“Do I think it will evolve significantly? Yes. What and how that will be is highly dependent on the western vs eastern uptake on innovation and application. TikTok has done an exceptional job of building it – the question is how long will it take and how much will they spend?”
The fast-moving nature of the platform provides both an opportunity and a challenge for brands. “To really win, you need to be on that journey,” Raad says. “It’s a creator’s world and you can’t force a narrative. Your best bet is to immerse yourself in ‘their world’ and join the conversation, understand the trends and also understand when they are over!”
Raad states that brands should avoid jumping on the TikTok bandwagon if they don’t have a reason to be there. “Like all things, you need to have a purpose. Standing back and knowing who you want to speak to and why – and then HOW that can link back to the wider ecosystem already in motion will generate much stronger cohesive results all around,” she explains.
TikTok has become a destination app, with built-in consumer trust
“The seismic shifts they are expecting in the awareness and recall – never mind the shifts in the product. I could pick from many categories but I’ll rest on beauty to provide a wider view and why they are doing so well.”
“China has owned the development in social commerce for a long time. The growth in China alone has sky rocketed over the last few years with 2021 [seeing] over 2.5 trillion Yuan spend in special commerce sales” she says.
“Everything TikTok does to innovate is to create and drive a frictionless purchase to enhance the UX,” says Raad, “and the live subscription feature is only adding to this.”
‘TikTok made me buy it’: How the video-sharing platform is influencing fashion retail
Raad asserts that the “notion of creator [as distinct from] influencer has been spurred on through TikTok’s authentic approach and game-changing FYP [‘for you’ page] that serves hyper-personalised content to the user.”
It’s a creator’s world…
TikTok is increasingly impacting the spending habits of its users, by creating what it describes as an ‘infinite loop of discovery, consideration, purchase, review, and participation’.
“TikTok as a platform has become a destination app – an appointment to view -a term widely used on TV for generations,” says Raad. “The platform has the consumer’s trust as we can see from its usage and trust is crucial when it comes to purchasing.”
Additionally, Raad says that the deodorant brand Fussy understands that TikTok is about more than jumping on trending audios. “When they do use trending audios they’re well placed and make sense, but they aren’t afraid to use their content to show behind the scenes of the brand or talk about deodorant being gendered.”
“You will hear it time and time again… Being human and keeping it real are fundamental,” she explains. “Stop with your over-produced ad cut downs, sure they ‘do a job’ but they aren’t doing you a good enough job – I don’t even need to see the figures to tell you that.”
Small brands are seeing seismic shifts in awareness and recall
“We are brutal with our attention, and the access to vast amounts of content composition has never been more ferocious… Garnering 80min in-app time is a monstrous achievement and step change in potential engagement.”
So, how can brands make the most of this opportunity? I put some questions to Jade Raad, Director of Brand Strategy at digital content agency and media network Little Dot Studios.
So, which brands are doing well right now? Raad says it is the transformation that is happening for smaller brands that is most exciting of all.
One area that could shape future trends on TikTok is the growing number of creator tools available, with the platform most recently adding a live subscription feature. This will enable creators to monetise their live-streams, while giving users more ways to interact and engage.
Raad cites the sustainable period product brand, August, as one stand-out brand on the platform, explaining how they have treated TikTok (and all their content marketing) as an editorial platform. “Their content is educational, serving their young audience with information about menstruation, as well as genuinely entertaining – they use trends to be funny, not just talk about their product,” she says.
Consequently, with users spending more time on TikTok than ever, the platform has generated high levels of trust.
Live video brings further monetisation opportunities
Looking ahead, Raad suggests that we should still be looking to China as an indication of where TikTok – and social commerce as a whole – could be headed.
“Live video is one of the fastest growing areas of social media. It’s an opportunity to monetise the platform which will bring more variety of content, attracting a wider range of users.”
Finally, Raad cites vegan beauty brand Axiology. “[They] use behind the scenes content to spread awareness of their brand and build trust with their community, whilst educating them on sustainability within the beauty industry. If you’re a sustainable brand, BTS content should be a part of your strategy – transparency is key.”
“The platform cherishes warts-and-all content. Its success is partly due to this,” she continues. Additionally, Raad suggests that the very nature of the app – and how content is consumed on it – has created an irresistible user experience.
“The reality is – TikTok has changed the game… [it] has evened out the playing field beyond recognition for these brands and can reach their consumers quickly and efficiently.”
According to its own stats, TikTok users typically spend 14% more when the platform is a part of the purchase journey, while 37% of users discovered something on TikTok and immediately wanted to buy it.
When it comes to succeeding on TikTok, Raad says that, unsurprisingly, authenticity is key, which is something that brands cannot shortcut.