What do Toys R Us, Pleasing, and Olipop have in common?
At face value, nothing; all are involved in vastly different industries and offer different products and/or services. But when you zoom in, one thing connects them all: TikTok. Yes, the dancing app. TikTok initially built a reputation as a fun social media app that connected users through entertainment. Now, it’s the top-ranking platform globally for ad equity for online stores. Smart brands observed the success companies found in Southeast Asia and have moved past their experimentation stages to chase similar results, treating the app as seriously as they would other established platforms. TikTok is where many companies are finding niches, building community, and refining brand voice and image. With the rise of in-app/live shopping and advertising and over a billion monthly active users, TikTok is quickly becoming a happening place for eCommerce, and according to Statista, is on track to reach $13.79B in ad revenue in the next three years. Brands that don’t take advantage of TikTok ads risk losing out on both a massive customer base and their share of ad revenue.
Why Is TikTok a Natural Fit for eCommerce Brands?
Simply put: “TikTok ranks #1 globally for ad equity: it’s the preferred ad environment for both brands and consumers.” (TikTok). And it’s naturally going to work more in favor of B2C sales over B2B or SaaS – primarily because TikTok is overflowing with the right audience for B2C commerce. TikTok users are more open to making impulse buys, which don’t really come into play with the end users of B2B or SaaS products, as more research goes into those purchases. With millions of perfectly-matched potential customers receptive to purchasing on the platform, it’s imperative to establish a brand presence there. So what makes TikTok so eCommerce friendly?
- Fast: Users are given a set journey through shopping features to purchase from point A (in-app advertisement) to B (brand website), which makes checking out a snap.
- User-Friendly: A hard out for many potential customers is the difficulty presented to complete a purchase, and whether or not they deem it worthwhile to push through. TikTok makes the process painless and simple, removing the common obstacles to online shopping, like leaving the app to view products.
- Collaborative: TikTok creators are incredibly influential, and most are open to working with brands to promote their products/services to their audiences. Connecting with creators through social commerce is a great way to encourage impulse buys from viewers – if their favorite creator has it, shouldn’t they?
- Viral: There’s a reason why the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt phenomenon became its own hashtag. This platform adores exploration, and when a hidden gem appears in the form of a product or service on a TikTok video, circulation is inevitable. And when combined with tactics such as branded hashtags and effects (covered below), that product or service can create its own moment and sustain it post-discovery.
Ideally, TikTok eCommerce takes a company’s product or service and places it in front of users that would be a good match for it. So what does that look like on the app? There are a few tactics to make your ad campaigns pop using the following eCommerce features:
- Video Shopping is a function that allows for a company’s ad campaign to appear on their main feed. They can appear scattered throughout their For You Page, or as the first video a user sees upon opening the app (known as Top View). These campaigns contain popups (Product Cards) that when clicked on redirect them to the product or service advertised.
- Live Shopping is somewhat similar, but with an emphasis on directing more users to a brand’s page. The main idea is to encourage purchase with the added convenience of never having to leave the app by adding items during the livestream to a virtual cart and completing the transaction towards the end.
- Spark Ads give brands the option to boost organic content from both their own accounts and from other creators (given their consent). The best part is, all engagement counts as an organic post would as opposed to a paid promotion.
- Promote is similar to the Spark function, but it does not draw upon organic content for its campaign material. Instead, the video posted will be displayed explicitly as an ad, puts an emphasis on helping new users discover the content, and drives traffic to the brand’s main page.
With the “what” out of the way, let’s talk about the “why” – this platform is an essential element of brand growth, and the companies that recognize that flourish. TikTok found that “68% of [users] find ad content that is unique or different from any other platform” and that users are 1.5 times more likely to make a purchase on a whim after seeing that product or service on TikTok, making the platform a sort of search engine of its own. Ever heard of the phenomenon #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt? That was popularized by users influenced by the platform. Speaking of which, influencer marketing plays a huge role in driving folks to TikTok shopping. With top creators in virtually every niche under the stars, it’s easier than ever to reach out to collaborators that already have a relationship with the target audience desired. Creators also have the ability to make advertisements look native to TikTok so they blend in with every other video on a user’s For You Page – yes, sometimes ditching the picture-perfect content found on Instagram and Facebook (and being like everything else) is the right move!
