#SmallBusiness: selling on TikTok as a growing eCommerce store
TikTok isn’t just for goofy dance routines any more. The social media sensation is the fastest-growing destination on the internet, and has become a powerful sales channel for businesses spanning high fashion to home repair.
TikTok even made feta cheese a commodity. In 2021, the U.S. faced a feta cheese shortage after a feta pasta recipe went viral on the platform.
Needless to say, the possibilities are endless on TikTok. Its irreverent style and authenticity make it a perfect match for small businesses seeking to boost awareness and traffic to their online stores. Thanks to new shopping tools, retailers can also sell directly on TikTok and realize a direct benefit to their bottom lines.
This post will cover all the basics you need to get started:
What is TikTok?
For most, TikTok needs no introduction. But just in case it still feels unfamiliar to you, here’s the lowdown.
TikTok is a Chinese-based social media platform for short-form videos, similar to Vine (RIP). The platform took off in earnest during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many consumers were home-bound and deprived of in-person entertainment.
Creating a TikTok account is entirely free. However, if you refuse to sign up, you can still view TikTok videos that are shared with you, or find many TikToks reposted on Instagram.
The beauty of the channel is that it’s quirky, creative, and highly personalized. One quick scroll through your “For You” page and you’ll see a series of videos that match your humor and interests. While TikTok users have the option to “follow” their favorite creators, the default “For You” page does such a good job of targeting that you may rarely visit your “Following” feed.
TikTok’s immersive and addictive nature is well-known, plus the butt of many jokes. Aside from being easy to consume, the channel offers many filters, sounds, and video effects to inspire video creation. “Audio hashtags'' and dance trends are also integral to TikTok. Creators frequently riff off popular voice tracks, imitate each other’s dance moves, and record their reactions to each other’s videos.
While several years ago, America’s youth was aspiring to become famous YouTubers—many are now eyeing TikTok fame.
Why sell on TikTok?
Given TikTok’s soaring popularity and its highly-coveted Gen Z audience, it’s no surprise that brands from Louis Vuitton to Walmart have flocked to the platform. TikTok has rapidly added new features for businesses, ranging from sponsored hashtags to social commerce tools.
While launching yet another social media platform may be daunting, there are powerful reasons to consider weaving TikTok into your eCommerce marketing strategy:
TikTok is the platform for reaching young shoppers. Over half of 18- to 24-year-olds in the U.S. report using TikTok, and TikTok’s Gen Z user base is expected to surpass Instagram's by 2025. Beyond being a channel for engaging these users, TikTok offers a window into the social and cultural trends that captivate the under-40 consumer base.
TikTok’s audience is global. Southeast Asia accounts for the most users, followed by North America and Europe. Retailers who participate on this platform can connect with potential customers around the globe and even leverage new commerce tools to sell across borders.
Content is full-screen and full-motion. TikTok is built around video, which is a powerful medium in its own right. More than half of consumers consult videos to make purchasing decisions, and 73% say that they’re more likely to purchase after watching product videos. TikTok additionally aims to create a distraction-free viewing experience, giving each video command over the full screen.
There’s no need for Insta-perfection. As of February 2022, TikTok video clips can be up to 10 minutes long. That’s a big jump from its previous limit of three minutes. Nevertheless, most videos tend to only last 60 seconds or less. Some of the most popular uploads are spontaneous and unfiltered—unlike on Instagram, where images are artfully composed, aspirational, and polished. In other words, you don’t need to hire a professional production team to produce a TikTok video. Quick-takes via a cellphone camera can be just as effective.
TikTok users don’t just scroll—they engage. The engagement on TikTok is a marketer’s dream come true. Not only does the average user spend 52 minutes per day on the platform, but more than half of TikTok users upload their own videos and 63% say they’ve “liked” another user’s content. By comparison, commercial Facebook posts attract engagement rates of just 0.04% on average.
The #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt phenomenon
The payoff potential is significant on TikTok—and the hashtag #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt is proof of this.
This hashtag has earned more than 9.7 billion views in recent years, and that number only continues to grow at a rapid clip.
In terms of purchases: TikTok reports that one in four users have purchased or researched a product after seeing it on its platform. And new, trendy brands aren’t the only ones seeing results.
Manufacturer Bissell has been selling the Little Green Machine, a mini-vacuum, for more than 20 years. But sales for the vacuum miraculously doubled over the past 18 months, thanks to a raft of TikTok videos showing the product in use.
The hope to go viral isn’t simply a pipe dream on TikTok. It’s a real possibility for businesses big and small, young and old.
How to sell on TikTok
The first order of business is to understand how TikTok fits into your broader eCommerce strategy. What are your goals for TikTok? What types of content are you planning to produce?
You can visit TikTok’s guide for businesses, which includes step-by-step tutorials and instructions for advertising and shopping programs. You can also explore an information hub dedicated to small businesses, which includes creator best practices, case studies, and more.
