In a short space of time TikTok is fast becoming a firm favourite among consumers and therefore retailers. Facebook went global in 2004, when it was still TheFacebook. TikTok only became an international app in 2017. Three years later, TikTok had 800 million global active users, a feat that took Facebook over 7 years. TikTok has gone where other social media platforms have faltered – when a hashtag #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt secures 6.1 billion views on videos; it’s hard to ignore it’s influence in retail.
The move to online shopping and consumption behaviours accelerated by the pandemic and major gains and advances in software means shopping on social media platforms is chasing up the priority list with TikTok leading the way.
Big retailers were quick to see it’s vast advertising potential – however the question remains whether that is what TikTok users want to see. Predominantly users are there to have fun, entertain or be entertained. With that in mind TikTok offers a unique space for small businesses. It’s a platform for unfiltered creative expression. Unlike Instagram that is often very staged – TikTok gives consumers freedom, and businesses a chance to reach their audience in a relevant, authentic way.
Small businesses are often more agile when it comes to embracing new marketing methods and TikTok should be no exception. Open Influence CEO and Co-Founder Eric Dahan is clear. “Be real, be human. Don’t advertise, entertain. Get involved in the content production process, don’t just decide to outsource it.”
He urges small businesses to “get familiar” with the TikTok content creation process because “ultimately there’s a learning curve to understanding how TikTok content works”.
Dahan reminds small businesses that “good content creation and production can be a challenge for small businesses with limited resources, but if you come out with a good product and create great content, it will garner views on TikTok”.
In-app shopping is alive – don’t delay
It has long been true that for a view of the future of e-commerce, retailers need to look East. China is at the frontier of selling via social media platforms and live, in-app selling is challenging all the QVC stereotypes about selling on camera. What is live selling? It’s instant purchasing of a featured product during a live stream and audience participation through a chat function or reaction buttons.
In China, live commerce has transformed the retail industry and established itself as a major sales channel in less than five years. According to McKinsey Digital “in a 2020 survey, two-thirds of Chinese consumers said they had bought products via livestream in the past year. While retailers overall in the West are still behind China in the pursuit of live commerce, early movers are also starting to rack up significant sales”.
Ecommerce giant Shopify echoes this. “If you look to the East, you’ll see that there’s a greater sense of experimentation in commerce, both from consumers and brands. In the West, we’ve been slower to adopt, but we see Shopify’s role—as the infrastructure of commerce across the internet—to be a leader in influencing commerce experimentation globally, and to give our merchants the ability to creatively and seamlessly meet their consumers wherever they are”, explains Amir Kabbara, Director of Product at Shopify via email.
Shopify have signalled its faith in TikTok, and live selling in general, by partnering with them. Kabbara elabourates: “most recently, we partnered with TikTok to be the first commerce platform to introduce TikTok Shopping, making it possible for merchants and creators to bring in-app shopping directly to their TikTok profiles and the For You page”.
Although it may seem that the west is on the backfoot in comparison to China when it comes to live selling, some have made a move and as Dahan describes, ‘As seen on TikTok’ is the new ‘As Seen On TV’. He adds: “live shopping is new and in the very early stages; consumers are still trying to build a level of comfort around social commerce being a point of purchase. That said, because it’s so new, there’s not a lot of competition right now, especially compared to where it’s going to be in just a few years. When it comes to social platforms, early movers and early adopters get rewarded very heavily”.
Social media has always been in force in encouraging action and influencing shopping habits. With the latest developments with live selling and TikTok, now is the time for small businesses to jump on board and start experimenting.