we're recommending, we're not getting paid because either the consumer is going to have a bad experience and they won't come back or people will return the products and we don't earn our commission. So it almost is this kind of self policing business model that is mutually beneficial. And that's why I've personally always been so passionate about it. So I think that kind of fear of editorial discretion, I don't think is valid. Obviously, there's always potentially bad actors in the space or ones that might try to kind of capitalize on how the industry is evolving. But for us, editorial discretion is honestly like the top pillar of our strategy. And from that is what we've seen we have the most success with. So this strategy shouldn't in any way change that.

Brian: [00:19:07] I feel like what you're saying. I mean, in all reality, this same criticism could be leveled against affiliate.

Nilla: [00:19:15] Exactly.

Phillip: [00:19:15] The same criticism could be leveled against any business that someone just may not like. {laughter} But I digress.

Nilla: [00:19:22]  [00:19:22]Exactly. It's just so fascinating to me because it's like, yeah, retailers are subjective. They make more of the things people like to buy. And we're just doing that through content. It's like we know what our audience likes, so we create more of that content. [00:19:34]

Phillip: [00:19:34] Wow. Yeah.

Nilla: [00:19:34] So it's not that different. I find it very interesting that the space is evaluating editorial commerce that critically because again, if we don't do a good job people don't buy things. So I actually think it's like the best form of content.

Phillip: [00:19:48] I imagine that people have this fear that one day... It's like the slippery slope. Like one day I'll be reading that generation's version of the Steele dossier on BuzzFeed and then be marketed adult diapers at the same time, which is not I don't think anything that would ever happen. But and by the way, I can't wait for your PR team to make me cut that out. But I had to say it [00:20:17]. {laughter} I just find that there's a way that this can be done that is beneficial to all parties involved, including the consumer, because I think that there is intense frustration from a shopper who has stoked purchase intent and then they leave the editorial experience to go buy something and are stymied in the process by something along the way. And that creates a lost reader on your side, and it creates a lost sale on the side of the merchant, and I think that getting content and commerce closer together, where it becomes one unified experience can only be a good thing. [00:21:00] But that's my take.

Nilla: [00:21:02] I couldn't agree more. It's very interesting to me because I'm super passionate about this space and I've been doing a lot of self reflecting during this time where you have a lot of time to yourself. And I realize that because I grew up with a mom and aunt who are obsessed with shopping, it's just something that's so kind of built into my identity, but also because I've grown up as a millennial, digital shopping has been very much built into my identity. So for me, the concept of like I typically don't buy anything without researching it in some capacity, and there's definitely some brands or influencers or people or kind of content publishers that I follow whose recommendations I respect. And if they're saying something is good, I will go down the rabbit hole of researching it further and then buying it. I think that concept, as it may be come as naturally to someone who's not as passionate about shopping, or maybe that's not necessarily how they interact with content to make purchasing decisions, I do strongly believe more and more people will adopt that behavior, especially as digital purchases are up. So I think I understand the skepticism. I understand that there can be this kind of conflict of interest or this desire for separation of church and state. But I also, again, think the good actors are the ones who will have the strongest kind of long term strategy. [00:22:21] Yes, you can try to game the system and try to make fast revenue, but that's not very sustainable because consumers aren't stupid. At the end of the day, consumers will need to have that trust with the publisher to come back and to keep shopping for you to grow that business. So that is why I think that this is like very much the future of where publishers will be kind of investing their energy. And I don't think that in any way muddies editorial integrity. [00:22:47]

Phillip: [00:25:10] If I could ask a question there, so yeah, I expect you to be a fan of the product that you've launched. I'm curious if you can sort of foresee challenges or environmental challenges, you know, in the second half of 2020 that you'll have to overcome to be successful. Because I believe the consumer is very smart, too. I also believe that the consumer has more option than ever before and has other places to close that sale in the life cycle from, you just mentioned it yourself, retargeting ads... You know, somehow, some way every candle brand that's ever existed has decided that I'm in market for candles all the time, which might actually be true. But there's plenty of other brands that are trying to get in front of that same consumer. What are some of those challenges you're going to have to overcome in the next six months?

