TikTok has seen explosive growth since the start of the pandemic. (Big surprise, right?)
During that time, the platform saw staggering 200% growth in users. With this uptick came a new world of opportunities for TikTok ecommerce.
Brands are recognizing how important it is to jump on this exploding global trend. Many experts even claim that TikTok could be “the future of ecommerce.” Whether that’s true or not, one thing is certain: no social platform has the level of engagement that TikTok earns from its users.
Whether you’re a business owner selling your own products, an influencer, or an affiliate entrepreneur partnering with brands, TikTok is ripe with opportunity.
In this guide, we’ll look at why you should consider TikTok ecommerce, six tips to make the most of your presence on the platform, and a few brands that are killing it.
Table of Contents
Why should you use TikTok for ecommerce?
TikTok is part of a larger trend of retail social commerce, an industry expected to reach $80 billion in the US by 2025.
While this industry was growing on its own, TikTok has made a unique and significant contribution. This is especially because of the natural tendency of its users to engage in social shopping. In a 2020 survey by TikTok, two-thirds of respondents said they were inspired to shop on the platform even though they weren’t planning on it.
Take for example, the viral hashtag #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt. Since its birth, the hashtag has generated 11 billion views—and it’s still used today by consumers, partners, and merchants to discover new products and jump on hot trends.
Unplanned TikTok purchases are their own meme!
The recipe for success
Part of its success is that TikTok harmonizes a few key elements that make it stand out from other social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat:
- Exclusively video content that’s short, snappy, and utterly bingeable (though longer videos have also been introduced with success)
- A fun, lighthearted, authentic, and sometimes “messy” feel that doesn’t have a stuffy or salesy undertone
- A huge emphasis on trends, adding to its cultural relevance
- Appeal to a broad demographic, with 25% of users in the 10-19 age group, 22.4% in the 20-29 group, 21.7% in the 30-39 group, and 20.3% in the 40-49 group
And it’s not just ecommerce
TikTok has made its mark on brick-and-mortar businesses too.
For example, Indigo Books and Music, one of the largest bookstores in Canada, says that TikTok helped generate a “new demand lifecycle.” The company even included TikTok in a quarterly earnings report.
You can find versions of an “As Seen on TikTok” section in several big retailers, like Ulta, Barnes & Noble, and Trader Joe’s.
And for some, business ownership dreams are coming true. Look at ice cream artist Dylan Lemay. His account originally started with videos of himself throwing perfect scoops at his Cold Stone Creamery job.
After he saw some success, he started traveling and working in ice cream shops around the country. Now, he’s got more than 11 million followers—and he’s opening his own brick-and-mortar parlor franchise in New York.
These are just a handful of the millions of inspiring stories born through TikTok.
6 ways to create, promote, and engage on TikTok
Now that you know how incredible TikTok can be for brands, it’s time to get our hands dirty with some tips on making it happen for yourself.
1. Create fun, authentic content exclusively for TikTok
Don’t just repurpose all your boring marketing content onto TikTok. This is a unique platform with a certain “personality” to its content. Some say that a TikToker will know the difference between generic content and content that’s specially made for the platform.
Even if you’re regularly churning out content for other channels, take some time to get to know the platform’s quirks and trends.
Dig deep into what your peers, competitors, and potential customers are looking at and talking about. Stay on top of what’s trending, including memes and popular hashtag challenges.
Once you have some intel, go forth and make custom content for the TikTok. Once you’re done, make some more.
And remember: have fun with it. TikTokers log in to learn, explore, and discover—but above all else, they want to be entertained.
The more fun and engaging your content, the more likely you are to hit glorious viral TikTok status with one or more of your posts. If your brand voice permits, get silly with it. We’re talkin’ real silly.
Consider Shopify brand Habit. Among other fun strategies, Habit likes to make meme videos using their products as the stars.
This one is inspired by an audio clip from the popular Netflix show Inventing Anna. A 2022 Habit product tells a 2021 product, “What are you wearing? You look poor.”
