Why Zalora is putting its faith in 'untapped resource' TikTok to reach new audiences

The online retailer believes it can grow its audience with TikTok and wants to explore, test and learn activations.

For fashion e-commerce retailer Zalora, new social platforms like TikTok are a way of keeping up with the latest trends - and even setting them.

Zalora is set to launch its official account on TikTok at its Fashion Festival tomorrow (September 6), where the Bytedance-owned platform has signed up as a media partner, alongside other brands like Calvin Klein, Adidas, Samsung and Singtel.

“As one of the most popular apps now, we would like to reach out to people practically born with a smartphone in their hand,” Alyce Menzel, head of social at Zalora tells The Drum. “The Fashion Festival felt like the perfect time to launch our presence on the app.”

The online retailer believes it can grow its audience with TikTok and wants to explore, test and learn. The retailer was present at TikTok’s first marketing conference in South East Asia in July where the platform shared its monetisation, ad formats, measurement and e-commerce strategies.

The Global Fashion Group-owned brand came away from that conference sold by the platform’s pitch despite the fact that TikTok did not showcase a concrete ad model in place.

At the Fashion Festival, it will launch a six-day hashtag challenge called #Zstylenow where users will transform their outfits in a simple "Z" hand motion. In addition, an in-app brand takeover ad format will be tested on Zalora.

“With more than 1bn TikTok app downloads worldwide, and Asia being the hub for social media, the TikTok provides invaluable access to a wider audience for Zalora,” says Menzel.

“From the ever-evolving influencer network that TikTok is fostering, or the continual appetite and curiosity to discover the platform from both brands and consumers. There is an untapped resource that allows us to show off our playful and creative side to next-gen shoppers.”

The prospect of shoppable ads and one-click shopping on TikTok is also enticing to Zalora, as it can promote its inventory through influencers' short-form videos and through its own TikTok channel.

Menzel says she is hopeful the time for the feature to be rolled out in more countries in Asia for Zalora to take full advantage of is also fast-approaching. For now, though, she says TikTok will help the Zalora showcase its current brand offering through its video assets to a more people and provide them wardrobe and styling inspiration.

While Zalora joins the likes of Liverpool, United Nations, La Liga and NFL to have launched an official account on TikTok, it is going in with eyes wide open about the platform’s struggles with brand safety.

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued TikTok a fine of $5.7m in February after the FTC found the platform’s predecessor app Music.ly's "disturbing practices, including collecting and exposing the location" of children.

It said “a significant percentage of users were younger than 13" and identifiable information like age, birthday and school was visible. The UK Information Commission is currently running a similar probe.

Kristin Lemkau, chief marketing officer of JP Morgan Chase, also admitted that she had deleted the app off her kids' mobiles. “Should have done it a while ago”, she tweeted, worried about inappropriate content and online predators.

In India, where the app is making waves with new campaigns and events, TikTok is facing calls for a ban from politicians, who accuse it of spreading fake news and sharing user data with China.

Menzel asserts Zalora is always conscious about the partnerships in which the brand enters, and highlights that it is key for the brand to build a space that is encouraging and safe for its shoppers on its social media.

She claims TikTok has assured and guaranteed Zalora a thorough solution is in place for the safety of their platform users. The first is the community guideline, inappropriate content is not allowed to be posted on TikTok and will be automatically deleted.

The second is TikTok’s content review mechanism, where each video will go through machine detection first, and when it has higher impressions and influence, it will go through human review round, with higher influence and impression it will have more rounds.

“From the product side, the brand takeover is the first piece of content users will see on TikTok, and the following content is the first video for the user, which is selected by the system with good quality content,” explains Menzel.

“For a hashtag challenge, brands can send the requirements for brand safety to indicate contents we don’t want to show in the campaign and the TikTok team will filter those videos directly as well as during the campaign.”

Doreen Tan, the user and content operations manager for Singapore at TikTok previously told The Drum that following the lifting of the temporary takedown which affected only new, not existing users, TikTok will continue to serve its community made up of over 200m users in India, who use the platform to showcase their creativity.

“While we’re pleased that our efforts to fight against the misuse of the platform have been recognised, the work is never “done” on our end. We are committed to continuously enhancing our safety features as a testament to our ongoing commitment to our users around the world,” she said.

Aside from the community guidelines and content review mechanism, Tan said TikTok has also introduced features like in-app suicide prevention, where users will be redirected to an in-app suicide resource page which offers tips and key contacts to help address any user issues.

There are also features like age gate, which allows users age 13 years and above to login and create an account on TikTok to ensure that underage users do not use the platform, and screen time management, where users will be able to select if they want to spend 40, 60, 90, 120 minutes per day on the app. This feature is password protected, if users reach their screen time limit they will need to enter a password to continue to use TikTok.

As a platform that was born in China, it is the nature of doing business there to share users' data with the Chinese government. Tan said TikTok has a strictly independent decision-making process to ensure that its users' privacy is safe wherever in the world they are using the app in.

“We operate independently with our own product, engineering, and marketing teams. TikTok user data is stored and processed in the US, Singapore and other markets where TikTok operates via industry-leading third-party data centers,” she explained.

Menzel points out that all social platforms will have risks or has the potential to be misused, but points to the likes other social platforms, like Facebook and Snapchat, where working to improve brand safety policies and guidelines is an ongoing effort.

“We are confident that TikTok is doing what it can to make its platform a safe space for their users and brand partners.”

The Drum will be looking in-depth at topics including the new types of innovations and collaboration that solve issues for publishers at the upcoming Programmatic Punch APAC event in Singapore in October.

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