Setting up shop on TikTok is fairly simple, and can be done through TikTok Shopify. This feature is a partnership between both social and commerce platforms that allows for businesses to start selling in-app. Users must first log into Shopify’s App Store to add TikTok as a function and connect that account with Shopify. This essentially allows the storefront to become virtual, so users can see tagged products while scrolling and be redirected to the brand’s official website when it’s time to check out.
Brands also have the ability to set ad goals and select their audience. Advertising goals help establish an objective, and the platform launched a couple of options to pick from:
- Generate Customer Leads gathers data from a form that allows a brand to maintain relationships with returning customers and draw in new ones.
- Increase Traffic pushes clients-to-be towards a brand’s store.
- Drive Community Interaction focuses on establishing and growing a brand on TikTok.
- Get Website Conversions emphasizes transferring customers to a brand’s website.
Understanding what the brand’s goals help measure specific campaign success. Now it’s time to put that campaign in front of the right people and customize their shopping experience. With app shopping, the platform allows businesses to define their TikTok eCommerce strategy with an “Automatic Audience” (which “[allows the system to find the most receptive audience for [the] business” based on all information provided so far) or a Custom Audience, which is entirely determined by the brand itself. Business owners can handpick their desired customers through demographics such as gender, languages spoken, and age, as well as areas of interest. Keywords that cater to potential clients based on things they might have searched for in the past 60 days can be entered. It’s also possible for business owners to select what actions users have taken on areas of interest (such as liking, commenting, sharing, or watching until the end) to better serve their campaign.
Opening a TikTok store requires owners to register in the TikTok Seller Center as Business Accounts. Here, they’ll be prompted to submit necessary documentation (such as connecting the account with their bank and uploading all available products). This is also where brands will do the bulk of their management – whether it’s working on customer service or updating product inventory, the Seller Center is a brand’s home base for TikTok ads.
Building Community as an eCommerce Brand
Of course, the campaign matters very little if the audience isn’t there – and they certainly won’t be if brands don’t understand how to reach out to them. Customers are a brand’s loyal advocates, which means while the company runs their campaign, users run their own by word of mouth and peer referral, feeding into the growth loop. Community building can look like…
Entertaining, educating, then selling
TikTok has set itself apart from other social media platforms by branding itself as an entertainment hotspot. Because users are there to consume that type of content (however it takes shape), it’s up to brands to figure out their take on entertainment value before implementing educational and selling aspects in their content.
Crazy for You Cake♬ Promoted Music – baskinrobbins
Utilizing a brand value based content strategy
What does the company stand for? Those values are a great way to segment content into buckets and address what’s important, from pillars like commonly faced issues the product or service fixes, to social change and tutorials.
@disneyonbroadway We asked our Young Elsa @sydneyelise_official to share with us which Black story inspired and empowered her to be where she is today! 🐸🦁❄️ #blackhistorymonth #BHM #celebrateblackstories ♬ original sound – Disney on Broadway
Getting picky with trends
Brands that use every trend under the sun set themselves up for failure. Because trends also tend to oversaturate quickly, it’s key to make sure the brand adds a unique perspective to the trend that refreshes it in the eyes of viewers that have seen hundreds (if not thousands) of the same video.
Take customers “backstage“
Let your new consumer base be a part of the brand’s creative journey. Show them the behind the scenes, introduce them to the company’s culture, share founder stories, the works – it makes them feel that a brand is speaking with, not at them.
@kovessentials Replying to @gianna829342968 ♬ original sound – Kōv Essentials
Establish a physical personality.
Brand voice is great, but it’s better to give the audience a face to associate with it. This can take many forms – some use mascots (hi Duo), some use employees (see Jake from State Farm). That face not only helps them remember the brand, but differentiate it from the competition.
@lisafrank Untied shoe adds character 🤪💕 #lisafrank #lisafrankforever #lisafrankcore #fyp #foryou #fypシ ♬ original sound – Coach
Utilizing TikTok elements such as Branded Hashtags and Filters are also a great way to build a community ready to interact when you pose a challenge to generate excitement around what the brand is up to.
