What TikTok can do for e-commerce brands going forward; and what it can’t.

Back in 2019, TikTok was seen as a bit of a joke within the marketing world, despite its capability to turn brand new artists into global superstars after a short viral moment, albeit those moments were short lived for some. In reality, it was capable of making a song go “viral” from 2016 when the app was still known as musical.ly. Amongst many, even in 2021, it is still considered a joke. But here’s what you should know.

TikTok is a platform rife with new, fresh attention, and in particular, consumer attention. It is indisputably where people are hanging out on the Internet and naturally, where people are, is where thoughtful brands & advertisers are going to want to spend their time and money, as long as the platform-brand fit is correct. TikTok’s advertising model is somewhat nascent right now as they’re just starting out but in the past few months, they have taken enormous leaps to update numerous features, making it easier for businesses of all sizes to utilise the platform.

“…go from nothing to something in a short period of time, on the back of underpriced attention”

From integrations with Shopify to ad asset generation (although this tool needs more work), TikTok has strategically positioned itself as one of the biggest opportunities for new brands to go from nothing to something in a short period of time, on the back of underpriced attention. The current state of TikTok is giving those with little advertising spend, the chance to make every penny work like a pound. And yes, there is a lot more content on the platform than just 12 year olds dancing.

“TikTok is giving those with little advertising spend, the chance to make every penny work like a pound”

Consumer Attention

I won’t spend too much time explaining the platform but the days of only seeing dance videos are over. It is filled with content across finance, gaming, food, entertainment, sports and any of the other key pillars of culture, all with 15-seconds, 60-seconds or up to 3 minutes in attention-holding videos.

If you are an e-commerce company, TikTok is definitely a platform to consider for this simple reason; the cost of marketing on the platform will increase over time and being an early mover, understanding the content natively, and becoming a brand which creates ads inline with the end-users expectations and experience will pay dividends in the long run.

Whether you sell furniture or event tickets, TikTok has an attention-graph wider than what the “marketing world” thinks. I first started running ads on TikTok in September 2020 and the evolution has been incredible.

Bridging the gap with e-commerce

Over the past few months, the partnership between TikTok and Shopify specifically, has blossomed and as Gary Vaynerchuk said to me, “it’s two very progressive, fast companies doing fast shit with each other” and this is no understatement.

Beginning with the ability to create content using products on your Shopify store is simple but over time, we all expect that “Shop Pay”, Shopify’s owned payment service, will be integrated into TikTok to build a world of “frictionless commerce”, allowing customers to discover a product, select and purchase it right where they are, without having to leave the app. This exact feature was rolled out to Facebook & Instagram across the USA only in the past year so TikTok will not be far away.

Even if you don’t use Shopify, I strongly suspect that Shop Pay will become widely available to many brands not using Shopify as it’s e-commerce solution as it continues to build an open-web system of working with brands. If you think about Amazon for example, Shopify’s biggest competitor in the e-commerce space, it has very similar DNA to Microsoft where it’s a “closed system”, one that relies on you using their operating system to access certain tools, also known as being a gatekeeper. Shopify is taking a different approach which is much more open and its services will be available to everyone in due time.

Actionable next steps

Firstly, if you are yet to create a TikTok account, download the app and spend a considerable amount of time consuming the content. It’ll pay massively in the long run if you can get to grips with how different it is from the other social platforms we have seen before.

Secondly, follow brands within your industry, see what’s working for them and then recreate it, but add the real insights that you know are industry secrets; let them out, they are all on Google anyway.

Thirdly, read the comments across the videos you find within your industry. The high level of engagement across the platform means a look inside the minds of your target customer. What are they questioning? What are their doubts? What gets them excited? What do they not care about? Use the insights you find to your advantage.

Finally, before you begin advertising, think about the show-stopping aspects of your products. “But Jordan, my industry is boring”. Trust me it’s not. There are people who will be fascinated by the simplest aspect of your product or service but you may be overthinking it.

“show, don’t tell.”

Approach all of the communications with the context of the end user and not yourself. Show the unique thing you do differently. Approach the already existing audience on the platform as if you were speaking to a five year old. And most importantly of all, show, don’t tell. Nobody wants to be told what to do but many are curious to how others feel after using a certain product, so always approach your advertising as if you’re speaking to a friend, not a target customer.

If you enjoyed reading this, feel free to check out the 4-minute video with myself discussing this with Gary Vee & Zubin Mowlavi.