BuzzFeed has launched a new shopping hub, known as Shopping+, that looks to ride the wave of readers’ shifting e-commerce habits. The Drum catches up with the executive leading it.
BuzzFeed has ridden the wave of e-commerce for years now. It was one of ‘nine boxes’ that made up chief exec Jonah Peretti’s revenue strategy and has seen it forge partnerships in popular categories from cookware to sexual wellness.
In the intervening years, the tech that underpins e-commerce and affiliate revenue has evolved, with social platforms putting shop functionality at the core of their offering and audiences primed more than ever to buy via a publisher or platform.
To take advantage of this next wave, BuzzFeed's new shopping hub is broken down into category pages populated by commerce-focused posts. It claims the overall clickthrough probability (CTP) from posts stands at 66%, while of the shoppers who then explore further into a post (some 66% on mobile web) will tap an affiliate link once in the post itself. It speaks to an effective journey BuzzFeed has created for its audiences, from discovery to purchase.
Becca Maier, the director of international commerce at BuzzFeed, tells The Drum: “When a user is landing on the new Shopping experience, they are looking for something in particular and specifically want our recommendations on what to buy. They are intent-based shoppers who need some extra research, seal of approval, advice to follow through on that conversion, and users who are landing on the new Shopping section want that advice from us.
“To note, we do see really strong intent metrics across our content, independent of whether the audience came from an intent based referral source such as search or via navigation in our new Shopping section, and this is due to the trust and authenticity BuzzFeed UK consistently fosters with our readers. 70% of BuzzFeed UK users say they always trust the content they consume from us and, with shopping specifically, 73% of our users say that they are more likely to purchase something from a brand if it was featured on BuzzFeed.”
That trust in recommendations is the bedrock of similar e-commerce strategies at other publishers. Future’s success last year was predicated in part on the brands it leverages to start the purchase journey and Maier believes the same is true at BuzzFeed. In order to maintain that level of trust, she says, BuzzFeed constantly monitors the proportion of commerce-focused content to regular editorial to ensure the audience does not become burnt out by constant selling.
“That clickthrough is based on what we have seen after a user has found a post via the new search functionality that has launched as a part of the US’s new Shopping experience, so it evaluates how effective the search functionality is at finding relevant content for a user who is searching for something, which is really effective!
“We are always monitoring the balance of our edition to ensure that Shopping content never outweighs other important content within our edition so that we can maintain the trust and authenticity we have as a publisher with our audience.”
The groundwork laid by social platforms also has an impact on how users interact with BuzzFeed’s content differently across mobile and social. While desktop users typically have a higher CTP, mobile users are far more likely to actually click on an affiliate link. BuzzFeed sees a 71% CTP on desktop compared to 66% CTP on mobile into a post from search results, but while 66% on mobile web tap an affiliate link only 26% of desktop users do the same.
Tailored for the UK
While Maier says that shopping habits of UK audiences are not fundamentally different to other countries, BuzzFeed has found that contextual and relevant recommendations are the biggest driver of any purchase.
“Previously, someone who would click on the Shopping section would be able to find a feed of chronological Shopping content, so it was harder for them to index the content to find the recommendations they may have been searching for.
“With the new experience, users can better navigate the incredible content that our local UK writers have created over the past two years and more seamlessly find the recommendations and inspiration they are seeking via new features like the search functionality and the editorially curated Collections and Category pages.“
As a result, the section also only indexes UK content that is tailored to UK shoppers. As with the efforts from social platforms to ensure affiliate content does not fall off a cliff of relevance when products are unavailable, BuzzFeed takes pains to ensure the audience is not served irrelevant content. It means that the products are available in the UK, the content is written by a writer in the UK, the prices listed are in GBP and the needs that the products featured are solving are culturally relevant for a UK audience. “Some of our most popular products are deeply British – kettle descalers, mold removers and customizable wheelie bin stickers, to name a few.”
At the tail end of last year, BuzzFeed’s Peretti announced that the company saw significant headroom in commerce upon which it is counting to grow revenue. He said: “Our data-informed approach to content creation and capital allocation allows us to capitalize on secular trends in advertising and commerce and helped fuel our significant topline growth in the first half of the year.”
As the launch of the shopping hub in the UK demonstrates, that investment is set to continue. Buoyed by changing audience habits and a greater propensity to shop via trusted brands, BuzzFeed UK is in a strong position. Its existing expertise in content creation and new site architecture that opens up the sales funnel earlier means that its audience will see relevant affiliate content more regularly. As a result, around 30% of users on desktop and 10% of users on mobile who view the new Shopping experience return to the experience within seven days – and those percentages seem likely to increase as e-commerce booms.