Nilla: [00:26:08] So I think the biggest challenge is, to your point, it's going as more consumers are shifting to digital, I think digital will become increasingly noisy and we're all competing for limited space. So, yes, I think it will be more important than ever for us to find the consumer when they're at that point of either passive shopping discovery and/or they want something and they're looking for the best recommendation. So I think it's a matter of how can we ensure that we're getting there before other publishers. And again, it's not this like race to the bottom. I actually don't really like that mentality either. But it is, again, ensuring that you're getting in front of the right people at the right time. I think the very cool thing with BuzzFeed is a lot of our shopping actually does happen fairly passively and on social. So we are driving a lot of this kind of impulse purchase. The other thing that I've started to discover in light of COVID is that we are operating in this time of kind of mass intent. And what I mean by that is because everyone is moving and everyone seems to be fleeing from New York, from my perspective, it means that most people are probably looking for things of how to refurnish their new space. Or we know that everyone is starting to work from home, so they're starting to buy things to help support this kind of new way of living. So it's almost like SEO best practices apply to social, which I've never seen before. It's usually that the two strategies are very different.

Phillip: [00:27:37] Yeah.

Nilla: [00:27:37] So that's going to be an interesting thing to see how other publishers kind of react to that on Social. It's usually been the space where we obviously have a lot of market share just given the scale of BuzzFeed, and that is where a lot of our interaction with our shopping audience happens. So if there's many more publishers kind of showing up and on social all promoting similar things, I can see that becoming potentially a challenge. But I also think the size of the pie is growing at a rate that I don't even think we quite realize yet. And we'll probably see it as Q4 approaches. So I think there's a lot of love to go around. I think most in-store purchases will be shifting to digital. I think there's going to be a lot of new digital shoppers entering the ecosystem who won't necessarily know where to start. And I think content can play a really big role in those kind of new digital shoppers life. So I think where we'll miss is if we're not very thoughtful about who those new people are who are existing audience was that was shopping through BuzzFeed and how can we best serve them in a time where they might be leaning on digital shopping more, but I actually see that as more of an opportunity than I do a risk. Because I think we've done a lot of work to sort of set ourselves up well for this very unprecedented time.

Brian: [00:28:48] Yeah, I think what you've said... You said something earlier that really caught my attention, which was a race to the bottom. Actually, what I think I hear you saying is that this is actually a race to the top.

Nilla: [00:29:01] Yup. Yup.

Brian: [00:29:01] In that [00:29:02] we need to employ the highest levels of integrity and prove our trust right now, as opposed to trying just to get people to buy things. [00:29:11]And as you mentioned...

Phillip: [00:29:15] Well there's the show title, Brian. Great job. That was...

Brian: [00:29:20] {laughter}

Phillip: [00:29:20] Have to make a note of that. That was nice.

Brian: [00:29:22] Thank you. The other thing that you said that just caught my ear, like, just it's ringing in my ears and it's maybe this is the show title, actually, which is editorial commerce. Editorial commerce is sort of that Race to the Top.

Nilla: [00:29:37] Yup.

Brian: [00:29:37] It's a perfect definition of the Race to the Top, because [00:29:41] the way that you're going to get people to buy online in the future is to provide them with the best possible resources to making a purchasing decision. Things that they trust, things that are detailed, things that help them make a good decision. And that's how you win. [00:29:58]

