If you haven’t launched a TikTok strategy, you aren’t too late. If you have but aren’t getting the results you want … you’re not alone.
TikTok hit a billion users faster than any social media app in history. And its growth continues to skyrocket — 650,000 new users every day, enough to fill the largest football stadium in the US six times over. Plus, it overtook Google late last year to become the most-visited domain in the world.
Still, none of that makes capitalizing on TikTok’s record-breaking momentum easy for ecommerce brands.
To create viral organic hits and ad campaigns with mega returns, you need a one-stop, all-inclusive guide. That’s exactly what we’ve prepared.
Here’s everything to craft your TikTok ecommerce strategy:
Plus, check out our latest offering: The TikTok Ads Playbook. We created this program by combining all of the top strategies, tools, & ad templates we have on TikTok advertising from the CTC community.
TikTok originated in China as an app named Douyin in 2017. Parent company ByteDance introduced it to global markets as TikTok after a merger with now-defunct social network Musical.ly.
Once dominated by Gen Z, its reach now goes much further. About 48% percent of US adults ages 18-29 and 20% of those ages 30-49 use TikTok.
What’s more, 89% of Americans recognize the TikTok brand — a cultural impact far beyond its user base.
People are not only using the app, they’re deeply connected while browsing. Known for its signature short, viral videos, the app keeps users glued to their phones for hours.
Engagement rates on TikTok lean higher than on any other social platform. Nine out of 10 users log into the app multiple times per day, each racking up over 850 minutes per month.
Why? Because the success of TikTok’s immersive experience points to a single ingredient.
That ingredient is simplicity. And it’s revolutionary.
When you open the app, you immediately land on the For You Page (FYP).
Displaying one audio-on video at a time, TikTok’s algorithm monitors every interaction, then tailors your feed with content based on predictions about what you engage with most.
Thus, the name: “For You” Page.
Alternate content feeds, the “Following” and “Live” pages, pale in comparison to the appeal of the FYP. This personalized, one-video-at-a-time format makes TikTok a powerful content channel.
The key is to create a video that lands on your ideal audience’s FYP.
Managing multiple social media accounts demands a lot of resources. Certain online platforms are better for achieving specific objectives than others.
Where does TikTok fit into the bigger picture?
Search-based platforms (like Google and Amazon) serve better for capturing demand. Traditional social platforms (like Facebook and Instagram) fare better for generating demand.
Viewed through this lens, TikTok’s ability to generate awareness stomps its rivals.
Unlike other social media platforms, TikTok supports widespread content virality, regardless of follower count. Imitators? Of course. But none with comparable organic reach.
The average engagement rate on a Facebook post is 0.18%. The average post for influencers on TikTok boasts an engagement rate of 18%.
Combine this with the average reach per post and you can see why an organic TikTok strategy carries higher potential ROI than one for Facebook.
Facebook isn’t dead.
It stands to be said, though, that an organic strategy built on repurposing content from other channels may be more worthwhile at the moment. Organic video sharing on TikTok currently sees better performance.
The thing that makes TikTok such a huge opportunity for brands?
One word: discoverability.
Instagram really identifies as the all-in-one platform, offering photos, videos, stories, and more. Potential audience growth (organically) on Instagram can’t compete with TikTok yet.
YouTube ranks as the second most popular search engine in the world, right behind Google. Long-form YouTube videos are usually suggested based on titles, keywords, thumbnails, and tags.
On the YouTube homepage, users see only a handful of videos. This creates a high barrier of entry for brands compared to other platforms, especially when the likelihood of reaching a wider audience is quite low.
TikTok generated widespread demand for a new style of content that expands beyond its platform. Short video moved from a nice-to-have to a non-negotiable because of this surge in interest.
Pinterest Video, Snapchat Spotlight, Instagram Reels, and YouTube Shorts formed in response to the appetite for TikTok-style content. This means your brand should understand the benefits of creating this content on TikTok and repurposing it across all platforms.
The top goal of any video on TikTok? Reaching new audiences on the FYP. Only two ways exist to arrive in that coveted space: (1) Make a video that users can’t help but watch and share, or (2) pay.
Let’s cover making a video that keeps viewers salivating for more.
For our purposes, we’ll call a viral video “one that reaches more people than it should based on organic follower count.”
If you create a video that receives far more views than the average account within your audience range, then your content most likely landed on someone’s FYP.
TikTok’s primary goals are to …
TikTok elevates the visibility of any content that achieves them.
A video goes “viral” when TikTok analysis shows high likelihood to get shares (drawing more users to the app) and increase watch time (creating more time spent on the app).
TikTok’s analytics dashboard gives you direct access to these metrics.
Three TikTok Analytics metrics matter most:
When you nail the first two, TikTok prioritizes your video and the third explodes. Think of them like compounding effects. Or, like a snowball, picking up size and speed as the first two metrics accelerate the third.
