TikTok & Community Commerce: A New Era of Digital Strategy

It’s no secret that social media marketing continues to rise as a top performing avenue. The ever-evolving landscape is relentless in challenging traditional advertising tactics and revolutionizing the way brands present themselves to consumers. TikTok takes the lead as the primary platform for short form video, using the term “Community Commerce” to describe a new form of e-commerce that resonates with consumers.

The Rise of Community Commerce

Since the introduction of the first e-commerce platform CompuServ in 1969, then later the launch of eBay and Amazon in the 90’s, online shopping has skyrocketed in popularity. Over the last 50 years the e-commerce space has spread to the entertainment industry with the introduction of streaming services including Netflix and Hulu. Now, with access widened by online payment services such as Paypal, Apple Pay and Venmo, virtually any online platform can become a digital storefront.

The evolution of e-commerce has led to the creation of social commerce where consumers can purchase items directly from social media platforms. Historically brands have had success with paid display media tactics or other forms of traditional branded content on social commerce, but TikTok has proven a necessary pivot in this approach: community commerce.

According to TikTok, “community commerce specifically speaks to the notion of entertaining, compelling content that just happens to feature brands.” The nature of TikTok and short form video has created new consumer demand for less produced, more relatable content. While it may seem counterintuitive to put down the expensive cameras and halt engaging graphics, ads that blend into the candid style of the app have proven to excel in performance.

The reality of community commerce is that the content surrounding the product takes precedent over the actual product. Consumers, especially on Tik Tok and other short form video platforms, don’t want to be sold a product, they want to be entertained and informed. This concept of selling the benefit of the products, rather than the product itself, is not new to the advertising world and yet it remains one of the most critical marketing perspectives for TikTok ads. Offering content that has entertainment value is necessary for success on TikTok, where traditional branded content fails to resonate.

How Do You Make Community Commerce Work for Your Brands? 

In addition to being a top entertainment space, TikTok has become a form of search engine for many users. 80% of users say the platform helps them get ideas about brands and products they’d never thought of before. The nature of the app and its algorithm has given every user a platform and even the sense of a level playing field in which any video can go viral and any user can gain a following. Niche content in which relatable, non-celebrity individuals share “expert” content about a subject they have had real-life experience with gains traction at a rapid rate. In virtually any category imaginable, be it nutrition, cars, or cleaning, there are thought leaders that have built trust with their audience. This creates the opportunity for genuine value exchange between brands and app users.

While influencer talent once primarily consisted of A-list celebrities, 72% of respondents now consider content creators to be more interesting than celebrities and 85% have purchased a product or service after seeing it advertised or reviewed on social media (TikTok). TikTok has ushered in a movement of the type of influencers, most of whom have gained traction by providing candid content in a niche market. Companies such as KFC and Target have taken advantage of this collaborative opportunity by leveraging existing content from creators on the app by posting their videos to the brand’s TikTok channel. This type of casual content, be it reviews, hacks, tutorials or comedy, from the mouths of trusted consumer-turned-influencers is natural to the ecosystem and therefore engages the audience. Once engaged, the audience is influenced, thus impacting purchase decisions.

What Does This Mean for Marketers?

Short-form video continues to be a top-performing media form that builds a unique communal atmosphere. Consumers are still looking to be fed information, their appetite has simply become accustomed to entertainment and inspiration from peers.

To join the future of e-commerce and remain effective with advertising on platforms like TikTok and similar emerging spaces such as Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts, brands must join this new way of engaging the audience. As annual planning comes to a peak, marketers should be thinking about how to scale production on these channels to meet consumers with authentic, entertaining content. Simply put, digital content designed for tried and true channels won’t resonate on TikTok but brands that adjust their content strategies accordingly could see significant results.

Looking for unique ways to effectively engage your audience? Let’s talk strategy. Get in touch with our teams here.

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