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Trends & Insights | Blog

TikTok: Reshaping the retail experience

June 15, 2023


TikTok shopping has taken the internet by storm, and it’s no surprise that retailers have taken notice. Here's how to make the most of it.

Hanife Hursit

Junior Account Executive

TikTok shopping has taken the internet by storm, and it’s no surprise that retailers have taken notice. With over one billion active users worldwide, the video-sharing app has reshaped the traditional shopping experience, with retailers like Boots, Motel Rocks, and LookFantastic adding a ‘TikTok Trending’ section to their sites and in stores.

As a result, the way we are interacting with brands is changing. Two-thirds (67%) of users say TikTok inspires them to shop even when they don’t mean to do so, and brands are now tailoring their product placements to suit TikTok’s top trends.

What is TikTok Shop?

TikTok Shop is an in-app feature that enable users to purchase goods directly on the platform, either through the LIVE shopping feature or products tagged by creators in videos. Products featured on TikTok Shop are curated by the app’s algorithm, based on a user’s preferences and behaviours. 

TikTok is also experimenting with social commerce, allowing users to shop directly from high street brands. H&M recently launched a pilot program that enabled users to purchase items featured in a sponsored video, without leaving the app. While the program is still in its early stages, it’s clear that TikTok is exploring new ways to monetise its platform.

User experience

Unlike the traditional shopping experience, people generally don’t find items to buy on TikTok Shop – the items find them. TikTok’s algorithm presents users with items on the 'For You' page based on previous searches. The result? Items usually go viral very quickly. 

This was recently seen with food brand Samyang’s carbonara-flavoured noodles, which are nearly sold out – with the few remaining skyrocketing in price due to demand.

This is due to TikTok creators like Amber-Rose, who has become one of the platform’s most prominent mukbangers – advertising her Croydon-based Asian supermarket through food testing videos. Following her TikTok stardom, Amber-Rose was quoted saying that shoppers “come all the way from Holland” to buy her goods.

E-commerce and influencers

Large brands will now, more than ever, rely on influencer collaborations as a main stream of product advertisement. Sponsored brand promotions through real creators allow audiences to digest ads in a way that feels authentic and accessible to them. Many popular creators are now partnering with brands in an ambassador-like capacity, including @itsnisrin and @leanadeeb who are synonymous with skincare brand REN, and fitness giant Gymshark, respectively. 

Interestingly, fitness brands in particular are operating advertisements almost entirely through TikTok creators. Like Gymshark, brands including Oner Active and AYBL are driving their TikTok channels entirely with UGC and brand ambassadors, such as Mia Green and Lexie Learmann.

We expect this to become a more widespread channel format as TikTok shopping continues to rise in popularity.

Small brands on the rise

Users tend to identify and connect more with a brand’s personality and story over the brand itself. As a result, traditional brands are being outperformed by small ‘homemade’ names on TikTok. Pink Honey brow products were catapulted to success through the platform, with TikTokers such as Klaudia (@wavyute) promoting it across their accounts. As a result, Pink Honey now has 230k followers on TikTok and is a key player in pushing the feathered brow trend. 

Similar success has been seen with food companies like Chamoy Guys, which capitalised on the pickle and freeze dried sweets trends to sell their sweet and savoury treats, accumulating over 140k followers.

Setting up shop

For brands looking to raise their brand profile and try out TikTok Shop, we recommend the following three tips as a starting point:

  1. Have a brand mascot who can sell the products to your audience. This will ensure the product key messaging remains relevant and relatable. A great example of this is Made by Mitchell, who added a human story to his brand by appearing in the majority of its promotional content.
  1. Find your niche. Targeting a specific group of people on the platform will mean you reach a specific demographic on the algorithm, which could greatly benefit product sales. This has worked well for Broken Planet in selling sustainable clothing to a specific younger, streetwear-loving demographic.
  2. Keep viewers engaged. Most TikTok users have a short attention span, so keeping them engaged with deals and product variations is key in helping them stay on top of new trends. My Protein, for example, regularly has flash TikTok Shop sales – with big discounts on some of its popular products and bundles.

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