Is TikTok Shop here for the long haul or just a fleeting trend?

TikTok Shop - will it survive?

TikTok has become increasingly popular within the last two years, with its relaunch in 2018 that saw it go from Musically, a music-oriented app that encouraged people to make lip syncing videos, to an app with a wider range of creative content that invites several generations to interact with one another in a way that no other social media platform has done in a long time. Within a short time frame, TikTok has been able to accumulate over 1 billion active users, so it was only a matter of time before merchants started to look for ways to immerse themselves in the TikTok culture.

It is common knowledge that social media apps, like TikTok, provide brands with a space to interact on a deeper level with their customers, which results in an increase of both brand loyalty and customer understanding. This year especially, many major brands as well as smaller businesses have dedicated their social media presence to showing off their individual personalities and engaging with their communities by creating relatable videos that sometimes go viral and henceforth create increasing demand for their products.

Due to the lockdown restrictions that took place globally during 2020 and 2021 there was a massive surge in the volume of online shopping that took place. As multiple stores closed during the pandemic, merchants hurried to start offering more of their products and services online. This created a market for social media platforms to help businesses and brands sell directly to shoppers which resulted in a blend of entertainment and creative content being produced simultaneously. I, myself, as an avid TikTok user, saw the rise of brands using videos as a means of promoting their products.

So, what actually is TikTok Shop and how did it come to fruition?

TikTok Shop has been described directly by the team at TikTok as an ‘innovative new shopping feature which enables merchants, brands and creators to showcase and sell products directly on TikTok through in-feed videos, LIVEs, and product showcase tab.’ Essentially, it is livestream shopping.

I believe that at first it was not an intentional strategic move to launch ecommerce onto the app but one of convenience. Many TikTok creators would share some of their favourite new finds such as cooking equipment, skincare products, fashion items, books or other leisure forms that were keeping them entertained during the lockdowns. Other users would then comment asking for the link to these products and as the TikTok comment section doesn’t allow for direct links to be copied onto the app, it became increasingly difficult for others to share where they purchased their goods from.

TikTok Shop offers an exciting, fresh and unique shopping experience that feels more personal as it connects sellers/ influencers directly to their fanbase/audience through real time live videos. Therefore, their recommendations of products feel more like a friend giving their opinion on latest deals and bargains rather than a company trying to force their products in your face! This sets TikTok apart from its competitor spaces such as Instagram and Facebook, who also have their own ecommerce features where members can purchase items whilst never having to leave the app.

Mr Waterworth, the TikTok General Manager, UK and EU, when asked about TikTok Shop by the BBC said that it is for “People who have a shared interest or a shared love for a creator or a product area, these communities come together and make the experience of finding and enjoying those products more interesting”.

How do merchants sell on TikTok Shop?

Selling your products on TikTok Shop is a quick and easy process, all you have to do is sign up at the TikTok Shop Seller Centre. Once your products are on TikTok Shop in the Seller Centre, you can then manage your shop, inventory, orders, promotions, creator partnerships and customer service all on one platform. There are three key pillars that TikTok Shop enables merchants to build a rapidly scalable revenue stream through, those are merchant-led LIVES and in-feed videos, creator’s collaborations, and campaigns & promotions.

Perfume Boss Melite TikTok ShopIf you’re looking for evidence of some success stories, you need look no further than PerfumeBoss (MELITE); a small business that joined TikTok Shop last year and hosted their first shoppable LIVE two days after joining. Since then, the brand has committed to hosting more than 5 lives a week. With this dedication and by continuing to increase the amount of time they spend on TikTok LIVE, their business has grown way beyond their expectations in just 2 months. They achieved a 438% increase in net revenue and 369% growth in order volume, and as expected, an increase in followers (32%).

Last month an article was released by the Financial Times which claimed that influencers wanted to abandon TikTok Shop as they felt as though ‘livestream’ advertising lowered their earnings and caused them to receive backlash for limited stock and shipping issues. Unlike Google, TikTok is not a search engine and may not provide the wide range of brands and businesses that a simple web search could offer, which can cause fans to feel frustrated and direct their anger to the content creators who have become the face of many brands and shops.
One of the main selling points of TikTok Shop was the fact that products were sold at a significantly cheaper price. This was due to products being sold directly from third party suppliers instead of having to go through a warehouse which would increase costs. Despite this being a desirable bargain to many at first, people are now dissatisfied with the “fast fashion” nature of many of TikTok Shop’s offering. This does create the notion that TikTok Shop has not been as successful as it was premeditated to be.

It could also be presumed that it is down to the fact that users enjoyed the authenticity from content creators or other regular users sharing where they purchased their products from, but now there is clearly a difference in their approach and their unhappiness is radiating through the screens. Who knows what could become of TikTok Shop in the future, it may become as big as Amazon, but only time will tell.

Kiisi Lée, intern at Shake It Up Creative