Nilla: [00:29:58] I could not more agree with that statement. [00:30:04] It's so interesting because, again, as a shopping obsessed person, there're so many times where I'm like, why aren't you making it easier for me to buy this thing in that I'm almost wanting to click the button, but I'm like, eh, I would love to see more reviews. I'd love to see the product shop differently. I'd love a little bit more context. And I think that is where the retail space has fallen short. [00:30:24] It's like when you walk into a store and you interact with a store associate, and I think the stores that do it the best, the store associates come to you and they talk to you and they like help give you more context as to why you should make that purchase. And I think the retail space has been slow to adopt that kind of magic that happens in store online. I think obviously the savvy ones, the ones that kind of grew up in the digital space, have achieved that the best. But why I think commerce content does so well is because we provide that context to why you should buy something, who it's best for what, whether it's more of a quality buy, whether it's something that's just like a big steal. I think that context really, really matters. And even as we're kind of thinking about this native checkout experience, what I don't want us to do and what I think is kind of a failed execution is if we just said we're BuzzFeed, we're building a marketplace, here is a bunch of products that are all on one landing page and we're going to expect people to buy just because BuzzFeed told you to without any context. Like that's not going to work. That editorial voice in that editorial kind of context is what makes our business effective and successful. So to your point, I think that will hopefully just overall enrich the commerce and content space. I don't also think it's just limited to publishers. I think retailers can also adopt the strategy and many are leaning into content in a very big way. So, yes, that context and that editorial is what is key to the success of the digital commerce space.

Phillip: [00:31:53] If I could, the same people who are critical about the BuzzFeed model will also tell you that like Man Repeller is the most influential media brand doing commerce at the same time. I don't understand the sort of juxtaposition of how one media property and editorial property doing commerce can be different to the next, other than BuzzFeed has a highly skilled team at creating editorial content. Not to like... I'm a fan of the property, so this is my own opinion. But editorial can be made better when there's relevant content that's positioned around it that's useful to the consumer in a shopping capacity. And I feel like you are better positioned to do it than say, not to draw comparisons... There are big CPG brands that are launching direct to consumer sites that should be gaining more criticism for their poor entry into... Their foray into direct to consumer than, say, BuzzFeed's entry. Anyway, whatever. I'm salty. I digress.

Nilla: [00:33:02] {laughter}

Brian: [00:33:02] {laughter}

Phillip: [00:33:02] Let me ask you a question rather than pontificating. How are you going about the curation and what is the process going to be like present day and how might you involve that to make it better over time?

Nilla: [00:33:15] Yeah, so the curation again, we are a data obsessed company and we have three years, three years plus actually, of learnings from our core affiliate business. Again, what I want to ensure that we're doing is we're not reinventing the wheel. And just because we're introducing native checkout, shouldn't mean that we're trying to build it's completely new and siloed experience. So very much we want to build upon the building blocks that we've already put in place. Really, the big kind of undertaking is going to be onboarding as many of our existing partners onto this native checkout experience to ensure that we have the capability across as many of our partners as possible. Again, I do want to emphasize, I don't see a world in which native checkout is the only means of shopping through BuzzFeed.

Phillip: [00:34:01] Right.

Nilla: [00:34:01] Again, if you think about it, Instagram does it where brands run ads, some of them have native checkout, some of them drive to the retailer site. I think those things can exist in one place because I also think consumers might want to go to the retailer site and see what else is available. It's not necessarily that they're just buying our recommendation. We could just be driving that discovery of the brand existing. So our kind of phase one is just getting more brands that our edit team loves on board so that we can have this new feature enabled. Beyond that, again, I think a lot of work still needs to be done in understanding how do people navigate the content? How many brands are they shopping during one session? How are our retargeting efforts effective? Are we actually getting someone to kind of convert if they saw something and added it to their cart but didn't necessarily check out? We've done a lot of this work, actually. And what I would say, again, inspired this new initiative at BuzzFeed was our integration with Walmart in the Tasty app. A lot of that was thinking about how do we introduce shopability within an app where that isn't necessarily the number one reason why users are coming to it? So if we're actually working on some additional enhancements in the Tasty app that will further educate users of this new experience. So while it's not native checkout, it's not that different because we're basically deep linking the user into Walmart's preloaded cart with the products that the user selected.

