Main Takeaways

  • Brian and Phillip are joined in today’s episode by Nilla Ali, the SVP of Commerce at BuzzFeed.
  • The role of publishers has shifted in recent years when it comes to commerce, but is the attribution model in need of an update?
  • Recent updates in the protection of consumer privacy are changing the way publishers are acquiring consumers. 
  • How are brands reaching and connecting with younger generations like Gen Z?

What is BuzzFeed Today?: Evolution Through the Years

  • Nilla has been at BuzzFeed for three years and describes BuzzFeed today as a cultural soundboard that has made huge strides with its news organization
  • Commerce has become a big part of BuzzFeed’s business and has seen success in helping people with shopping and making shopping decisions. 
  • BuzzFeed recently had a viral article about Millennial burnout and are covering topics that people want to hear about with a very raw perspective. 
  •  BuzzFeed’s investigative journalism is solidifying them in history as opposed to just a fleeting cultural relevance. 
  • BuzzFeed has used its cultural relevance to contribute to real journalism and to promote social welfare for us to be better as people. 

A Meteoric Rise

  • Nilla has had a meteoric rise to where she is in her career at a very young age by comparison to others in her position. 
  • She started her career at Ann Taylor as a merchandizer but very quickly found out she was interested in the other side of commerce and how people make their buying decisions. 
  • She started a position at Time Inc., where she focused on affiliate business and how content can drive commerce.
  •  Towards the end of her time at Time Inc., Nilla got the opportunity to work under Ben Kaufman, and from there, her career has taken off. 

The Scoop on Affiliate Commerce: A Modern Model?

  • Affiliate is a more so a tool that powers commerce and lead generation as opposed to its commerce channel.  
  • From a consumer’s perspective, it has become much more common to see publishers creating comment that drives you to take action from that content. 
  • The acquisition of The Wirecutter by the New York Times was a significant shift in the industry that showed publishers that affiliate commerce could be a serious business. 
  • Affiliate commerce has evolved, but the model and structure has stayed the same and is how most publishers are currently powering their commerce business.

The Role of Content: Shifts in the Path to Purchase

  • Given that most businesses have mostly shifted to digital, there is an increasing need to curate the best of the best products. 
  • Content is increasingly driving discovery or helping validate a purchase ushering in a new era in which content plays a more significant role in discovery.
  • Frequently there are instances in which BuzzFeed has to work directly with partners to get appropriate attribution due to the outdated last-clicked model. 
  • Measuring the impact of content has proven to be an ongoing challenge, and the attribution process does not reflect how customers shop.

Technical Hurdles: Protecting Consumer Privacy

  • Cookie changes and the idea of putting the power of privacy back in the hands of the consumer can directly affect the attribution for attribution models. 
  • Nilla states that the changes that are happening with user privacy are to the benefit of publishers like BuzzFeed, whose visitors are drawn to content that is beyond targeted personalization. 
  • The big question is whether or not publishers will be able to track attribution in a cookieless world. 
  • How do you get visitors to return to your site without personalization?

The Power of the Publisher: Empowering Retailers

  • How can consumers make direct purchases through BuzzFeed without needing to leave the content that drew them to the site in the first place?
  • Nilla finds that there is a lot of power in publishers empowering retailers due to the retailer’s expertise in upselling, cross-selling, and guiding the customer through the path to purchase. 
  • The consumer trusts retailers, and it can sometimes be problematic if the publisher tries to step into the role of the retailer. 
  • It is exceedingly important that the process of discovery is smooth on a publisher site to best lead consumers through the path to purchase. 

A New Approach: What Does Commerce Mean to BuzzFeed?:

  • To Nilla, commerce is understanding what your consumers are in-market looking for both from an entertainment standpoint and a shopping/action standpoint. 
  • It’s essential to think about curation as BuzzFeed plays a large part in curating what people are watching on popular streaming services. 
  • Helping consumers navigate through decisions in a saturated world is a goal of BuzzFeed’s when it comes to their commerce decisions. 
  • Shoppable recipes are an example of getting people to take action and convert when researching recipes online.

New Expectations: Weaving the Customer Journey Through Disparate Properties:

  • BuzzFeed is weaving the customer path through many different properties to make the path to purchase easier than ever before when it comes to integrating content and commerce. 
  • With modern technology like the Tasty App, you can schedule a grocery delivery curated directly from the ingredient list of a recipe video you are watching online via various grocery retailers.
  • What are the further implications of linking separate properties with a single path to purchase?
  • Content brands like Bon Appétit could have limitless commerce potential with integrations like this.

The Content Game: Is DIY the Best Choice?

  • How can retail brands partner with a content provider like BuzzFeed to better improve their content strategy?
  • Establishing yourself as a thought leader in your space is extremely important, and content can help you achieve this. 
  • Consumers can sometimes be skeptical when content comes from the brand itself and is intended to drive conversion. 
  • BuzzFeed has found a lot of partners that boost publisher content on social because content has become a reliable acquisition channel.

Capturing Gen Z: Untapped Potential:

  • BuzzFeed is very focused on Gen Z since it has already succeeded in capturing that Millennial audience. 
  • As a publisher, you always run the risk of trying to do too many things too well. 
  • The best way to capture a young audience is to have people from that generation be a part of your team and advocate for what they want to see. 
  • What are some ways in which you can reach younger generations?

Brands Mentioned in this Episode: