TikTok tidal wave eyes new e-commerce landfall

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By Published On: October 24, 20220 Comments

Social media platform TikTok has come a long way in recent years, transforming from the internet’s go-to source of awkwardly choreographed dance videos to the homepage of the internet for many of the world’s population.

While forced, at times, to navigate around controversies and criticisms, TikTok has nonetheless managed to ride a tidal wave of popularity to now boast considerable power as a platform on the internet. That power already extends into e-commerce, with the opportunities for retailers, entrepreneurs and merchants of all descriptions on the platform offering plenty of lucrative potential.

“TikTok has quite a few opportunities for online retailers hoping to reach new customers nowadays. With over 1.2 billion active users and the highest watch time of any other social media platform, its e-commerce options will continue to grow with its user base,” says Dustin Poteet, Chief Creative Officer at social media marketing company LINK Agency, “As one of the most engaged social media platforms and with its famed unique algorithm, TikTok offers retailers the most significant chance for virality—directly contributing to its e-commerce solutions.”

The enhanced value of TikTok as a platform to those in the e-commerce industry is furthered by the integration of merchant strategies into its functions, making the provision of opportunities for e-commerce merchants and creatives to reach viewers with chances to buy a large part of its daily processes, and inversely offering its viewers with opportunities to discover and buy.

“Unlike other social media platforms, TikTok is designed for e-commerce and has had a clickable link in bio feature since the beginning,” Poteet tells Power Retail, “Its features allow viewers to make purchases directly through the app or click through to an external e-commerce site that brands can connect directly to their TikTok account. Another valuable feature for e-commerce brands that Tiktok has also seen a lot of success with is its new TikTok Shop feature.”

“TikTok Shop is an innovative shopping feature that enables merchants, brands, and creators to showcase and sell products directly through in-feed videos.”

The power of marketing through TikTok, however, requires an understanding of how TikTok’s users behave and what is most important to them. Where marketing through traditional broadcast media has always typically been done with a refined, scripted sheen, the audience of TikTok are not necessarily as drawn to this kind of sterilised content. Nor are they as prone to being found through more traditional channels of advertising.

“When we think of TikTok, we need to move away from the conventional understanding of social media (and social interaction). Instead, we should understand how consumer behavior aligns with more content-led platforms,” says Poteet, “TikTok has the power to educate, entice, impress and convince new consumers in a format type that doesn’t work in any other medium. The handheld, raw content style means that original ideas and genuine content perform better. But what does this mean for brands?”

“In essence, TikTok plays two important roles for ecomm businesses. Firstly, it fosters product discoverability through organic means like no other platform can offer. Secondly, it allows advertisers to drive conversions from a new population segment that doesn’t rely as much on Google or Amazon for purchasing decisions.”

Such is the extent of the lucrative potentials offered to e-commerce via the TikTok platform, recent developments suggest TikTok is preparing to increase its presence in the space of e-commerce even further in the near future – with potentially huge ramifications for some in the industry. 

First reported by US-based digital media organisation Axios, recent job listings on LinkedIn appear to suggest plans for TikTok to open the doors of its very own product fulfillment centres, with an eye to crafting an e-commerce supply chain that could rival even industry monolith Amazon.

“By providing warehousing, delivery, and customer service returns, our mission is to help sellers improve their operational capability and efficiency, provide buyers a satisfying shopping experience and ensure fast and sustainable growth of TikTok Shop,” wrote TikTok in one of the job listings.

Having already seen considerable success with its TikTok Shop product, all signs point to the platform seeking to cash in even further and challenge the likes of Amazon and eBay in much the same ways it has challenged (and, to some extents, usurped) social media giants Meta (formerly Facebook) and YouTube.

Even global megacorporation Google has felt pressures from TikTok’s meteoric growth, with Google Senior Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan admitting in July, “In our studies, something like almost 40% of young people when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search, they go to TikTok or Instagram.”

If even Google could feel the pinch from TikTok, it is reasonable to wonder what TikTok’s latest foray into the world of e-commerce might mean for the future of the e-commerce space. Either way, it’s clear retailers not wanting to be swept away by the tidal wave should instead already be considering how best they can hope to jump aboard.

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Heather Bone