@habitskin we updated her fit 💅🏼 #habitskin#spf#sunscreen#inventinganna#netflixseries#skincareproducts ♬ original sound - Netflix
2. Your mission: go viral
Let’s be real. The ultimate goal here is to create viral content that makes it across the globe and creates a surge of attention for your brand. Generally speaking, a surge of attention almost always equates to a surge in sales—whether it’s a quick, temporary pop or a sustained boost in your numbers.
If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to snag some coveted user-generated content (UCG). This is where a user creates content that includes your brand or products.
A great example of this is the story of catnip product Cat Crack. A user posted a video of their cat going crazy over the product, and the video got more than 20 million views.
@rippin_rach Reply to @shanentai_505 Here ya go! Original audio without the music 😆 #fyp #foryou #nomusic #audio ♬ SELF CONTROL - Rippin’Rach 🐟
Product research tool Jungle Scout ran it through their product tracker and found that Cat Crack sales jumped from 510 units on January 10 to 2,673 units on the 12th! The company continued to enjoy a sales boost for a little while after.
3. Engage your community through TikTok’s special features
You know the saying, “Build it and they will come.” As with most areas of life, that’s not quite how things work. If you want to build an authentic following, you’ll need to give them the same kind of love.
TikTok has several features that create a direct communication channel with your viewers, learn more about them, and build more meaningful connections.
One of them is the Q&A feature, which allows your audience to ask you questions directly through your profile, in the comment section of a video, or during a LIVE. Try having users ask you questions about you, your brand, and specific products you offer or promote.
The Q&A inbox lets you easily sort through and answer them with a video response.
Two other community-building features are Sitch and Duet. Stitch lets you “stitch” another user’s video into yours. Duet plays another user’s video next to yours in split-screen format.
These tools have great viral potential. For example, sports brand Puma used Duet to feature another user’s viral TikTok fail. In the video, barista Leo Gonzalez tried to make latte art with the Puma logo, but he… well, he failed.
Puma had the clever idea of creating a TikTok challenge to make their own Puma latte art, all while riding the wave of a viral video.
@puma 🚨BAKERS, ARTISTS, & BARISTAS🚨 Can you recreate the PUMA logo like @1leogonzalez ♬ TWINS - Kaygon
4. Partner with influencers in your industry
Like any other social platform, TikTok influencer marketing can be a boon for your ecommerce store. There are likely hundreds (or even thousands) of TikTokers out there with a strong, engaged following interested in becoming your customers.
Just make sure the influencers you choose—and the audiences that follow them—are aligned with your products. In other words, if you’re selling sports equipment, you probably don’t want to partner with a beauty influencer (unless they’re really into sports, too!).
A great place to start is TikTok’s Creator Marketplace. It’s a “matchmaking service” to help brands find the right influencers. Since this tool was developed exactly with this purpose in mind, you’ll find helpful features like creator discovery, campaign management, and reporting.
TikTok influencer profile and rates. TikTok Creator Marketplace
There are plenty of ways to partner with an influencer, like:
- Have them create and post videos that include them using, promoting, and/or reviewing your products
- Invite them to host a contest or giveaway featuring your products as the prize
- Let them do a “takeover” of your brand’s account for a day or week, where they post from your account (of course, make sure you’re taking safety precautions and choose an influencer you can trust)
- Compensate them with free products, affiliate commissions, and/or a more straightforward cash-per-post arrangement
5. Get more traction with TikTok ads or promoted posts
Creating organic content and generating your following is a lot of work. If you have extra budget and you’d like a boost to help reach your goals faster, TikTok ads or promoted posts are a great option.
TikTok ads work much like ads on other social media platforms. Using the Shopify TikTok sales channel, you create campaigns with specific objectives, then build your ad groups and ads within them. Once the ads are live, use the TikTok sales channel in your Shopify dashboard to track their performance and optimize.
Here are the types of ads you can create:
- TopView: The first video that users see when they open their app.
- In-feed Ads: Full-screen, sound-on ads that show up in a user’s “For You” page. You can also use Spark Ads to promote your organic content or content from top creators.
- Branded Hashtag Challenge: With hashtag challenges being a massive point of engagement on TikTok, this option lets you tap into that power by creating your brand’s own challenges.
- Branded Effects: Customize your brand’s own stickers, games, special effects, and filters. Users can experiment, interact, and have fun. (And hopefully make some UGC!)