Phillip: [00:35:25] Yeah.

Nilla: [00:35:25] So it's not like we've never done this before. We've just never done it where it's literally a few clicks and you can buy BuzzFeed across multiple brands. So we're rolling it out very thoughtfully. And I don't want to sit here and say, like, this is exactly what V2 is going to look like, because I think that's where we'll fall short and we won't build out the best experience.

Phillip: [00:35:45] Tell me about your launch brands.

Nilla: [00:35:47] So what we are currently working with e.l.f Cosmetics, HipDot, and Bellesa. And so the reason why we worked with those three is we very much worked closely and consulted with our editorial team to see which brands they would be interested in working with. Those three brands I would consider innovators and their respective space and were very excited to work with us in this capacity. They even, I don't know if you've noticed in the experience, but we offer free shipping across all three, which I think is a really kind of unique value proposition for shopping through us. So they were awesome in wanting to work with us for this kind of very initial launch of this product. They're brands that the edit team loves and that we've worked with in many capacities in the past. So, again, we're hoping to find more partners who are willing to test with us in this new way. And I think it's a pretty easy conversation to have with a lot of partners because this concept of selling your product through channels beyond kind of traditional retailers is becoming more and more popular. So it's not, I haven't found it to be challenging to have that discussion. I think five years ago it was and it wasn't necessarily as easy to get brands to adopt this concept of universal cart, but there's a lot more kind of eagerness and willingness to work with us in this way.

Brian: [00:37:05] It's so crazy to talk to you and Evan back to back. Evan Moore from NBC.

Phillip: [00:37:09] Yeah. I know.

Brian: [00:37:10] And just to hear the strategy being applied in different ways, but the concepts are there. Like they're the same. The bringing commerce closer to content. I think it seems like this is going to become effectively like a new channel. I think that you kind of mentioned vetting different partners out and what that's going to look like. And, you know, who you want to work with. And what do you see, Nilla, as sort of how merchants are going to view this? Are they going to see this as like a close partnership, or are they going to start to look at content players that are making strides in this play just in an entirely new channel that they're going to have to address in some way? And what is that future going to look like?

Nilla: [00:37:57] I think five years ago, three years ago, it was a lot more complicated for merchants to wrap their heads around this new model. But I think with Shopify launching various channels and merchants essentially expanding their footprint beyond their own DTC or again, kind of the traditional retailers like a Walmart or an Amazon, I think merchants know how to operate in this way. It also is not, again, that different than partnering with publishers from an affiliate capacity. I would actually just say it's a more transparent affiliate model where merchants have a bit more control over what the data looks like, we know the attribution will obviously be much stronger because there is that potential risk of last click attribution loss. So I think, yes, it requires probably a more expanded purview of what your channels are and ensuring that you're kind of maximizing your strategy across all channels and all publishers in a way that is effective for your business. But I don't think it's far off from how they're operating today. Do I imagine a world in which maybe there is like a... And not to create a startup idea on the podcast, but maybe there will eventually be kind of vendors or parties that exist that help merchants manage their strategy across many publishers of this capacity. Obviously, there are affiliate agencies today who do that through the networks. But I don't foresee that being... I think the industry will adapt. And I don't think it's honestly that different than what they're doing today. It's just an expansion of their channels through a new lens of content, which is very exciting for the space, in my opinion.

Brian: [00:39:40] So cool. I want to go back to something you said earlier, which I think he repeated a few times, which is that you're shopping obsessed. And I love this idea. I think it's so interesting. Phillip and I are both shopping obsessed. Even as a child I was like obsessed. Like I read like ads that came in our local paper and in our daily mail, obsessively. Like it was sort of something that I would keep track of. And I would literally tell my parents what to go by, keeping track of prices and brands.

Phillip: [00:40:14] I just want to... Brian. I just have to be clear here that we're two different, very different, types of shoppers.

