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#TikTokMadeMeBuyIt: Why TikTok is becoming a hot place to sell all sorts of products

Gen Z and millennials have found their happy place on the platform – and advertisers are hot on their heels.

#TikTokMadeMeBuyIt: Why TikTok is becoming a hot place to sell all sorts of products

(Photo: iStock/wagnerokasaki)

Ever since young Americans began their exodus from commercial television to streaming services and social media, advertisers have searched for the digital equivalent of home shopping channels, a place online where users might engage with ads rather than just quickly clicking past them.

Now, they think they are closer to finding this holy grail of marketing. Welcome to the holiday shopping season on TikTok, where retailers are present like never before, their authentic-seeming advertisements dropped in between dances, confessionals, comedy routines and makeovers.

Young men and women showcase shimmering American Eagle tops as pulsating music plays in videos designed to look as if they were filmed in the 1990s.

A woman in a unicorn onesie retrieves a specific brand of cookies at Target to the tune of Jingle Bell Rock. A home chef mixes and bakes cinnamon apple cakes from Walmart in 30 seconds, displaying a blue bag from the retailer.

This kind of advertising presence would have been unfathomable for retailers last year, when President Donald Trump was threatening to ban TikTok because of its Chinese parent company and marketers were still struggling to figure out how to best reach the platform’s users.

But President Joe Biden revoked the executive order in June, and TikTok crossed 1 billion monthly users in September.

As a result, a regular stream of products, from leggings to carpet cleaners, have gone viral on the platform this year, often accompanied by the hashtag #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt, which has been viewed more than seven billion times.

TikTok has been working to make the platform more lucrative for marketers and the creators they work with. And TikTok’s popularity with Generation Z and millennials, who are lured by its addictive algorithm and its setup as an entertainment destination versus a social network, has made the appeal undeniable for retailers.

“The growth that we’ve seen is insane,” said Krishna Subramanian, a founder of the influencer marketing firm Captiv8, where roughly a dozen employees are focused on TikTok.

“Brands have moved from just testing out TikTok to making it a budget line item or creating dedicated campaigns for TikTok specifically.”

(Photo: iStock/5./15 WEST)

Since August, at least 18 public retail brands, in apparel, footwear, makeup and accessories, have referred to their efforts on TikTok on calls with analysts and investors.

Competitors have also taken notice. Instagram, for example, has developed a TikTok-like feature called Reels and has been working to lure creators.

In reports shared with advertisers and obtained by The New York Times, TikTok said Gen Z users, defined as 18 to 24-year-olds, watched an average of more than 233 TikToks a day and spent 14 per cent more time on the app than millennials or Gen Xers on a daily basis.

TikTok also told one agency that 48 per cent of millennial mothers were on the platform, and that women ages 25 to 34 spent an average of 60 minutes on the TikTok app a day.

TikTok declined to comment for this article and the numbers it provided to advertisers could not be independently verified.

“TikTok is absolutely about a mindset more than anything,” said Christine White, senior director of media and content strategy at Ulta Beauty, which has been increasing its TikTok spending.

“People are going there for lots of different reasons  they’re looking to connect, they’re looking to laugh, they’re looking to find feel-good stories, and they’re looking, inadvertently, to shop, whether they know it consciously or not.”

The retailer has used TikTok creators to introduce the addition of Ulta Beauty sections to Target stores and posed a challenge asking regular TikTok users to show off their favourite skin care products. Ulta Beauty has also seen sales jump after viral videos involving certain products it carries, like Clinique’s Black Honey lipstick.

“We see a lot of that impulse shopping,” White said.

Retailers are increasingly tapping popular TikTok creators to model or demonstrate their wares and encourage store visits. They are trying out live shopping events, where people can interact with hosts and shop through videos in real time, and other new tools in the app.

Brands have also repurposed the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt concept with sponsored giveaways tagged #TikTokMadeMeGiftIt.

Gen Z users, defined as 18 to 24-year-olds, watched an average of more than 233 TikToks a day.

Marketers are now talking about their spending on TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, the way they discuss more established advertising platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest.

“Last holiday, what really screwed things up was Trump trying to mess with TikTok,” said Mae Karwowski, CEO of Obviously, an influencer firm that has worked on TikTok campaigns with retailers like Ulta and Zappos.

“We had a lot of brands saying they were going to do a ton on TikTok, and then they got really worried. This year, over 60 per cent of our campaigns have a TikTok component.”

American Eagle, with its teen audience, was earlier than many brands to TikTok. It has teamed up with major creators like Addison Rae and stars of the Netflix show Outer Banks, and experienced its own viral moment with its Aerie brand after a non-sponsored review of its leggings spread.

“We continuously find that what certain TikTok creators wear, American Eagle sells,” said Craig Brommers, chief marketing officer of American Eagle Outfitters.

With mental health the top concern for many young people, he said, TikTok has emerged as a “sunny place” compared with other social platforms.

“TikTok is their happy place to express their true selves, and I think the knock on Instagram these days is it’s too curated and too perfect,” Brommers said.

He added that Facebook and Instagram still drove a substantial amount of business for the retailer, but that there was a unique type of expression on TikTok and Snapchat that was “not about likes.”

By Sapna Maheshwari © The New York Times

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Source: New York Times/bk