TikTok eCommerce—A New Frontier

Updated · Mar 06, 2023

eCommerce on TikTok is still in its early stages, but there are already a number of interesting and unique ways that businesses are using the platform to promote their products. 

Whether it be organic adverts, or partnering with influencers, TikTok presents some interesting new opportunities for the marketing and selling of products.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the rise of TikTok ecommerce, discuss the potential the platform holds, look at the way TikTok does advertising.

We will end off with a look at big ecommerce solutions that are already integrated.

What Is TikTok?

We doubt you haven’t heard of it, but in case you need a refresher—TikTok is a social media app where users can share short videos of themselves lip-syncing, dancing to popular songs, performing skits, or just talking. 

The app is extremely popular with Gen Z users and has been downloaded over two billion times worldwide.

The platform has also been the subject of some controversy. Many worry that the TikTok business strategy relies on addiction.

TikTok works by feeding users a constant stream of short videos. The constant novelty can keep users entranced for minutes at a time. This makes it a perfect place for marketing. 

TikTok is eager to expand into new areas. It recently trialed an online resume feature, and even launched a desktop-based live streaming feature.

The app is also home to many fandoms, with channels that idealize luxury being popular, similar to the situation on Instagram.

This brings us to another force TikTok is good at directing… 

Hype Culture on TikTok

A successful TikTok campaign will generate “hype.”

In recent years, the term "hype culture" has become increasingly prevalent.

Hype culture can be defined as a cultural phenomenon in which individuals are fixated on hype—generating excitement around a particular thing. 

This can lead to marketing campaigns going viral. Typically, hype is created through social media channels and word-of-mouth, and it often leads to mass hysteria and extreme fandom. 

One of the most notable, and lucrative examples of hype culture is the release of new products from major brands, such as Supreme

In the weeks and months leading up to a product launch, fans communicate in online communities, which would mean TikTok organic growth.

On launch day, people will camp out overnight in front of stores to be the first to get their hands on the product. Hype is so central to some people’s lives, that there is even a term for them—“hype beasts.” 

Getting in on this, and being able to generate hype can be extremely good for your brand. Hype has a way of causing a chain reaction and feeding itself if a big enough group is involved.

The recent NFT craze is an example of hype gone wild.

TikTok users are doing their part to generate hype, the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt hashtag has over 12 billion views.

TikTok Shopping Ads

In a world where we are bombarded with advertising constantly, many people develop "ad blindness."

We learn to tune out ads that we see every day, whether they're on TV, radio, or even while we’re driving down the highway.

In short, it’s harder to get people’s attention than it once was. In order to overcome this, social media platforms offer organic adverts—advert tweets, advertising posts on Instagram, and yes, TikTok adverts.

The only trouble with the first two platforms is that the adverts stick out.

Advert tweets normally take up more space and have a big “promoted” label on them.

Instagram adverts have a big stripe promotion a call-to-action.

In short, they are noticeably adverts, and risk being.  

TikTok commerce ads are a little more discreet. They do have a label pointing out that they’re ads, but it’s tucked down in the bottom right of the screen where one's hand might be, and is easy to miss. 

This means the potential for a lasting impression, as long as the ad itself is interesting or novel in some way.

Remember, Tweets and Instagram posts must be read, the viewer must be active.

TikTok videos are watched, which means a higher chance of the viewer taking in the information passively. 

eCommerce Integrating With TikTok 

eCommerce brands have quickly realized the potential of TikTok shopping links, and begun hopping aboard.

This has coincided with the greater shift to online shopping caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Although things will open up again, those who have gotten used to ecommerce are unlikely to leave it behind. 

Two ecommerce solutions that stand out are Shopify and Square.

Shopify X TikTok

Shopify has worked with TikTok to offer a direct integration.

This allows merchants to tag products in TikTok videos and link them directly for purchase. 

Users who tap on the product link can purchase them within TikTok, for a quick and seamless experience.

The TikTok-Shopify partnership is going well for both brands.

Square X TikTok

Square is a newer ecommerce platform, and where Jack Dorsey will be directing his attention now that he’s left Twitter. 

Square started out as a great payment gateway, but has since expanded to cover more aspects of ecommerce.

With it, one can essentially turn their TikTok account into an online store.

Wrap Up

As you can see, TikTok is quickly becoming a focus for ecommerce brands.

It appears to have everything going for it—an addictive core loop to capture the attention of audiences, a culture that promotes hype generation, and now some of the biggest ecommerce platforms getting on board to take advantage of it all. 

TikTok ecommerce can be seen as an alternative to landing pages, or even as the first step in a social ecommerce focused sales funnel. It’s certainly a platform worth checking out. 

Garan van Rensburg
Garan van Rensburg

Garan is a writer interested in how tech reshapes the environment, and how the environment reshapes tech. You'll usually find him inoculating against future shock and arguing with bots.