Let me give you three examples: good, bad, and viral.
Here’s a video from my personal TikTok account that reached 641.5k people. Average Time Watched is approximately 20 seconds and the Watched Full Video is 61.2%.
Now, here’s one with less than 4,000 views — the bad.
Notice: Average Time Watched is 16 seconds and Watched Full Video is 41.9%. Four seconds less than the good example doesn’t seem like a lot, but that might as well be an hour in TikTok time. Worse, 20% fewer people watched the whole thing.
Lower watch time and fewer full video views equals ridiculously less audience reach.
Lastly, let’s look at a viral video with over 1.2 million views. Average Time Watched is 24.3 seconds — four seconds more than the good video. And yet, Watched Full Video is about 1.3% lower.
Why did this video get nearly double the views of the first?
That’s where trends come in.
The good video, with 641.5k views, related to a seasonal trend (the Super Bowl). The viral video, with 1.2 million, related to both a season trend (Thanksgiving) and an evergreen trend (couples).
Two features help the most.
TikTok users label videos with specific topical hashtags, such as #dogs and #beauty. When users engage with a video that has certain hashtags, TikTok continues showing them similar content.
By going to the “Discover” page on TikTok, you can easily find out which hashtags are trending. Cross-reference those to find more topics your ideal audience could be interested in.
This increases the likelihood that you’ll show up on their FYP.
Sounds work the same way as hashtags. These are audio clips from movies, songs, or other users’ videos you can add to your own content. If users engage with videos featuring a specific sound, TikTok shows them more videos that use that sound.
To find trending sounds in-app, tap the “+” icon, select “Sounds,” and then “TikTok Viral.” Viral 100 TikTok Sounds lists the most popular sounds and lets you download them for easy placement.
TikTok already has a low barrier to entry, but why add to your content creation workload if you don’t have to?
The easiest way for ecommerce brands to get started on TikTok is to take user-generated content (UGC) they’re already making for paid ads and post them on TikTok with relevant hashtags and trending sounds.
Additionally, perform social listening and monitor mentions of your brand or products on social media. This helps you find creators who are already familiar with and sharing content about you on TikTok.
It’s a great way to support your organic and paid efforts.
There are three key components of an effective organic marketing strategy on TikTok:
TikTok influencers are the lifeblood of the app. They shape and define its culture. With millions of followers, TikTokers like Charli and Dixie D’Amelio, Addison Rae, and Khabane Lame represent the new celebrities of the digital era. They’re important for brands looking to market on the platform, too.
User-generated content (UGC) performs better than anything else on TikTok. It feels native and authentic, which makes it easier to connect with. Influencers who post UGC on behalf of brands secure impressive organic results beyond what a brand could achieve on its own.
Existing star power within key communities as well as familiarity with developing high-quality content carries a higher potential for virality.
The TikTok Creator Marketplace offers a tool for brands to explore potential creators to partner with.
TikTok LIVE lends itself to real-time engagement between an account holder and other users. Prerequisites for unlocking this feature include being at least 16 years old and having at least 1,000 followers.
If viewers enjoy your live stream, they can send gifts that can be converted into actual cash.
Brand live streams cover topics like product FAQs, educational interviews with industry experts, how-to demos, or even a behind-the-scenes of a real-life event.
There’s no time limit, and your LIVE appears on the FYP when general users are scrolling. Interacting with followers in real-time creates a stronger sense of connection and recognition.
Brands or creators with a TikTok for Business account unlock the ability to host a tab on their TikTok profile where others can browse or buy products. The social commerce experience happens entirely within the app.
In 2021, Shopify announced a dedicated integration with TikTok that allows merchants on this ecommerce platform to sell store products in app.
The solution simplifies the setup required by connecting Shopify inventory with the TikTok storefront. Square, Ecwid, PrestaShop, and Wix are among other current or future TikTok Shopping partners.
Ruggable creates beautiful, machine-washable rugs. You wouldn’t think the brand would be a TikTok hit. But its videos reach hundreds of thousands of views on a fairly consistent basis.
The mix of relatable topics, such as rug recommendations based on popular celebrities, perform better than average.
Boasting over a million followers, DTC water company Liquid Death works with a number of well-known influencers.
One video created in partnership with well-known TikToker Vanessa Simeon achieved nearly 5M views. Her unique style helped capture more attention than its organic videos usually garner.
Bed and mattress company Purple orients its TikTok videos around, well, the color purple (obviously).
Aside from the memorable aesthetic, the brand also knows how to showcase products naturally. By pairing products with creators or trending styles, they avoid seeming too promotional.
Organic growth requires significant resources, including investment of time.
Paid opportunities make sense for ecommerce marketing strategies that seek expansion beyond limited organic reach.
Over 160 million businesses rely on Facebook. A survey of marketers found that Facebook and Instagram take the top two spots when it comes to the most-used social media advertising platforms.
