Using TikTok for social commerce in 2022
Social commerce is a rapidly evolving channel that gives retailers another place to meet customers where they are. Retailers looking to explore this space should look at the possibilities with TikTok, which is one of the fastest-growing social commerce opportunities.
While companies like Meta and Twitter are older and more established, many brands are also interested in what TikTok’s social commerce options have to offer. This is largely because of a fast-growing, active and youthful user base. TikTok had nearly 1.6 billion global monthly active users in the first quarter of 2022, a 45% increase from a year earlier. While that trailed Facebook’s active user base, TikTok’s growth has gained notice across industries, especially in the consumer spending the app is already attracting.
Before you start selling on TikTok, you should become familiar with the app’s functionality and options, as well as the advantages of the platform. Learn about TikTok’s social commerce offering, called TikTok Shop, how to get your account set up and how to succeed with selling on TikTok.
What makes TikTok different?
TikTok’s focus on short video content helped it gain popularity, along with the 2017 acquisition of Musical.ly by its parent company, ByteDance. TikTok’s video-fueled growth gained the attention of its older competitor, Meta, which followed with its video feed alternative, Reels.
Facebook and Instagram have larger shopping bases than TikTok, but the latter’s smaller audience is highly engaged. According to a Bazaarvoice survey, people who shop on TikTok browse and buy goods more frequently than shoppers on other social platforms. TikTok’s algorithm drives discovery and, in turn, purchase intent.
For online retailers, it almost sounds too good to be true. TikTok’s massive success and continued growth have captured an audience that is ready to spend. It’s the ideal platform for a business to consumer (B2C) retailer. Even small businesses can have massive success with a single video that gains momentum and persuades users to buy.
Two-thirds of users “say TikTok inspired them to shop even when they weren’t looking to do so,” according to the company. This sentiment is also illustrated by the extensive use of the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt hashtag, which amassed over 7.4 billion views in 2021, not including variations such as #TikTokMadeMeBuyThis.
Another feature that sets TikTok apart is that social commerce on the app often leads to an off-platform experience. These off-platform purchases can take place at physical or online stores, or even other platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
TikTok’s popularity with teens and young adults may also contribute to the high amount of off-platform buying, as they may have less purchasing power or access to payment methods. While TikTok is the first step in the purchasing cycle for those users, they are turning to family and friends to make the final purchasing decision elsewhere.
What’s next for this app? TikTok has tested “QVC-style” livestream selling formats in the U.K. after seeing success in parts of Asia. The company is also testing a dedicated feed for shopping. While these features aren’t yet available in the U.S. and many other countries just yet, this effort signals TikTok’s commitment to social commerce and providing brands with multiple avenues of reaching potential shoppers.
How to get started with TikTok
While TikTok is known for its rapid user growth and huge volume of content, sellers should see the platform’s potential in providing opportunities to reach niche audiences and establish your brand with a unique voice that speaks directly to the needs and desires of your customers.
Here’s how to get started on TikTok:
This one may seem obvious, but you might not be signed up with this service. If so, you’ll need to visit the Apple App Store or Google Play store to download the TikTok app. Once you’ve downloaded, installed and opened the app, find the Profile icon in the bottom menu bar and click “Sign Up” to register.
Set up your account
Even if you have a personal TikTok account, you might benefit from creating a separate account for your business. If you keep separate accounts, you’ll still be able to easily switch between them on the app. Make sure to fill out your profile and connect relevant social media accounts.
If you sign up as a new user, you’ll be assigned a “personal” account by default. From there, you can opt to change to a “pro” account that includes “creator” and “business” options. Personal accounts are for standard users, while creator accounts focus on users who post daily and actively work to grow their following. Business accounts allow you to add a link in your bio, supply business contact information and enjoy unique solutions that address engagement, performance tracking and advertising.
TikTok also offers a guide to getting set up with TikTok Shop that answers seller questions and addresses specific use cases.
Use your new business account to create content and explore the world of TikTok. Brands that want to stand out will need a lot of content, but don’t feel pressured to focus on views alone. It’s more important that you’re able to connect with your audience in a meaningful way. When you have the right content focus, you’ll be positioned to accelerate follower growth and attract followers who are more likely to shop with you.
What is TikTok Shop?
TikTok Shop, also called TikTok Shopping, is the next step in TikTok’s social commerce evolution. This feature lets merchants, brands and creators display and sell products directly on TikTok. Brands can sell through content, including in-feed videos, and on the product showcase tab. The experience provides a seamless transition from content to commerce, with streamlined product discovery on the platform and the ability for users to shop without leaving the app.
TikTok Shop is still being rolled out and expanded, so keep track of developments that could unlock new opportunities for your brand. While it might be the company’s answer to competitors like Instagram Shopping, the feature is still realizing its potential and isn’t available to everyone, everywhere.
Right now, access is limited to four categories of TikTok users: sellers, creators, partners and affiliates. Sellers must be located in the U.K., Chinese mainland, Hong Kong or Indonesia, and creators must meet additional requirements prior to completing an application. Partners and affiliates are also limited to select regions across Europe and Asia.
For those eligible, TikTok Shop offers a new way to engage with a powerful audience. For other geographies, brands should closely watch TikTok’s rollout to learn best practices from the real-world experience of other sellers. Companies can gain a competitive edge by proactively preparing for the future of TikTok social commerce.
Tips for selling on TikTok
With its massive active user base, TikTok can help you find your audience. Hootsuite offers several suggestions for sellers, including a reminder that authenticity is essential. Make content that’s fun, engaging and represents your brand. Content created solely to be an advertisement won’t resonate with these users.
With TikTok Shop, businesses can tag video with their products, adding the ability to users to make a purchase directly in the app. Tags can be added to any video, which can be great for finding creative ways to place ads around unique and engaging content.
TikTok content has a short life cycle, so you’ll need to be consistent with posting and messaging if you want to be relevant. You don’t have to go it alone; your audience can create content on your behalf when they feel connected to a product, brand, cause or a trend. This is called user-generated content (UGC). TikTok challenges, memes, hashtags and other events are opportunities for your brand to connect with your audience on a more personal level — and spur UGC that engages with potential customers.
Another option for content is to engage with influencers. Hootsuite recommends researching influencers to ensure they have a significant following and are in a niche that resonates with yours. Cost can be a factor with influencers, and you’ll want to ensure that these arrangements feel authentic while being properly disclosed.
Simplify listings, orders and inventory with Linnworks
With TikTok integration for U.K. merchants, Linnworks offers one central location to manage your TikTok Shop listings, orders and inventory. Our integration offers full control of customer-facing listing information, such as titles, descriptions, images and more. Channel orders can also be automatically downloaded into Linnworks, allowing you to reserve available stock and avoid overselling.
Linnworks can also automatically send changes in stock levels to the channel, and channel listings can be linked to Linnworks inventory items for updates on stock levels and prices.
When combined with our automated shipping management and price sync, insights from TikTok performance alongside other sales channels and performance metrics, you have what you need to successfully sell on TikTok and take your ecommerce store to the next level.
TikTok can expand your social commerce
While TikTok Shop is in early days, expect it to become a strong contender in the social commerce space. Eligible accounts can start with TikTok Shop to understand the potential of this audience and potentially influence the feature’s evolution. As others await access, they can continue to build relationships and engage with TikTok’s unique audience.