March 19, 2024

If You're Not Selling on TikTok, You're Missing Out: Selling on TikTok Shop 101

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At this point, you've certainly heard of TikTok, the popular video-based social media platform that exploded in popularity during the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. But did you know that this viral Gen-Z-favorite platform has also recently launched its own in-app marketplace? Drawing on its immense popularity with Gen Z and Millennials, TikTok Shop is the place to be, especially if you're looking to expand your ecommerce business and target a younger demographic. If you're wondering if it is worth selling on TikTok Shop – yes, the answer is a definite and resounding yes. TikTok Shop is similar enough to other social commerce platforms to feel intuitive and familiar to buyers, but is just new and unique enough to make it an especially exciting opportunity for both new and veteran ecommerce sellers. Ready to learn everything you need to know to start selling on TikTok? Check out our complete guide to TikTok Shop, where we'll discuss the benefits of selling on TikTok shops, cover the basics you need to know to sell on TikTok, explore how to successfully drive sales on the platform, and review how you can monitor your performance and optimize for success.

Selling on TikTok

What is a TikTok Shop, and Why Do You Need One?

Put simply, TikTok Shop is a way to sell items through TikTok. But with so many online shopping platforms, and with older social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook already several years into the ecommerce game, the idea of selling on TikTok through TikTok Shop might initially seem like more of the same. But TikTok Shop not only works differently to its predecessors, it also opens the door to market segments that simply don't exist on other platforms. In fact, according to TikTok, 1 in 4 of its users cannot be found on any other platform! In this section, we'll go over the impact TikTok has had on the world of ecommerce, and discuss why you really do need a TikTok Shop, regardless of what you're selling.

The Rise of TikTok and Its Impact on Ecommerce

TikTok gave new meaning to the word "viral" – gone are the days where you needed an established social media following to get likes and views; today, anyone and anything can go viral on TikTok, with seemingly little rhyme or reason to the viral madness. But what doe viral video shorts have to do with ecommerce? Long before TikTok launched TikTok Shop, the hashtag #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt became undeniable proof of the platform's marketing and conversion potential. That hashtag alone garners billions – yes, with a B – of views, and singlehandedly fueled viral trends. To understand the scale, the search term "TikTok leggings" became one of the most searched term on Amazon in early 2021.  

Today, TikTok is poised to take a slice of that conversion cake with the recently launched TikTok Shop, an integrated shopping solution that enables sellers to advertise and list items within the video content they create, and allowing its users to make purchases as they scroll through their For You and Discovery pages on TikTok.

Benefits of Selling on TikTok Shop

The benefits of selling on TikTok Shop should now be pretty obvious – TikTok is a platform with enormous reach and virtually limitless potential for virality, making it a perfect choice sellers of all kinds. When you list your items on TikTok Shop, you expand your reach to the platform's nearly two billion users, compared to Amazon's 310 million active shoppers. And while there is an apples and oranges critique to be made about this comparison – after all, TikTok is primarily a social media platform, while Amazon is strictly retail – more exposure to a wider audience is never a bad thing when you're selling online. Plus, with ExportYourStore, you'll soon be able to dip your toe into the world of TikTok Shop more easily than ever before; simply integrate products your existing ecommerce stores with TikTok Shop to get started!

TikTok shops

Setting Up Your TikTok Shop

Setting up a TikTok Shop is a relatively straightforward process thanks to TikTok's super simple onboarding wizard. There are relatively few steps, and minimal requirements for getting started. You'll simply need to register for a TikTok Shop seller account and wait for your application to be approved. In this section, we'll take a look at the eligibility requirements you'll need to meet to get your TikTok Shop approved, briefly cover the steps of creating a TikTok account, and explain how you can link product from an existing ecommerce store if you're already selling on other platforms.

Eligibility Requirements

At the moment, TikTok Shop is available in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Vietnam. Sellers must be based in one of these countries to register a TikTok Shop, and do not need to have an existing TikTok account in order to apply for a TikTok Shop.  

TikTok shops requirements
Source: TikTok Shop Academy

Sellers will need to provide identification, tax, and business information which will depend on the type of TikTok Shop they're requesting to open. Setting up a TikTok Shop is free, but selling is subject to a referral fee.

Creating a TikTok Shop Account

Creating a TikTok Shop account is incredibly simple; all you need to do is follow the steps in the registration wizard in order to apply for a TikTok Shop, since TikTok Shops are subject to approval. You'll have a number of business registration options when setting up your TikTok Shop, ranging from individual seller to corporation, and will need to provide different information and documentation to verify your TikTok account depending on which option you choose. You'll then be asked to input what type of products you'd like to sell through TikTok Shop and add identifying and business information, after which you'll be redirected to the TikTok Shop Seller Center dashboard. Here, you'll have a checklist of what you need to do next in order to get your TikTok Shop up and running, and be able to see the status of your application for TikTok Shop registration.