While competition is steep, audience reach provides a balanced benefit. Over two billion people worldwide see ad content via the Facebook platform. That includes over 6 out of 10 people in the US over the age of 13.
For comparison, TikTok ads currently reach an estimated 120 million people over 18 in the U.S., representing the app’s largest audience of any country.
Price marks a key point of differentiation.
TikTok requires a minimum spend of $500 per campaign, with a set number of prepaid impressions. Certain ad types come with steeper price tags. For example, brand takeovers run for $50,000 per day.
Video reigns supreme on TikTok. Facebook and Instagram advertising allow for a mix of still imagery and video. Not to mention, many users watch videos on the platforms with sound off, unlike the default behavior on TikTok. You have more assurance your content will be experienced as intended.
The impact of iOS 14.5 on audience targeting extends to both Facebook and TikTok ads since both rely on tracking mobile user activity.
TikTok shocked the world when it overcame Google to become late-2021’s most-visited website. That marked a shift in thinking about its future role in the marketing ecosystem. Still, people initiate over 5 billion Google searches every day. Google video ads, by way of YouTube, have a potential reach of over 2 billion.
Your target audience plays a role in the potential success of your digital ads, too. YouTube Ads reach a slightly higher percentage of males over 18 compared to females, while TikTok trends toward higher usage by female users.
The comparison isn’t exactly apples to apples, though. TikTok falls more on the awareness side of the customer journey, whereas ecommerce brands rely on Google demand capture. Awareness campaigns average a lower return on ad spend (ROAS) because the customer isn’t at a high intent stage of the buying process.
Google ad types consist of video, text-based, and display. When it comes to search ads — and Google Shopping for ecommerce in particular — the benefit is a higher CTR because shoppers have high intent. They’re actively looking for something, a solution, or a product.
Nearly half of consumers report buying something they saw on a YouTube ad, and the same is true on TikTok.
In further support of TikTok, early surveys show Tiktok users are more likely to be high intent Internet shoppers and to make a purchase from a brand after seeing it on social media.
Like Facebook, TikTok advertising offers campaign and ad group segmentation, demographic targeting, pixel-driven analytics, and cost caps. Advertisers manage all activity, such as budget setting and content uploading, through the TikTok Ad Manager.
The style of content itself varies from other channels, though. Entertainment and advertising content are more collaborative and indistinguishable, making ads feel less disruptive.
Plus, TikTok offers a variety of formats to choose from beyond basic video ads.
Brands have the option of running either still images or videos as native content. That means the ad appears on the user’s FYP. Users can like, leave comments, share, follow, or even re-use the sound for their own videos.
Different placements are available. For instance, Topview ads present a particularly unique opportunity because users see these videos first when they open the app. That’s prime real estate for brands looking to be top of mind (and feed).
This type of TikTok ad takes over the full screen with a dynamic video. The entire screen is clickable, increasing the chance of engagement. Videos tend to be short and snappy, with a maximum duration of 3.5 seconds, and users only see one Brand Takeover per day.
Premium placements come with higher costs, though. Expect to pay slightly more to secure this positioning.
A hashtag challenge enables brands to sponsor a dedicated hashtag around a desired theme. Anyone who takes interest adds their own videos to the challenge collection.
Contributions aggregate on both the FYP and separately on the Discover page. Major trends often arise from sponsored hashtags, propelling branded content to viral view counts.
As a supplement to organic social commerce, TikTok Video Shopping Ads focus on product discovery and purchases and feature just like organic content to ensure they retain a natural feel.
Advertisers tag products featured in a video with a card to highlight relevant information. The product cards link back to specific SKUs from the in-app shop or your online store, driving traffic directly from the ad to a native purchasing environment.
TikTok serves dynamic showcase ads to app users based on their activity and interests. That makes them more personalized than some of the other types of ads listed.
These provide a great way to balance awareness or prospecting campaigns with retargeting. If someone has lurked on your TikTok profile or brand website, they’ll be served with your content.
Chomp’s ads combine the latest trends on TikTok with performance advertising best practices. That creates ads that both blend seamlessly into the TikTok feed and optimize for direct response purchase.
Kosas Cosmetics does a couple of things right with this TikTok video. Highlighting an exciting offer provides a prominent call-to-action. The quick transitions grab attention and match the fast pace of movement in most native content.
The sounds you use for TikTok ads matter a lot. This video ad not only features an authentic-looking creator alongside the product, it also revolves around a viral, trending sound.
Marketing on TikTok lacks set standards because of the novelty of the channel, which leaves lots of flexibility for you to craft your own path forward.
Brands interested in adding the platform to a marketing strategy need to carefully evaluate options to determine the best approach.
Support is available, though.
Our team works with a variety of clients to help them navigate the challenges of joining a new platform. Learn more about the benefits of a partnership with us here, especially ad creative!
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