From entertainment to e-commerce: how TikTok is spearheading a retail revolution
TikTok is leaning hard into social commerce. Ben Woollams of agency Influencer argues that it’s nothing short of a new retail paradigm, with creators front-and-center.
Influencer on how TikTok content evolved from entertainment to e-commerce / Libby Penner via Unsplash
How we search for and buy products has changed vastly since the internet’s inception. No longer faced with the intimidating task of trawling through shop rails, counters or baskets, we can now access products in a few clicks, scrolls and taps.
Now, social media platforms like TikTok are pushing our access to and awareness of products further, shifting the boundaries between education and entertainment through creator content, and regenerating the shopping journey.
TikTok’s evolution, from a platform that hinged on entertainment and engagement to one now fuelling a global shift of brand focus to e-commerce, has lent it a formidable presence in the media and marketing landscape. The platform once hosted purely visual entertainment, populated with dance videos that saw creators like Charlie D’Amelio rise to fame. Now, its variety of content, from breaking news and insight to unbelievably niche topics, captivates a huge range of audiences. Its short video format has been so effective we’ve seen the ‘TikTokification’ of other platforms like YouTube and Instagram.
Skepticism towards online information might just be set to decline, thanks to an influx of expert creators advising audiences on where to go, what to eat, what to wear, how to make things, and what to buy. 25% of generation Alpha are influenced most by influencers or bloggers, second only to their friends. TikTok is trailblazing the user journey, providing entertaining product information through content that drives sales and empowers users to buy in just one click.
TikTok’s ability to adapt to trends and demands from users, integrating features like TikTok Shop to streamline users’ shopping and platform experience, have empowered the platform to stay ahead of the curve by providing brands, users and creators with the tools they need to work seamlessly together. The hashtag #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt is testament to this, totaling 61.6bn views and counting.
Brands can now select and upload a list of products to their TikTok shop, making these products available to show during a creator’s content as a Video Shopping Ad (VSA). This fully rounds off the consumer experience for shoppable ads; creator can showcase a product within their content, while TikTok provides a clickable display ad with that same product for users to click through to a checkout page. The aim is to keep the high-quality entertainment content, but to drive a better conversion and experience for users looking to search for and purchase products.
The creator e-commerce paradigm
TikTok’s aim to create a bespoke user journey for shoppable ads doesn't just stop at TikTok Shop. In an effort to also close the gap between organic content and performance, Tiktok has recently unveiled a set of new features including the ‘comment anchor’, which allows creators to include a landing page link within content at the top of their comment section, allowing for the option of increased lower-funnel performance through organic posting.
82% of consumers trust the opinions they see on social media, and 50% of TikTok users have bought something after watching a TikTok Live. Now, when consumers look for information, creators are their first port of call. More knowledgeable than friends and family, but less self-motivated than official brand sites, creators have become the voice piece for market knowledge through strong, relatable and sometimes niche content that their followers trust, engage with and love enough to buy, sometimes based on recommendation and affiliation alone.
Lending itself to the naturally curious, TikTok houses content from niche and expert creators, so users can find out, directly, experts’ opinions on topics, from gymnasts sharing their shaving routines to celebrity hair stylists sharing their most used products. This content guides a shopping experience for users that enables authenticity from both the creators and brands they love, creating a more successful and stronger match for audiences.
For brands, this provides a unique opportunity to capture creators’ attention (and their audiences). Through platforms like TikTok that truly champion user experience, e-commerce and collaboration, brands are empowered by a new and increasingly popular medium to host their products; websites and storefronts alone are no longer enough.
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Creators have quickly become a vital ingredient to successful marketing strategies, guiding audiences through the entirety of the marketing funnel through their content – from product discovery to purchase, as well as the bonus of further word-of-mouth recommendations and discussion as products continue to trend after purchase.
A glowing creator review, placement or mention, placed in front of the correct following, can be the catalyst for a brand achieving virality, or gaining a stronger foothold in its sector. Waitrose recently reported its feta cheese sales increased by 33% between May and June 2022, following ‘whipped feta’ trending on TikTok. The British supermarket now includes TikTok in their annual food and drink report.
Through offering advice as well as embedding promotion and recommendation within content that resonates with its audience, creators become experts not only in product markets, but also in audience and target market demands. They’re ideally positioned to outline new products to their audiences, and are experts in what their audiences want to hear. This insight in both the market and its target audience is invaluable to brands, and unparalleled by more traditional marketing methods.
User-generated content (UGC) is supporting consumers throughout the entirety of the marketing funnel. Platforms like TikTok are supporting both creators and brands, integrating social commerce on the platform and making purchasing products as accessible as the information, discussion and hype surrounding them.
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