BuzzFeed Taps Bonsai to Drive Revenue through Content-driven Commerce

With innovative in-article shopping capabilities, BuzzFeed will deepen user engagement while evolving its ecommerce business

Commerce enablement platform Bonsai and BuzzFeed, the world’s largest independent publisher, announced a partnership that will significantly enhance and evolve the leading digital media company’s commerce operations. The initiative accelerates BuzzFeed’s goals to build out its own e-commerce platform and creates a sustainable revenue stream that leverages the brand’s established trust to convert readers into shoppers.

BuzzFeed is taking steps to own the entire consumer journey – from inspiration to purchase – directly within its content, powered by Bonsai’s onsite shopping capabilities. Unlike traditional affiliate networks, Bonsai’s technology allows publishers to sell products natively without taking on any inventory risk. As BuzzFeed users read about highlighted products and purchase intent is formed, they are able to easily click to learn more and even complete checkout without leaving the BuzzFeed environment. With this functionality, BuzzFeed is collapsing the steps to conversion from its content and developing a more direct relationship with shoppers.

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Bonsai is providing a holistic, end-to-end e-commerce solution that includes ongoing optimization of the native commerce business. In order to appeal to BuzzFeed’s massive audience of 520 million unique monthly users, Bonsai forged new direct relationships with a number of retailers and brands. Through the partnership, BuzzFeed will earn an average commission of 25 percent on sales from Bonsai’s merchant network and own customer lifetime value. Additionally, the integration of products directly into BuzzFeed’s content allows for better attribution, which not only helps to solve a longstanding issue for publishers within the affiliate business, but also bolsters the value of Buzzfeed’s ad inventory by supporting more precise audience targeting.

In the first phase of the roll-out, BuzzFeed is using Bonsai’s natively-shoppable widgets in tandem with editorial-style content, an approach proven to drive 8 to 10 times the click-through rate of traditional affiliate links. At launch, BuzzFeed is featuring products from a selection of brands including HipDot and Bellessa Boutique, powered by Bonsai.

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As the partnership deepens, BuzzFeed aims to soon explore launching a more extensive, branded marketplace. This destination will merge BuzzFeed’s strong identity and audience loyalty with a highly-curated selection of products from brands who have established direct relationships with Bonsai. Later this year, BuzzFeed hopes to distribute its marketplace across third-party platforms and leverage Bonsai’s social commerce integrations.

“Commerce has always been an important growth driver for BuzzFeed. What we’ve seen through the ongoing pandemic is the benefit of diversifying our commerce capabilities in the same way we’ve diversified our business model, and the power of leaning into our digital advantages as consumers increasingly shift to online shopping,” said BuzzFeed’s Senior Vice President of Commerce Nilla Ali. “By partnering with Bonsai, we can continue to foster affiliate relationships but also build our own shopping experience with a more seamless path to purchase, better attribution and a diverse product mix that serves our audience.”

“The Coronavirus pandemic exacerbated issues already challenging publishers. Not only did it highlight the volatility of ad-supported business models, it revealed that exclusively affiliate-led e-commerce models don’t provide publishers the depth to weather a storm,” said Saad Siddiqui, CEO of Bonsai. “When publishers have strong reader engagement, trust and loyalty like BuzzFeed, our technology can help capture the intent publishers created and remain viable businesses over the long term.”

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