Ever since young Americans began their migration from commercial television to streaming services and social media, advertisers have searched for the digital equivalent of home shopping channels, an online space where users can engage with ads, rather than just They click past them immediately.
Now, they think they’re close to finding this holy grail of marketing, and it looks nothing like QVC.
Welcome to the holiday shopping season on TikTok, where retailers are like never before, their authentic-seeming ads tangled between dances, confessions, comedy routines and makeovers.
Young men and women sporting shimmering American Eagle tops as pulsating music plays in videos as they were filmed in the 1990s. A woman in Unicorn Hussey retrieves a specific brand of cookies to the tune of “Jingle Bell Rock” at Target. A home cook mixes and bakes Walmart’s cinnamon apple cake in 30 seconds, with a blue bag from the retailer displayed.
Such ad presence was immeasurable for retailers last year, when President Donald J. Trump was threatening to ban TikTok because of its Chinese parent company and marketers were still struggling to figure out how to reach the platform’s users. But President Biden rescinded the executive order in June, and in September TikTok surpassed one billion monthly users. As a result, a regular stream of products, from leggings to carpet cleaners, have gone viral on the platform this year, often with the hashtag #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt, which has garnered over seven billion views.
TikTok is working to make the platform more attractive to marketers and the creators they work with. And the popularity of TikTok with Generation Z and Millennials, who are lured by its addictive algorithms and its setup as an entertainment destination versus a social network, has made its appeal to retailers undeniable.
“The growth we have seen is insane, with almost a dozen employees focused on TikTok,” said Krishna Subramanian, founder of influencer marketing firm Captiv8. We have even gone so far as to create a dedicated campaign for
Since August, at least 18 public retail brands in apparel, footwear, makeup and accessories have mentioned their efforts on TikTok on calls with analysts and investors. The contestants have also taken notice. For example, Instagram has developed a TikTok-like feature called Reels and is working to woo creators.
In a report shared with advertisers and obtained by The New York Times, TikTok said Gen Z users, who are defined as 18 to 24-year-olds, viewed an average of over 233 TikToks in a day and the app But spent 14 percent more time. Millennials or Gen Xers on a daily basis. TikTok also told an agency that 48 percent of millennial mothers were on the platform, and women aged 25 to 34 spent an average of 60 minutes a day on the TikTok app.
TikTok declined to comment for this article, and the numbers provided to advertisers could not be independently verified.
“TikTok as a whole is more mind-blowing than anything else,” said Christine White, senior director of media and content strategy at Ulta Beauty. “People are going there for a lot of different reasons – they want to connect, they want to laugh, they are looking for good stories, and they are unconsciously looking to shop, whether they are consciously or not. “
The retailer has used TikTok creators to add an Ulta beauty section at Target stores and present a challenge to regular TikTok users to showcase their favorite skin care products. Ulta Beauty has seen a jump in sales following a viral video involving certain products like Clinique’s Black Honey Lipstick.
“We see a lot of that impulsive shopping,” said Ms. White.
Retailers are tapping increasingly popular TikTok creators to model or showcase their wares and encourage store visits. They’re trying out live shopping events, where people can interact with hosts and shop in real time via video, and other new tools in the app. Brands tagged #TikTokMadeMeGiftIt with a sponsored giveaway for the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt concept.
Marketers are now talking about their spending on TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, the way they discuss more established advertising platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest.
“Last holiday, the one that really screwed things up was Trump trying to mess with TikTok,” said Mai Karowski, chief executive officer of Clearly, an influential firm that has managed retailers like Ulta and Zappos. Worked on tiktok campaigns with “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 percent of our campaigns have a TikTok component.”
One of those to benefit is 22-year-old Madison Peele in Hebron, Ky., who posts cooking videos to her account with more than 300,000 followers. She got a big hit this year after a clip featuring roast chicken and a Cardi B song.
