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In just 12 months TikTok went from having a dubious future in the US to one of the big players.

The app is now shoring up its e-commerce capabilities, introducing new ad units, testing new integrations and helping creators monetise their content – what else can it do now that the proposed sale to Oracle is finally shelved?

I've personally been going down the TikTok rabbit hole since last year.

And I can already see so much more brand activity than before. It feels like they're finally moving out of the experimental bucket and into a robust app.

TikTok is still far from becoming a staple in social media marketing plans, though.

It only gets a fraction of the marketing budgets that Facebook and Instagram do, but it's preparing to become the new standard in social e-commerce.

Out: Instagram models
In: Social e-commerce moguls

Since last October, TikTok has been offering brands and creators a Shopify integration. And in December they debuted live stream shopping with Walmart.

Now TikTok is opening up to third-party sellers.

They're currently working on a series of new e-com features, including:
  • product catalogue for brands,
  • a live stream shopping program, and
  • an affiliate marketing system for individual creators to earn a commission from sales they facilitate.
According to the recently launched Seller University, TikTok is planning to outshine Instagram Shop by building a much more sophisticated and feature-rich third-party market place for sellers.

Ooooh. Shots fired, Instagram. Shots. Fired.
 

So, how can you start selling on TikTok?


TikTok isn't new to social e-commerce – If anything, they seem to be holding back.

Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, introduced in-app stores back in 2018. Douyin stores are open to individuals and brands, and to sell on Douyin vendors pay an upfront deposit and then a 5% commission.

Estimates say Douyin made US$ 77 billion in revenue through e-commerce sales last year. 

TikTok is allowing brands and individuals to apply to join as beta testers.

Approved sellers can:
  • set up their TikTok Store,
  • upload their products,
  • receive and process orders,
  • track deliveries,
  • manage refunds, and
  • interact with their customers through the Seller Centre.
TikTok Shop is currently charging a 2% commission in the beta test.

And through the Seller Centre, brands can create campaigns with individual influencers through TikTok Affiliate.

The best way to sell on TikTok is to let creators loose with your product.

A viral video on TikTok catapulted Chocolate Bombs to virality, selling out the marshmallow-filled hot chocolate drink across both Amazon and Costco.
 

Got a yummy recipe? TikTok gotcha covered


Imagine you feel like making the world's best brownies.

You head to Google to type in "best brownies ever recipe" and pick a good contender.

You click to the website and have to scroll through miles of the stories about how the recipe was passed down through the generations, a list of Wikipedia facts about cocoa beans and recommendations on whether the author thinks this is more of a birthday party brownie or a baby shower brownie.

Plus all those ads weaving in and out of the text, slowing the whole site down.

When you finally get to the actual list of ingredients you realise that this is a vegan version instead of a standard one. And it's back to square one.

TikTok's sorting that out tho.

Because TikTok knows that it's the creators who attract the users. So, providing options for monetising content is what's attracting the creators.

During the pandemic, TikTok emerged as the platform for pros and amateurs alike.

And I can vouch for that: I've learned more about cooking on TikTok in the last 12 months than I have in 34 years of living.

Beyond product-lead e-commerce, TikTok recently also announced an integration with the recipe app Whisk.

Creators can now drive traffic to their Whisk profile and start building a wider audience for their content by leveraging TikTok's viral reach.
 

The social e-commerce scene is buzzin'


Instagram recently launched Code and Facebook is investing in Marketplace.

They both also offer shoppable live streams, and for a while now, Facebook has been trying to turn WhatsApp into a mobile payment/e-commerce app.

Google has introduced shoppable videos, and YouTube recently announced bringing YouTube Shorts to the US after launching the short video format in India last September.

The goal in all cases is to facilitate transactions on the social platform.

A feature that makes these platforms more attractive to advertisers and keeps influencers happy.

The same is true for TikTok, although their experience in China does give them an upper hand.

With integrated e-commerce and an already maturing ad-offering, TikTok can give brands more data about which users are actually buying their products.

At the same time, TikTok Shop will boost individual influencers.

As they can use the new feature to both sell their own products and earn affiliate commissions on products they already promote.

With a new push into social e-commerce, TikTok is positioning its ad-offering as a strong competitor to Facebook, which is dealing with more controversies and fighting regulatory battles on several fronts.

For TikTok, the value of having a marketplace might be that it makes their ads much more effective at converting viewers into customers — something even Google has failed to achieve with its own marketplace.

TikTok is set to hit 1,2 billion active monthly users, who are highly engaged and apt at navigating the in-app features from filters to duets and soon TikTok Stores.

Instead of losing reach by repurposing content from TikTok to Reels (which Instagram doesn't feature or promote anyway), it's time to start thinking about how you're going to create content that is specific to the platform.

Content that will win the hearts of your audience, while at the same time educating them about your brand and product.
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In case you missed:

  1. What digital advertisers get wrong? //Harvard Business Review
     
  2. What did we learn from the GameStop mess? //The Verge
     
  3. Facebook's news ban in Australia: everything you need to know. //Tech Radar
     
  4. How advertisers can level up their marketing to unlock the new diverse gaming universe. //The Drum
     
  5. Facebook knew for years ad reach estimates were based on 'wrong data’ but blocked fixes over revenue impact, per court filing. //TechCrunch

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“The question I would ask the entrepreneur, the freelancer, the consultant, is: ‘Do more people trust you and pay attention to you today than six months ago, and what are you going to do between today and six months from now, that is going to radically change the number of people, and how deeply they pay attention and trust you?’”

- Seth Godin

Until next week,
Aliyar

PS. Are we connected on LinkedIn? No? Let's remedy that, shall we?
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