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How e-commerce brands can get started on TikTok

Elina Andrus
Elina Andrus
Content marketing manager
7 min read
14 April 2023

With over 3 billion downloads as of 2023, everything really is happening on TikTok. While TikTok might be the youngest addition to the pantheon of major social networks, its fast-growing (and equally young) user base proves that the platform is leading the pack. 

But TikTok’s success cuts both ways. In direct response to the platform’s explosive popularity, YouTube added Shorts, Instagram launched Reels, and nearly every brand and creator in the world turned to vertical video.

To stay ahead of all the new competition, TikTok has chosen to expand its features in a way that—in typical TikTok fashion—looks to the latest social trends. In this instance, that’s the hybrid of two superpowers: e-commerce and social media.

TikTok’s next generation of innovative features are focused on developing an environment for businesses. Although many of these are still new or forthcoming, brands must take advantage of them.

What is TikTok Shop and how to use it

TikTok’s popularity is driven by users’ desire to interact with authentic content which has, in turn, influenced their expectations of online shopping across platforms. And who can blame them? It’s much easier (and much more fun) to discover products through their visual presentation rather than from conventional advertising.

TikTok Shop allows creators, brands, and sellers to present and sell their products directly on the platform. This eliminates all the pesky hassle users experience when being redirected to external websites. Handy stuff, but it’s worth noting that this feature is currently available only to users from the UK, the US, and seven Asian countries.

The success of your TikTok Shop depends on many variables: 

  • The product catalog will be your showcase. The quality of the multimedia materials and their consistency is of vital importance to consumers. Being sure that users can associate your products with your brand just by looking at an image is also key. 
  • Product names are another way to grab the customer’s attention—make sure they’re longer than 34 characters! You can put more information in the description, which should contain details about the product. Don’t bother adding links, though, as they’re not clickable in this section.
  • The place to use links instead is TikTok Bio. There are 80 characters in which you can describe your company and what you offer. You can expand this space with co-branded emojis, a call to action, and a link that redirects to a specific page.
  • Let your audience know they can buy your products directly in the app. The shopping bag icon isn’t prominent enough, so users may just overlook it. 

The best part about TikTok is its unique algorithm that equalizes the chances of all videos going viral. This opens up opportunities for various marketing experiments. A strong marketing strategy can quickly promote your business on TikTok and create a steady stream of sales.

Advertising opportunities

TikTok for Business allows brands to place their ads without intermediaries. Over the past three years, the social network has been improving its ad targeting tools and adapting the ad formats to the audience’s perception.

Currently, there are six different ad types available for each business:

  • In-Feed Ads: The most native format: autoplay video up to 60 seconds long, placed in the feed.
  • Top Feed Ads: A type of in-feed ad that is guaranteed fourth position in a user’s feed.
  • TopView: Promotional video up to 60 seconds long that automatically turns on when the user opens the app. The video is marked Sponsored. 
  • Branded Hashtag Challenge: Banner in the search section with a branded hashtag for the challenge. One of the key areas in terms of creating trends. Note: This feature isn’t available on HTC phones as the ‘discover’ page was sunsetted. Instead, Challenges are included in TopView there, alongside supporting ads and creator videos. This way, people are driven to the challenge page to add their own content.
  • Spark Ads: Boosts different types of videos to maximize their impact – your own, creator-made, or ones that mention your brand.
  • Branded Effects: Various masks, lenses, and stickers with your own branding. 2D and 3D elements are both available.
  • Promote: A tool that amplifies your own organic content in TikTok.
  • Display Cards & Pop-out Showcase: Interactive add-ons that overlay on in-feed creative to highlight products and reasons to buy them.

There is also another one that is currently in the testing mode: Shopping Ads. It includes three different formats—video, catalog, and LIVE—and is aimed to increase sales in your TikTok Shop.

Collaboration with influencers

Paid advertising is a great way to draw attention to your brand. However, the advantage of TikTok is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to see results. Many brands have exploded on TikTok overnight just because an influencer shared it with their followers.

And influencers do influence. 66% of social media users admit that influencers often encourage them to buy a product.  

By the way, it’s not necessary to find an influencer with millions of followers. Many micro-influencers are ordinary TikTok users but have their own loyal audience. Sometimes all you need is to find authentic people who want to become ambassadors.

TikTok Seller Center is a convenient tool for you to explore. It helps you launch an affiliate program, build a promotion plan, and find authors suitable for your market niche. 

Another great resource for finding influencers is the Creator Marketplace, TikTok’s official platform for collaboration between brands and creators. You can browse through thousands of influencer profiles until you find the one that best fits the following:

  • their followers match your target audience
  • their content is on your relevant niche topics
  • their engagement rate is higher than the number of followers 

Important: Avoid influencers with a large number of followers and high prices. Too often, this is money down the drain, as their audience is too dispersed both geographically and interest-based.

Cross-promotion and hashtags

To promote a product on TikTok successfully, it is worth finding this type of content since it already exists. 

Find these videos, contact the creator, and ask if they would like to work together. These relationships can help you stand out on TikTok because it’s relevant and useful for viewers.

Of course, use relevant, viral hashtags. Hashtags are a fun way to engage with your audience and create buzz around your brand. They will increase the visibility of your video content and your business in general.

It’s also an easy way to connect with other creators, build relationships, and attract new followers. Hashtags tell the algorithm what your content is about and help users find it. It’s especially important for reaching out to users who aren’t yet following you. 

Algorithm understanding

The global goal of your brand on TikTok is to turn viewers into customers, drive traffic to your website, and increase sales. However, all this is only possible by getting new followers, views, likes, and comments. That’s why you need to learn how to master the ins and outs of the TikTok algorithm.

A single video can get millions of views at any given moment. Sometimes even without advertising or collaboration with influencers. That’s why you should always keep in mind the factors on which basis TikTok recommends content:

  • User interaction with your content
  • Information you add to the video (captions and hashtags)
  • Device and account settings (language preferences, location, device type)
  • Video completion rate (whether the user watched the video from start to finish)

Keep your videos short, always monitor trends, and use relevant hashtags. This will make your content easy to find, increase the chances to become viral and help you achieve your goal.

TikTok is insanely powerful for e-commerce brands big and small. But it’s not enough to know how the platform works. You’ve got to dedicate the resources to creating unique content and relationships with relevant influencers. That’s the trifecta. 

Want more? Download our TikTok brand building guide.