Since then, she has worked with brands and retailers such as Heinz, Kroger and Walmart, earning $5,000 to $10,000 per month. The payment enabled her to quit her job at McDonald’s, where she “wasn’t even making $1,000 every two weeks,” she said.
Often, retailers will send her gift cards to purchase the products used in her cooking videos. Most of the videos are shot at home. If she films in a store, she tries to go later in the day and pick up a friend, because, as she said, “I find it a little awkward to bring a tripod.”
The longest videos she makes for brands are 45 to 60 seconds long.
“No millennials or Gen Zs are watching that much TV, so they don’t see those commercials,” she said, “but when they’re scrolling through TikTok, they’re watching them.”
Ms. White is among Ulta advertising experts who said the effectiveness of TikTok’s algorithm set it apart from other popular platforms, and pointed to the fact that it was still at a stage where anything could go viral. – Like Ms. Peel and her Roasted Chicken. TikTok asks users to select certain interests when they first engage with the platform and then use video viewing times, likes and comments, and tags such as captions, sounds, and hashtags on the video, in order to formulate its recommendations.
The app’s algorithm then serves up a steady stream of short videos showing life hacks, dances, cute animals or comedy routines. More content is available on the Discover page, and users can follow their favorite creators. Marketers can get paid to promote their sponsored content.
Mr Subramaniam of Captiv8 said, “You don’t get lost and spend hours on Instagram scrolling through people you don’t even know, but it definitely happens on TikTok.”
TikTok creator Abby Herbert, 25, in Pittsburgh, joined the platform at the start of the pandemic and quickly amassed 10.6 million followers. She’s worked with retailers including Pottery Barn, Aloe Yoga, Amazon Prime, and Walmart, and has struck more than 100 brand deals this year.
In the beginning, his audience for silly plays and reaction videos was largely made up of teenagers. But when she got pregnant and started posting about it, it “opened up a new demographic” of people in their 20s and 30s. In a recent ad for Fabletics, she made fun of her baby girl’s saliva, stripped her of her clothes, and then showcased her own outfit with a touch of self-deprecation.
Former model Ms. Herbert said, “Working at TikTok is very difficult.” “Doing a brand deal on Instagram is still a tremendous amount of work, but TikTok is a complete ballgame because you’re creating a commercial and trying to make it sound true to your followers and audience.”
American Eagle, with its teenage audience, was preceded by many brands of TikTok. It’s teamed up with major creators like Addison Rae and the stars of the Netflix show “Outer Banks” to experience its viral moment with its Aerie brand following non-sponsored reviews of its leggings spread.
“We consistently find that some TikTok manufacturers sell what American Eagle wears,” said Craig Bromers, chief marketing officer for American Eagle Outfitters.
With mental health a top concern for many young people, he said, TikTok has emerged as a “sunny place” compared to other social platforms.
Mr Bromers said, “TikTok is a happy place for them to express their true selves, and I think the knock on Instagram these days is a lot more curated and so perfect.”
He said Facebook and Instagram still did a substantial amount of business for the retailer, but there was a unique type of expression on TikTok and Snapchat that was “not about likes.”
Anna Leza, 31, of Melbourne, Fla., has over a million followers on TikTok, and recently posted an ad featuring a unicorn wearing Hussey and receiving a box of cookies at Target. But she said she was posting mostly on the reels these days, which recently started paying her for views on several videos.
“TikTok doesn’t pay you to post unless you have a brand that wants to be in the video,” said Ms. Leza. “But Instagram is actually paying you and giving you a bonus when you reach a certain amount of views.”
Katrina Estrella, a spokeswoman for Meta, which owns Instagram, confirmed in an email that the company was testing “a series of bonus programs” in the United States as part of a $1 billion investment in creators. was in
Still, retailers are eagerly experimenting with TikTok, especially when they see the app attracting older users. Brands want to be prepared in case it goes viral.
“There are some things that are going to catch on or they are not,” said Ms. Karowski, of course. “But the TikTok algorithm will actually escalate things in a way that can suddenly shift the culture.”