If you're concerned about producing these ads, use the Video Generator tool in Shopify's TikTok sales channel. Using this, you upload images and videos, and they'll be auto-generated into a TikTok-style video—no video production expertise necessary.
If you don’t want to invest in full ad campaigns, you can promote individual posts. The Promote feature is fairly straightforward. Choose your budget and duration, as well as a few other settings, including whether you’re interested in getting more views, website visits, or followers.
6. Use affiliate links to promote products and partners
Who said an entrepreneur has to own their own business? Even if you don’t have an ecommerce store, affiliate marketing is a great way to earn some income and help your favorite brands earn more raving fans.
But the problem is that TikTok doesn’t allow affiliate links on your videos orads.
We can help with that. Use Shopify’s Linkpop, a link in bio tool that lets you post all the important links related to your brand and products (or to your clients’ brand and products, if you’re an affiliate or influencer).
In this example, you can see that Shopify store Jersey Frosts uses Linkpop in its TikTok bio.
When you click the link, you’ll find all the links that Jersey Frosts thinks you’ll find valuable. These include a general link to their website, as well as more specific links, like their custom jerseys, college and high school jerseys, and shipping and delivery information.
When users click the link, they can buy it on the spot. This is an incredible feature for boosting sales—it eliminates the extra clicks, time, and “work” that users might need to purchase an item. The buying process becomes simple and quick.
And this process works the same for affiliate links. Smooth as butter.
Ecommerce brands that are killing it on TikTok
Need some inspiration from the pros? Here are three examples of ecommerce businesses that are killing it with TikTok marketing and generating sales from the video-sharing social network.
Hair tutorials are a hit on TikTok. Luxy Hair has truly leaned in, appealing to its audience with short, fun videos showing how to create easy hairstyles.
Some tutorials feature the brand’s products, like hair extensions. These are meant to educate new customers on how to properly use their products, while enticing potential customers to learn about them. Luxy Hair couples this with TikTok’s built-in captioning and thumbnail title effects, ensuring its content is more accessible to a larger, global audience.
As a way to encourage users to visit the Luxy Hair website and make a purchase, the brand includes a special code for $15 off a $75+ order.
It’s a subtle-yet-powerful touch: people will be highly engaged after watching the TikToks underneath the offer, making them more likely to take action.
Glow Recipe takes a different approach to TikTok ecommerce. The natural Korean skincare brand uses a link in bio tool (like Shopify’s Linkpop) to send its followers to a curated collection of all its content.
This collection includes shoppable links for the products featured in Glow Recipe’s videos, so its followers can buy items directly on its website, as well as access other important links for its business.
Glow Recipe also takes advantage of the “TikTok made me buy it” trend, which has become a popular marketing tool for businesses promoting products and services. This simple hashtag gives social validation to users who are deciding if they’re ready to make a purchase.
One of those brands is GymShark, a fitness apparel, and accessories retailer that creates unique hashtag challenges that are in line with its aspirational workout-focused content.
Its #gymshark66 challenge, which asked users to transform their body within 66 days for a chance to win a free year’s supply of GymShark goods, garnered over 45.5 million views, 1.9 million likes, and 12,500 comments.
Naturally, the entries also included participants who regularly wear GymShark apparel. These entries gave exposure to the brand’s products and helped maximize its credibility and sales.
@kimterstege This is your ✨sign✨ to join me and @amberbrnck 🔥 head over to IG to see how to enter 💪 #gymshark66 #weightloss #skipping #3030skippingchallenge ♬ Whoopty - CJ
Other submissions featured gymming tips, fun workout memes, and meal suggestions.
Now is the time to step up your TikTok ecommerce game
A social shopping revolution is happening, and TikTokers have a front-row seat.
No matter what your role is in selling and promoting products, you’re virtually guaranteed to get some traction with TikTok ecommerce if you’re playing your cards right.
So get out there and make some fun, timely, and relevant content. Build relationships with your audience and key influencers. Explore TikTok’s tools and features, like the Creator Marketplace and Q&As.
If you can entertain and connect with your potential customers, you’re already paving your path to growth.
Use the TikTok sales channel to make your TikTok profile shoppable, organically promote your latest products, and optimize your ads—all from within your Shopify admin.