The way we shop has seen a major shift over the past few years, driven by Gen Z and Millennials and accelerated by the pandemic. Once a simple product-based transaction, platforms like TikTok are now creating a whole new ecosystem of engagement.
Social commerce – where product is sold through social media platforms – has been the driving force behind this change. It’s an effective sales technique and one that TikTok – the social media video platform which is a Gen Z influencer’s dream – seems tailor-made for.
As TikTok’s senior director of ecommerce operations, Patrick Nommensen might have a vested interest, but he couldn’t agree more.
He describes the platform as being “central to a new kind of shopping culture”, revealing that – with the development of live shopping formats like TikTok Shop – “people aren’t just taking recommendations, they’re acting on them in the moment”.
“Consumers are experiencing brands and products at so many different touch points, with creators playing an increasingly prominent role in driving purchasing,” he told Charged.
“Our research found that 85% of people have bought a product or service after seeing it advertised or reviewed on social media.”
The TikTok community – which has a billion active users at the last count – was already sharing authentic review videos featuring products and brands discovered through hashtags such as #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt and #beautyhacks. The next stage was to commercialise that.
TikTok Shop was launched in the UK early last last year. Effectively a marketplace which enables merchants and creators to sell directly through their TikTok accounts, it allows users to make purchases directly from within the TikTok app via in-feed videos, livestreams or a product showcase tab.
Initial collaborations included beauty retailer Lookfantastic (@lookfantastic), and Premier League team Leeds United (@leedsunited) – who were the first football club in the world to sell official merchandise directly on TikTok in the UK.
Nommenson and his team have built on this initial success with a mixture of established and up-and-coming independent brands. Beauty still performs particularly well, due to TikTok’s heritage as a home for #beautyhacks and creative #makeuptransformations, while a small football collectibles business has seen sales increase by 400% within one month of signing up. It now has over 673,000 followers.
What is TikTok’s strategic approach to ecommerce – how much of a priority is it becoming for the platform?
“We see ecommerce as a natural evolution for our platform, and what we call ‘community commerce’ – a blend of community, entertainment and shopping that makes product discovery so unique on the platform.
“TikTok’s content experience is curated to consumer interests and is designed for exploration, meaning anyone and any brand can be discovered, no matter how many followers they have. It’s completely in tune with the TikTok platform to allow people to not only discover great brands and products, but to easily buy them too.
“We’re continuing to make investments in community commerce and see it as a growing part of the TikTok experience.”
How important are online live experiences to the way that Gen Z shops and how does TikTok ensure that it constantly stays on top of those trends?
“Unlike previous generations, Gen Z consumers have grown up shopping online or on their mobiles. They haven’t had to suffer through the dial-up speeds, the month-long delivery times or outrageous delivery costs that Millenials like me remember.
“Gen Z expect their online shopping experience to be seamless and research shows that almost 60% admit to buying things on impulse. Online live shopping experiences present a great opportunity to help connect Gen Z audiences to the items they want, smoothly, simply and all on one platform.
“At TikTok, we stay on top of trends by listening to our creators. They’re at the heart of TikTok, and are really at the forefront of new trends and culture. Our creators play a crucial role in helping TikTok as a platform stay relevant.”
Can you tell us a little more about the gamification approach within live events and how important it is as a retail tactic?
“TikTok Shop is still quite a new part of our business, which means that we’re experimenting with different formats. The lucky draw for suitcases in our Summer Sale is the first time we’ve introduced gamification into a sale event, so we’re looking forward to seeing how our community responds.
“TikTok is inherently a very interactive platform, where people create Duet and Stitch videos with other creators, and also make full use of our ever-changing suite of effects and filters. By encouraging interactivity and even higher levels of engagement we think our community will really enjoy this added element when shopping for a deal.”
Content is of course crucial to the TikTok social media platform – is it similarly crucial to the TikTok Shop and live experiences?
“Absolutely. Content that does well on TikTok is engaging and authentic, and the same principle applies to TikTok Shop and our live shopping events. That’s why collaborating with creators can play such an integral role in creating shopping experiences that people will love.
“Our current Summer Sale event shows that collaborating with these creators means brands can reach their incredibly engaged audiences. @ItsNisrin is a great example – she’s been a major TikTok Shop creator since its launch in the UK and has grown her account from 260k to 462k followers since starting on TikTok Shop.”
How important are content creators to TikTok’s ecommerce ecosystem?
“TikTok creators are resident storytellers and platform experts and they’ve become brand evangelists with their trusted recommendations and reviews.
“Creators can not only aid in the community’s discovery of a new product, but they can ultimately inspire them to go out and try it for themselves.
“Creators have played a pivotal role in bringing some of the most successful retail and brand campaigns to life over the last 12-18 months – such as Very, Old Spice and Rimmel London. We see them as being just as important for TikTok Shop.”
For many brands, content creation is a whole new world. How much help can TikTok give merchants who are looking to dip their toe into live shopping?
“Our TikTok Shop team are happy to help connect merchants with TikTok creators. We can help them find the right creators who can educate and inspire the TikTok community through creative and authentic videos, bringing their products and brands to life to increase sales efficiency.
“Our TikTok Shop Academy is also a great place for brands or merchants to find out more information on how to get started.”
The changing nature of ecommerce means that live shopping events – both on TikTok and elsewhere – are a key opportunity for brands of all sizes, helping to unlock new audiences and transform consumer perception.
The evolution of online shopping is creating a whole new ecosystem of engagement – and brands that don’t get onboard risk being left behind.