Linking Your Products from Your eCommerce Store

There are a few ways you can upload products to sell on TikTok Shop, from individually creating items in your TikTok Shop Seller Center to bulk uploading products using a product feed template. You also have the same option but via the TikTok Seller Center app, which allows you to upload products with your smartphone.

The second and most common method is to integrate an existing ecommerce store with TikTok Shop and import products from there. There are several integration apps available today that are meant to help you integrate an existing ecommerce store with TikTok Shop, but most are rather limited in terms of the platforms they support and do not offer a truly seamless and fully integrated multichannel selling experience like ExportYourStore. Soon, ExportYourStore's family of integrated sales channels will include TikTok Shop, so you can link online retail platforms like Amazon, shopping carts like WooCommerce, and social commerce marketplaces like Poshmark to TikTok Shop, enabling you to get the best of all ecommerce worlds.

Selling products on TikTok shops

Another approach is to create a bulk upload file of products, and have your TikTok Shop be a standalone store, unaffiliated with another store. This may be beneficial if you want to keep your current store or business separate from TikTok, or if you simply wish to sell entirely different products through TikTok.

Creating Engaging TikTok Content for Your Products

TikTok is a unique social media platform in many respects, but its main selling point – and the reason it became the major player in the world of social media – is the fact that it suggests content to its users with uncanny accuracy. Unlike traditional social media platforms, where users interact exclusively with people they know or accounts they've followed, the bulk of TikTok's content consumption is based on relevance to a given user as determined by the platform's algorithm. This presents an exciting opportunity not only for content creators, but also for sellers looking to sell products through TikTok Shop. In this section, we'll discuss the key factors you should know about how the TikTok algorithm works, go over the types of content that perform well on TikTok, and give you some key tips and pointers for creating compelling TikTok content that converts.

Understanding the TikTok Algorithm

The intricacies of TikTok's algorithm, like those of all social media algorithms, are not public knowledge. But while the platform keeps the details of its algorithm a closely-guarded secret, there are some things we know about the way the algorithm works and what factors it takes into account when it decides what content to suggest to which users.

The best thing about TikTok's algorithm is that a user's follower count is not something is factors into its decision when determining whether or not to suggest a video to another user. This means that every user, no matter how new or how small their follower count, has the potential to go viral with the right content. In other words, TikTok will recommend your content to users who are more likely to engage with it, and the decision won't be based on how many people have engaged with your account and content in the past.

Another thing to understand about TikTok's algorithm is how it defines engagement. Engagement is when a user views your content from start to finish, rewatches your content (remember to loop those videos!), likes your content, engages with it through duets/stitches, shares your content, comments on it, or saves it. Each type of engagement provides slightly different information to the algorithm, which it can then use to predict the likelihood that a given user will engage with content and in what way. On the flip side, this also means that TikTok's algorithm will not recommend content that's not driving at least some form of engagement.

Types of Content That Perform Well on TikTok

TikTok is a video platform, which means that, unlike other social media platforms such as Instagram or Facebook, the content on TikTok is comprised exclusively videos. Videos created on the app can be up to 3 minutes long, while videos uploaded to it can be up to 10 minutes long. In our experience, for advertising and ecommerce purposes especially, the shorter your content, the better your overall performance will be. Social media users already have a short attention span, and are more likely to engage with shorter content. Plus, if viewers lost interest regularly and swipe to the next thing before your video has ended, the TikTok algorithm will rank that content lower and suggest it less.  

All this to say, don't create exclusively long videos; instead, emphasize short, attention grabbing content that gets users interested. Longer videos are useful for things like in-depth product demonstrations, but they're not a good method for getting your content suggested to a large number of people or for getting viewers engaged.

Tips for Creating TikTok Videos for Your Products

It may sound counterintuitive, but in our experience the best thing you can do when making TikTok videos for your products is to make TikTok videos that aren't just about your products. Think of it this way: TikTok users don't open the app to watch ads. They're looking for the authentic, unfiltered content that the platform has built its popularity on. When creating videos, keep that in mind – no bombastic product claims, and no speaking to your viewers like you're trying to sell them something. Instead, take a "show, don't tell approach" that showcases your product in a video, without necessarily making the product itself the focal point of the video. Instead, focus on how your product can be useful, or how it can integrate into a particular lifestyle. Your angle will depend on the product you're selling, but the most important thing is not to create an obvious ad – viewers will not only pass on a purchase, they'll skip to the next video and your content's performance will suffer as a result.