Brian: [00:40:22] {laughter} That's true. That's true. That's absolutely true. It doesn't mean we're not both obsessed with shopping.

Phillip: [00:40:27] I know. I'm just making sure that it's known that we're different shoppers.

Brian: [00:40:32] Very different shoppers.

Nilla: [00:40:34] {laughter}

Brian: [00:40:34] Regardless, I think it's something that's happening that's really interesting right now. And Phillip, I think that I want to refer back to your Freaky Friday article where now actually the better shopping experience is online. We've flip flopped in person and online in terms of which one is the preferred experience. And I think sort of an outflow of this, actually, is that the three of us are becoming less common in that everyone is getting shopping obsessed now.

Nilla: [00:41:09] Yup.

Brian: [00:41:09]  [00:41:10]Everyone thinks that shopping is fun when they're online and they're like going and reading reviews and they're spending more time on it than they ever would have before. And they're spending more online and they're getting crazy about shopping. They're consuming it like it's content. And I think that that is actually a really, really key point in all of this. As people consider shopping content the natural progression for content and commerce to come together, it's just it's really good timing.  [00:41:41]

Phillip: [00:41:41] Makes a lot more sense because it looks a lot more like what the actual decision making and purchase journey looks like is less about spear fishing on say Amazon, and a lot more about discovering things that you didn't even know you were looking for. I find that really fascinating.

Nilla: [00:41:59] Yeah, I think we're entering this phase of shopping as entertainment. And I think when we first launched our affiliate business, which actually predates me at BuzzFeed, from what I've heard is there was this kind of concern that shopping content would cannibalize the core business because that content wouldn't have the same sort of reach or traffic or engagement that we typically see with BuzzFeed content. And that has proven consistently to not be true. [00:42:26] I think people, just to your point, like reading about shopping content. It's like it is fun to see what products are available and to go down that journey and to read the reviews, whether or not you're necessarily in a shopping mindset or intending to buy something. So I think that behavior, to your point, is going to be more increasingly adopted and it's not necessarily going to be limited to the Millennial or Gen Z generation. So I think it's a very, very exciting time for the space. [00:42:56]

Brian: [00:42:56] Yeah, definitely.

Phillip: [00:42:57] I think that that's a great place to end it actually. I think I'm very bullish on this as a new and emerging channel. I wish you the best of luck. Thanks for coming on basically the retail eCommerce podcast world of Judge Judy to come and defend your position.

Nilla: [00:43:16] {laughter} Yeah.

Phillip: [00:43:16] I really appreciate it.

Nilla: [00:43:16] Thank you so much for having me and for giving me the opportunity.

Phillip: [00:43:19] Thank you so much. And that's Nilla Ali, who is the SVP of Commerce and apparently her tent poles are expanding. I didn't catch all the other things. She's basically running the show over BuzzFeed now. Where can people find you online, Nilla?

Nilla: [00:43:35] People can find me online on my LinkedIn, which is Nilla Ali.

Phillip: [00:43:39] Fantastic.

Brian: [00:43:39] {cheering} LinkedIn.

Nilla: [00:43:44] My favorite new platform.

Brian: [00:43:44] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:43:44] Thank you for coming on the show. Thank you for listening to Future Commerce. Remember, we are available everywhere where podcasts are found. And you know what else is available is our newest market research report called Retail Rebirth. We poled some of the best and brightest in our Future Commerce expert network and asked them, how are shoppers going to approach a back to school season with a little bit of a different economic outlook? And what does second half of 2020 look like? How can you prepare your business for that? Well, all of those questions are answered and more. You can get the report right now over a FutureCommerce.fm/RetailRebirth. And I know you're not going to be disappointed. It's chock full of great advice for you. And to help you plan out and chart out the second half of 2020. Retail is being reborn and Future Commerce is going to help you shape the future of your business. So go get that report right now. And thank you for listening. Talk soon.

Brian: [00:44:39] Bye.