Allow businesses to “harness the power of participation” (TikTok). They are often formatted as challenges for users to jump on brand-generated trends that promote their products and services. It’s a great way to incorporate the community at large while also getting more eyes on the campaign that it might not reach. otherwise.
@jakesfunny #duet with @mrpeanutoriginal Win yourself $10,000 by roasting Bartholomew. Roasting your dad is just a bonus. Follow @mrpeanutoriginal, duet the video featured and use #madetoberoastedcontest ♬ original sound – Mr. Peanut
Like hashtags, put co-creation at the forefront of campaigns. Effects allow for users to engage with the campaign while factoring entertainment value for them and their own following. Creators can truly turn branded effects into something completely unique and interesting when given the right filter.
eCommerce Brands Winning at TikTok
Looking for TikTok eCommerce inspiration? Here are 5 brands to keep an eye on that really have a good understanding of the social landscape.
Beloved by adults and kids, Mini Brands knows their audience and gets the best of both worlds on the platform. Now partnering with Disney for their Disney Store Edition, Mini Brands has taken to influencer marketing (currently with @magicwithmegd) and the use of tongue-in-cheek trends and outlandish challenges – which all reinforce the company’s childlike, playful image.
@minibrands Which one was your fave Disney outfit? Start your collection of our Mini Brands Disney S2 today 😍 #minibrands #minibrandsdisney #miniverse #disney ♬ original sound – Mini Brands
Whether or not Chris Olsen is behind Pleasing, Harry Styles’ beauty line has fully captured the true spirit of TikTok. They feel native to TikTok because their use of trending sounds, templates, and challenges rivals that of Gen Z. Pleasing doesn’t have to sell you anything – they know their chaos brings in customers.
need help with the last one♬ original sound – Katy Perry
How exciting can a soda alternative be? Olipop’s answer is very – from ridiculous shenanigans (such as documenting the journey to sitting courtside at an NBA game in an Olipop costume) to glamorous (and healthy) mocktail recipes, Olipop’s content is driven by their unfiltered sense of humor, understanding of entertainment value, and connection to their community.
@drinkolipop the most nerve-racking presentation of my career 😳 tune in tonight to see if we got approved to go to the @nuggets game !!! 🤞🏀 #nbacourtside #workpresentation #socialmediamanagertips #tiktokpresentation #worktok #drinkolipop #nuggetsgame ♬ original sound – OLIPOP
Drugstore makeup may not sound glamorous on paper, but Essence Cosmetics makes their products pop online. Scrolling through their feed, you’ll see product try-ons, hacks, and hauls that feel incredibly relatable and conversational. They also sprinkle in humor specific to the brand, because they aren’t prestige and don’t need to present themselves seriously, which allows Essence Cosmetics to really have fun with their audience.
@essence.cosmetics Your daily accompaniment 🤌🏻💋 #essencecosmetics #juicybomb #hack #lipgloss #cosmetichack ♬ original sound – Tik Toker
Toys R Us (Canada):
Yes, everyone’s favorite toy company made the list. They answer questions from their fanbase about product availability, engage with silly trends that match the brand voice (you might remember #dabloontok or TikTok’s new obsession with the children’s show Bluey), and filter the brand’s image through beloved mascot, Geoffrey the Giraffe.
@toysruscanada Can we talk about my skills tho? 🦒 #dabloons #dabloon #npc #toysrus ♬ cold island sped up – leo/sun 😀
Convinced TikTok is the direction for you and your brand? We recommend keeping the following in mind as you begin your eCommerce journey there:
- TikTok provides businesses with the unique opportunity to involve users in campaigns, whether they’re UGC creators, influencers, or just folks looking to jump on a trend for fun, so it’s imperative to prioritize your community. Through branded effects and hashtags, there are so many ways to encourage audience participation and create a wider reach for your product or service.
- Advertisements on TikTok will not follow the same style as other social media platforms. There is a harder emphasis on authenticity on this platform, and successful ads blend in with the landscape of a user’s For You Page seamlessly. Pique customer interest with relatable, organic content.
- The more specific you can make your objectives, the clearer the results will be. Selecting all options and hoping to exceed expectations in each category will not provide the insight required to move your brand’s campaign forward. Setting detailed goals does, and will allow you to meet objectives in all areas later as you work on them one by one.