Driving Sales on TikTok Shop

Before diving into how you can sell on TikTok Shop and how to drive sales, it's important to understand the three sales avenues you have as a seller on TikTok Shop: Live Shopping, Shoppable Videos, and your TikTok Store. When you launch your TikTok Shop, you'll be able to sell using all three of these methods to sell products. In this section, we'll briefly go over each selling method, discuss the basics of selling products on TikTok Shop with TikTok's "Buy Now" feature, go over TikTok's advertising and promotional options, and discuss how TikTok's revolutionary approach to the seller/influencer dynamic can help you sell more with minimal effort.

How Buyers Purchase your Products on TikTok

As mentioned above, TikTok Shop is a term that encompasses three methods of shopping through TikTok: Live Shopping, Shoppable Videos, and TikTok Store. While each method is a different way for buyers to shop and buy, the resulting sale is the same. Below, we'll take a brief look at each one of the methods to understand how they work and what their unique benefits are from a seller's perspective.

Live shopping on TikTok
Source: TikTok

Live Shopping on TikTok

Like Poshmark, TikTok Shop has created the opportunity for sellers to host live shopping events during which shoppers can make purchases in real time. Sellers and content creators (more on this below) can communicate with shoppers in real time, and drive sales through one-on-one engagement with their audience. This is a great method for sellers who already have an established following, or for content creator collaborations with Creators who've made a name for themselves in a particular niche. Buyers will be able to tap Buy Now directly on the TikTok LIVE video, and make their purchase without leaving TikTok.

Shoppable TikTok Videos

Shoppable videos will likely be the primary way you'll sell products on TikTok Shop, because they are considerably less hands-on in comparison to live stream selling via TikTok LIVE. Create engaging and optimized video content, and use it to showcase the products in your TikTok Shop. Buyers will be able to tap on a link within the video to buy the product through your TikTok store, or tap the Buy Now button to immediately proceed to checkout.

TikTok Store

The most classically ecommerce aspect of all the TikTok Shop features, your TikTok Store is simply a storefront on TikTok. This is where buyers can go to see all your products in one place, and is useful for sellers who specialize in a particular niche. TikTok offers little in the way of customization – your store is simply an aggregation of your products, arranged into categories for ease of navigation.  

Understanding TikTok's Buy Now Feature

When you sell on TikTok, the majority of your sales will likely be through TikTok's Buy Now feature. This button appears when you pin a product in a video or livestream, and gives buyers the option of purchasing that product without leaving TikTok. The idea is to create a seamless, streamlined shopping experience from start to finish, which results in a significantly higher conversion than liking to an external webstore. TikTok is simply taking advantage of the proclivity for impulse buying in the age of social media, and leveraging it to make a whole lot of on-platform sales.

Utilizing TikTok's Advertising Options

First things first, TikTok has a lot of advertising options. And they can seem overwhelming at first glance, especially for new sellers. We're here to help you make sense of the madness, and the first thing you need to know about TikTok Ads is that you need a TikTok for Business account (which, rather confusingly, is distinct from a TikTok Business account, which is a TikTok account opened specifically for a business rather than an individual seller). Next, to run ads on TikTok you'll be required to apply for a TikTok Ads Manager account, which is your operations hub for all things TikTok Ads, complete with a sleek dashboard and campaign stats. Once your application for a TikTok Ads Manager account been approved, you can begin creating your TikTok ads.

TikTok ads are structured in three parts: campaign, ad group, and individual ads. The campaign is where you determine your overall objective and advertising goals, while ad groups are groupings of ads based on their budget, placement, and targeting.  

TikTok shop advertising
Source: TikTok

TikTok Ads can useful for a variety of applications, not just for boosting your conversion on TikTok Shop. You can use them to expand your reach, advertise your webstore, increase your video views, and more. The world of TikTok Ads is vast and ever-changing, which is why we recommend keeping it simple for your first few campaigns. You can learn more about how to use TikTok Ads Manager with TikTok's Ads Manager Playbook, which gives you a breakdown of the structure, basics, and terminology of advertising on TikTok.

Strategies for Promoting Your Products on TikTok

When creating your promotion strategy for TikTok, it's important to remember what made TikTok the favorite social media platform of the 2020s: its (perceived) authenticity. People come to TikTok to see raw, authentic, and entertaining #nofilter content, and any promotional strategy that feels like an ad will quickly be swiped away for the next, more interesting piece of content.

With that guiding principle in mind, you'll want to begin by clearly defining your target audience, using parameters such as age, interests, hobbies, occupation, and favorite brands, to name a few. Having a clearly defined audience helps you know the type of person you're targeting with your content, and will enable you to research what type of content they're likely to engage with more precisely.