To further ensure an optimal TikTok debut, follow these below steps.
01. Do reconnaissance
TikTok is such a unique environment that it’s a good idea to experience the platform for yourself before taking the plunge on behalf of your brand. This will help you to better allocate resources, discover new quirks about the platform, and create a content plan that yields high-quality results.
For example, while it may be tempting to clip an existing branded video for TikTok, the channel’s constantly-evolving trends and love for spontaneity may work against you. You may struggle to engage viewers if the sole purpose of your profile is to reshare posts that lack a certain authenticity.
Other considerations include learning what products gain popularity on TikTok, observing how those items are marketed, and seeing which types of posts perform well as sponsored versus organic posts. Similarly, keep an eye on how others are using TikTok to educate their users and/or answer customer inquiries.
TikTok can serve a variety of purposes for your brand, so you’ll want to know ahead of time what matters most to you.
02. Set up a business account and start posting
Once you’ve sketched out a plan of action, it’s time to download the TikTok app and set up a business account (a business account gives you access to both paid advertising and shopping functions). After setting up a basic username and password, you can upgrade to a business account from the Account Manager screen.
After that, you’re ready to begin posting. Consistency is key here. While there’s tons of guidance out there—some of which recommend that you post one to three TikToks a day—we’d recommend that you establish a posting cadence that’s realistic for your brand. Don’t burn yourself out early on.
When you’re just starting out, strategically test different types of posts. Split your time evenly between posting content and engaging with other people’s content so that you don’t lose touch of the channel’s evolving landscape.
03. Create a storefront via TikTok Shopping
TikTok Shopping, which rolled out in the second half of 2021, hooks you up with a variety of business tools and solutions:
Shopping tab - Add a tab on your profile that allows you to list your products directly inside TikTok.
Product links - Tag products in your videos so that viewers can easily learn more about your products, either by following a link to your website or to your shopping tab.
Live shopping - Put live stream shopping to the test and host live product demos, giveaways, and other interactive events.
Shopping ads - Increase the reach of your product videos through a variety of ad types (more info in the next section).
Keep in mind that when you upload your products, you’ll want to adjust your copy and product descriptions for TikTok’s unique user experience. Your titles should be 34 characters or less. Your product descriptions should be written for the Gen Z consumer. Plus, any links within your description should be removed, since they won’t be clickable on TikTok.
04. Boost products by putting money behind them
Paid placements can give your videos a push in the right direction, and are especially helpful when you’re trying to build momentum for a new or seasonal item. To get started, simply set up an Ad Manager account and explore TikTok’s various ad types:
TopView - This is, in TikTok’s own words, the “biggest billboard” on the app. It’s the first video that users see when they fire up TikTok, and is reportedly the most effective ad type when paired with In-Feed Ads.
In-Feed Ads - These are ads that are interspersed throughout native, user-generated content. Viewers can swipe, replay, or share them from their “For You” pages just like any other TikTok video. When setting up an in-feed app, you can either boost an existing post on your page or create a new one.
Branded Hashtag Challenge - This ad type is a hat tip to the TikTok community’s love for dances, duets, and other trends. Branded Hashtag Challenges let you spark your own movement, plus redirect users to a branded landing page whenever they click on your hashtag. While this ad type isn’t specific to your products, it can help to increase overall visibility around your brand and compel users to explore your other videos.
Branded Effects - Branded Effects let you publish custom stickers, AR filters, and games that other users can enjoy. Your effects can last up to 10 days in the app, but their impact can survive much longer if users create videos from them.
As with any advertising campaign, you’ll want to pay close attention to your targeting, placements, costs, and performance. Prices for some of the splashiest opportunities are skyrocketing, with TopView ads now costing more than $2 million during the fourth quarter holiday season. Careful targeting can help you stay within budget, as can a clear system for monitoring your ROI.
05. Partner with an influencer
Setting up an Ad Manager account also gives you access to Tiktok’s Creator Marketplace, which lists influencers who are available for hire.
Creator Marketplace gives you the option to work with influencers on a payment or rewards basis. Every influencer on the platform has at least 100,000 followers and meets other eligibility criteria that’s monitored by TikTok.
While the Creator Marketplace provides a convenient space for connecting with influencers, you should keep an eye out for micro influencers on the app. Micro influencers include accounts that have between 1,000 and 10,000 followers. These accounts tend to have tight-knit fanbases, bonded by a shared interest and/or location. Most micro influencers are on the app every day and can help to spread the word about your brand much quicker than if you were to do it alone.
Lighthearted content, serious business
TikTok’s virality may have been born out of the lockdown, but it has nonetheless garnered serious clout in eCommerce. For your online business, TikTok can be a valuable bridge to young trend setters who can quickly become some of your top buyers.
Allison Lee Editor, Wix eCommerce
Allison is the editor for the Wix eCommerce blog, with several years of experience reporting on eCommerce news, strategies, and founder stories.