Social Sells – ‘Saw it on TikTok’

Social platform selling provides an opportunity to engage with consumers directly and encourage purchase.

August 08, 2022
David Gough
A laptop computer with shopping icons and a mini shopping cart
August 08, 2022
David Gough

When I was growing up, if a brand wanted to shout about where you might have seen their products before, the phrase ‘As Seen On TV’ would be plastered over packaging and in its print adverts too. Consumer product discovery was otherwise limited to wandering the shopping aisles or flicking through the new Argos catalogue!

A lot has changed since then – with product discovery being one of the core reason consumers, particularly Gen-Z, use social media, and brands like Little Moon, and even fish and chip shops coming to our attention via TikTok trends.

The number of brands selling direct-to-consumer has been on the rise in recent years, partly due to the pandemic (we explored this topic in a previous insights blog), and social platform selling provides yet another opportunity to engage with consumers directly and build relationships. More than half of UK adults say they have made an impulse purchase via social media, a figure that rises to 91% of 25-34 year olds, and as any good marketeer knows you need to ‘go where your audience is’ and, if they can purchase directly on that channel it can potentially cut the steps needed on the purchase journey.

It’s no surprise then to see social media companies investing in features that allow selling direct via their platforms, and brands responding to the opportunities this creates.

In TikTok’s ‘Path To Purchase’ reports it talks about an ‘infinite loop’, with TikTok impacting every stage of the purchase journey, and its senior director ecommerce operations, Patrick Nommenson describes it as being central to a ‘new kind of shopping culture’. Just this week TikTok started selling fresh food on its platform in the UK for the first time, with Pasta Evangelists, The Veg Box Company, and The Fish Company amongst the first to take advantage of the new transactional feature. Nommenson describes the feature, as a ‘huge opportunity for new food brands looking for a springboard to market.” One of the key elements of the TikTok Shop is Live Shopping, using its networks of creators, an area TikTok are keen to push in the UK, despite some reports that low consumer awareness and influencer drop out have meant that plans to expand this feature into the USA are on hold.

But TikTok is not alone in wanting to capture the social commerce market.

Instagram has rolled out a feature that allows shoppers to pay for products directly in direct messages, as well as ask questions and track orders. Many brands already arrange payments via messages, but this move, launched initially in the US but expected to roll out to the UK if successful, will allow them to raise an invoice directly in Instagram – making the platform a one-stop customer service tool. And, of course, it is an income stream for the platform itself, at a time when they, like the rest of the world, are experiencing an ‘environment of slower growth.’

Meanwhile Pinterest has recently increased a range of new features including the Pinterest API for shopping, product tagging in Pins, video in catalogue and Shop tab, claiming its goal ‘is to turn inspiration into action’, with a vision is to ‘make it possible (for shoppers) to buy anything.’

Both YouTube and Spotify have also broadened shopping features, including Spotify’s Blend feature and a partnership between the two platforms, meaning that consumers will soon be spoilt for choice with where to part with their hard earned cash.

It’s not all upward progress though, with social selling producing some mixed results to date with slower growth than predicted. Facebook owner, Meta, last week announced that it is abandoning its own push on Live Commerce to focus on Reels and short term video, confirming though that products will continue to be available to be tagged in Facebook Reels to ‘enable deeper discovery and consideration’.

But even if social selling is moving at a slower rate than some predicted for 2022, early adopters are already starting to see the benefits. As more brands adapt their strategies to include it as part of the social mix it could well become a saturated market, so it’s important to not put all your eggs in one (online) basket, and to ensure you are focusing on creating cut through in all areas of the customer journey.

Wherever, and however, you are selling, a full 360º PR and marketing campaign can support sales, so if you’re interested in finding out how Ceres can help you reach your business growth goals we’d love to hear from you.