TikTok Live Shopping: How Does It Work? - Social Studies
TikTok Live Shopping: How Does It Work?

TikTok Live Shopping: How Does It Work?

There’s no denying that the U.S. has been embarrassingly late to livestream shopping movement. At least compared to China, where the combo of e-commerce and livestreaming first launched in 2016 and now accounts for 10% of the country’s e-commerce revenue. By 2023 it’s estimated that 45% of Chinese online shoppers will be placing purchases through their go-to social media apps. 

It was only in 2020, during the lockdown era of the pandemic, when shoppers in the United States began to understand the hype of seeing an item being hawked by their fave influencer and snagging one for their own—all without leaving the app they viewed the video in. The rest of the world was in on it too, as live commerce purchases around the globe rose by 76% between March 2020 and July 2021. Naturally, Chinese-owned TikTok has emerged as a major leader in that “gotta have it” movement among American consumers. The #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt hashtag now has a staggering 6+ billion views. Just imagine how many sales it’s inspired. 

With extremely high conversion rates compared to traditional e-commerce platforms, and plenty of sharing opportunities, livestream shopping is a no-brainer for brands whose audiences are social media obsessed. 

What Is TikTok Live Shopping?

It’s doubtful that any Gen-Z individual has ever stayed up late watching QVC or the Home Shopping Network—or making purchases by calling a toll-free number—but that premise of shopping in real time is what the modern-day social media version was built on. TikTok Live Shopping is simply a livestream where brands or creators (or both) show off products for purchase, highlighting their benefits, showing how they can be used or worn and answering questions from the viewers. 

As a bonus, viewers can purchase those products within the TikTok app, creating a seamless experience from discovery to conversion. In place of a standard CTA button, a product card pops up on the screen while it’s being discussed in the livestream and once again at the end of the livestream. Then viewers can click the card to read a product description, learn about price and get an overview of the brand. When users click Add to Cart, they will be able to checkout without leaving the app—all while being thoroughly entertained. 

Not only does TikTok Live Shopping allow consumers to experience a new touchpoint with brands, but it’s a great way to pique the interest of new customers and build a community. With TikTok’s 1 billion monthly active users, that’s a lot of potential shoppers to connect with in real time. This shopping experience has been shown to inspire trust, as creators, brand owners and even celebrities can speak directly to consumers, creating a bond through customized shoutouts and directly answering questions on the spot. So it’s no surprise that it’s possible for shoppers to build a longer-term connection to the brands they’re shopping with. 

Mega beauty influencer @meredithduxbury, who has 15.7M followers on TikTok, recently proved the power of a TikTok Live Shopping event. She was tapped by affordable beauty brand @elfyeah to celebrate the launch of their Cookies ‘N Dream collection, which was exclusively available at @walmart. In a video Meredith posted to promote the shopping event, she did her glam in Elf’s full collection, which garnered 265K likes and over 1,400 shares.

Not only did this feel like an organic extension of her content, but it also hyped up her followers to join the live in order to learn more about the products she used and shop them with her guidance.  

For brands, Why is TikTok a Great Platform to Sell On?

Compared to Instagram’s many filters and carefully manicured aesthetic, TikTok is constantly applauded for its raw, in-the-moment authenticity. This lends itself well to a liveshopping event, where performance isn’t expected to be perfect and can often emulate the experience of FaceTiming with a friend while finding products you’ll love. This, again, inspires more trust from potential and existing customers.

Since livestreams are promoted by TikTok beyond just the FYP, this tool works well for smaller businesses. Since the app frequently promotes live videos, it’s relatively easy to be found by target audiences as they scroll through the app’s various functions or visit the search bar. Liveshopping is also a smart tool for digitally native brands that tend to embrace novel marketing tactics and e-commerce initiatives that fall outside the expected. 

With little overhead costs and minimal production needed, putting on a TikTok Live Shopping event doesn’t have to be a heavy investment either. That said, if there is budget to make these shopping events more alluring, brands have found that having top creators as hosts or even tapping musicians to provide extra entertainment can help boost engagement, increase views and lead to more sales.

Photo: Business Insider

Who Does TikTok Live Shopping Benefit?

This is one advertising avenue that benefits almost every player involved. For businesses, it’s a refreshing way to sell products in a format that can easily be customized to specifically target a key customer base. It also serves as a keen marketing tool that can offer a bit of brand awareness as well. 

TikTok will obviously fare well through this tool, as they’ll rake in a portion of the revenue from each sale, while also attracting new users with this interactive social media experience. 

Finally, TikTok Live Shopping gives creators another platform to connect with their audience and share products they love. This applies to those with big or small audiences, in addition to very niche creators. Users of TikTok now have a new way to discover and shop for products, whether it’s a totally new brand or a product they’ve wondered about but needed to see in action.

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