Commerce Content: A New Way to Connect with Customers Online

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Big Tech is effectively eliminating advertisers’ ability to target, track, and measure ads outside of their walled gardens — brands will no longer have the ability to retarget consumers across their site visits, and data on performance will be extremely limited. Then, there’s Facebook, Google, and Amazon grabbing more than 90% of total new digital ad spend, giving them an uncontested green light to raise rates. Facebook’s average rates are now above $10 CPM. But what’s worse: Today’s consumer doesn’t trust or like interruptive ads, and that is starting to work against advertisers.

The bottom line is that advertising is facing nothing short of an existential crisis. It gets worse — consumers aren’t responding to ads in ways that make the cost worthwhile. And it makes sense: people go online for information, entertainment, and connections with other people, not ads.

Most millennial consumers, the generation with the most spending power, grew up shopping by researching a product before purchasing. Nine out of 10 consumers consult reviews before making a purchase, and 56% say they consult at least four reviews before making a purchase. This portends a different way to reach consumers and convert.

Consumers are engaging with commerce content

Commerce content is one way some publishers are responding to these changes. By creating authentic recommendations, product reviews, and other content, while also maintaining editorial integrity, BuzzFeed is seeing a strong and favorable consumer response. 

Major publishing brands like Meredith, Conde Nast, CNN, and Buzzfeed have integrated commerce content  — or information with shoppable links —  into their business structure, as are influencers and other creators. Publishers are taking time to study consumer trends on social media, search, and by surveying their audiences in order to make informed decisions about what will appeal to readers. Through this research, publishers of all sizes are partnering with brands to focus on creating original content that resonates with the modern consumer’s journey. 

In 2020, BuzzFeed’s shopping content garnered about 900 million views and helped earn more than $500 million in topline gross merchandise value (GMV) for their retail partners. Their content provides entertainment, information, and drives action, led by an editorial team that selects the products they want to review and promote. 

Unlike native content, where brands play an integral role in producing the published end piece, BuzzFeed’s content is developed from an independent-learning perspective based on first-hand experience with the products that it shares with its audience. Consumers get a well-vetted product review they can trust, and the publisher gets internal trackable data that doesn’t rely on third-party cookies or exorbitant ad costs. 

BuzzFeed and CNN Underscored’s commerce content experience

Many consumers are already researching products before they purchase, reading reviews, looking to influencers, and seeking anecdotal experience before they push “buy.” Detailed reviews, long-form articles, and trusted content that support their decision-making increase conversions. Brands saw click-through rates as high as 90% in 2020 when BuzzFeed published 5,000 posts, doubling down on content commerce.

CNN’s Underscored platform works similarly to BuzzFeed’s shopping content. They provide detailed reviews, product round-ups, and informative top product lists that help consumers make smart buying choices. Since Rastelli’s, a family-owned D2C meat retailer, partnered with CNN Underscored, the online butcher saw more than 300 new content placements for their product. 

Publishers’ brand value also rises with commerce content 

Publishers are finding that with this commerce content model, their evergreen pieces continually perform, attracting viewers and driving purchases where limited-time ad campaigns and fixed-price sponsored content have a much shorter shelf life. Well-written, well-liked content creates tremendous value — for consumers, brands, and publishers. Finally, brands have a scalable channel for revenue acquisition that relies less on the coin-operated nature of digital advertising, a medium that builds on itself over time.

Consumers have developed ad blindness in recent years — they just don’t notice ads anymore, and if they do, they know better than to click and risk getting stalked around the internet. That’s why one in four has an ad blocker installed on their device. Combined with the sweeping shifts in data tracking and third-party cookie blocks, digital advertising, as we know it, is over. 

Partnership opportunities in commerce content offer a more reliable, trackable, effective, and long-game opportunity to acquire new customers and keep them returning. It’s one viable path out of the overgrown, oversaturated advertising woods.

David A. Yovanno is the CEO of Impact.