TikTok – Should Retailers and Brands Be Prepared or Scared?

By Kate Maszluch, first published on Internet Retailing

The last 12 months have seen a number of social media giants take the leap and enter the ecommerce market in a bid to expand their offering. The latest example of this is TikTok, which has roughly 625 million active users. According to our latest consumer insight survey, 63% of consumers have bought an item that they first saw on social media, so this is a channel that we think retailers should be considering as a means of building brand and product awareness.

Since its merger with Musica.ly in 2018, TikTok has exploded for the 16-24 market and shows no signs of slowing. It has learned from the commerce evolution undergone by Instagram, and within the space of three months, added features such as paid advertising, curated feeds and links to shop products off the platform. As an example, Beats by Dre has recently started to advertise on the platform with pop icon Billie Eilish flaunting a set of headphones that users can click on a link to ‘buy now’. While we predict a global rollout of in-app shopping to be a little while away, we would recommend that retailers and brand owners start to experiment with the platform and begin to find their unique voice on the platform.

There are a number of high-profile brands, such as Burberry, Showpo, NFL and Ralph Lauren that are jumping to become an early adopter of TikTok and are using it to build an audience. We are also seeing the emergence of TikTok influencers as we did on Instagram.

Like most new innovative platforms, TikTok has certainly had its fair share of ‘teething problems’. Unfortunately, the popularity and potential of the video sharing app has been overshadowed by claims that harmful content has been exposed to its users, damaging the likelihood of brands considering advertising on the app.

In saying this, it is rumoured TikTok may launch a curated feed where retailers can advertise separately from content creators, ensuring their content won’t appear alongside inappropriate videos. While the use of TikTok may be a daunting prospect for retailers and brands at present, if it can work to address the current issues it is facing, we can expect to see this become a very attractive platform for them in the future. So, with a high chance TikTok could be the next way consumers shop, it is imperative retailers start preparing now and begin creating unique social commerce strategies for the array of social media apps – including TikTok.

Although it may be possible to sell the same product on TikTok and Instagram, they are two completely different social media apps that require very different ways of connecting with their audiences. Retailers and brands need to be sure to take into account the nuances of each platform. This will enable them to understand the way in which they need to develop their different types of content to ensure it accurately portrays their brand. As a starting point, it is critical retailers and brands keep on top of what is trending and who TikTok’s main influencers are, as well as understanding its current offering, like paid advertisements and sponsored hashtags. Retailers that can find their voice and produce content that appeals to TikTok’s users will flourish on the platform. What this means for actual conversions is heavily dependent on their offering and audience.

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