Next, utilize hashtags that will enable your content to be shown to the type of person you're targeting. This will require a bit of research to understand what your competitors are doing. Along with already trending hashtags that are relevant to your audience, incorporate your own unique hashtag to start establishing your brand presence. This can be immensely useful when incorporated into organic content by other users, since it's not only free advertising for you, but also a perfectly authentic presentation of your product in action.

Another effective strategy is making use of trending sounds and songs in your content. As a platform that thrives on trends, TikTok's algorithm prioritizes content that incorporates trending audio. Trending audio boosts your content's chances of blowing up on the platform, and makes viewers more likely to engage with it when they encounter it on their feeds.

Finally, it's important to prioritize engagement, as it is defined by TikTok's algorithm. This means creating short (15 seconds at most) content that ensures people will watch from start to finish, and authentically engaging with viewers in comments. Engagement is often a two-way street, and interacting with viewers not only drives engagement from an algorithm perspective, but also gives viewers a more personal and authentic interaction with your content. To get the most out of your content and leverage engagement even further, drop a link to the product or to your main webstore/platform-based storefront in your video description.

Leveraging Influencers to Promote Your TikTok Shop

Like with many things on social media, TikTok has taken the concept of influencers and improved on it beyond anything other social media channels have ever even thought to offer. TikTok has a complete, in-house marketplace of influencers you can partner with to promote your products or brand known as the Creator Marketplace. Here, users registered with Creator accounts partner with sellers and businesses to promote products, brands, and stores. Below, we'll take a look at how to find the right influencers for your brand on TikTok's Creator Marketplace, and understand how the collaboration with Creators works on TikTok.

Finding the Right Influencers for Your Brand

The TikTok Creator Marketplace was created with sellers in mind, and enables you to easily search for the right influencer for your brand and campaign goals based on various parameters and criteria. When you sign in to the marketplace, you'll be able to filter available creators by country/region, topic, reach, average views, audience gender, audience age, and even audience device, so you can find the right Creator to suit your specific needs. When you click into a Creator profile, you'll be able to see their portfolio of previous collaborations, and key stats like a breakdown of audience by gender and age, audience device percentages, percentage of active and inactive users from their content views, and engagement metrics.  

Collaborating with Influencers on TikTok

Once you've found Creators you're interested in working with, it's time to define your campaign and reach out to them in order to negotiate the terms of the collaboration. You'll input some key campaign and seller/business details, like what you sell and your general product niche, plus a link to your TikTok Shop or other ecommerce store. Then, you'll select your campaign goal; a campaign aimed at getting more views will look different than a campaign aimed at increasing product sales, and your collaborating Creator will need to know this information ahead of time. You'll also put in a suggested fee, which is the rate you're willing to pay your Creator for their collaboration. In our experience, ticking the "to be negotiated" box is the best approach for attracting quality creators, even if it means it might take a bit longer to work out a rate that works for both parties.

Selling on TikTok steps for success
Source: TikTok

Key Takeaways and Next Steps for Your TikTok Shop Success

If you're just starting out on TikTok Shop, the sheer volume of information may seem overwhelming. And considering we covered only the tip of the iceberg here to get you up to speed on the basics, that feeling is not entirely unwarranted. That said, TikTok didn't get where it is today by being a particularly difficult platform to navigate, nor did it attract so many sellers by being especially difficult to sell on. Selling on TikTok has the potential to multiply your ecommerce business in a matter of weeks, and all you really need to do is spend the time creating and optimizing your content for engagement and conversion. Getting your products on TikTok Shop and your ads and content on TikTok as a platform is a worthwhile endeavor, especially for sellers looking to expand their reach and get their products in front of fresh audiences.

Analyzing Your Shop's Performance

When you open a TikTok for Business account, you'll have access to key analytics and performance metrics that will help you grow. With a TikTok Ad Manager account, you'll be able to keep tabs on your ad campaigns and Creator collaborations, and use the information in your stats to optimize your content for better engagement and conversion.

The important thing to remember about TikTok is that its algorithm works in mysterious ways. Some low-effort videos will inexplicably go viral, while other more polished clips will never gain traction. Knowing your target audience, creating short and engaging content, monitoring and optimizing your content's performance, and a whole lot of trial and error are integral to successful selling on TikTok Shop. Monitor, analyze, and optimize, but remember that more professionally made content is not necessarily better!

Staying Up-to-Date with TikTok's Features and Updates

While it's been available in Asia and Europe for a few years now, TikTok Shop launched in the US relatively recently. It so new, in fact, that TikTok is still working out its commission rates for US-based TikTok Shops. This means that everything is subject to change, and that it's incredibly important to stay up to date with TikTok's updates and features, especially if you're just starting out on your TikTok Shop journey. As a trend-based platform, being the first to pick up on TikTok Shop updates and selling trends can have a major positive impact on the performance of your content and Shop.

Last updated on:
March 19, 2024
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