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GUEST COMMENT Why and How Online Retailers Should Be Thinking About Using TikTok

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The main goal of any digital marketer is to have a presence wherever most of their customers spend time. Over the last year, that common place has become clear: the internet. With “second wave” lockdowns being enforced in the UK and all around the world, ecommerce has become more important than ever to help everyday people get the products they need. 

Retailers who want to keep up with their competitors and grow their profits have adapted quickly. The increasingly digital landscape and content-driven marketing has, in some cases, proven more effective than expensive ads. The partnership announced last year between up-and-coming Gen Z social media hotspot TikTok and the popular ecommerce platform Shopify underscores this growing trend. 

The importance of engaging social media content to improve your brand’s online reputation and increase sales has never been clearer. In this article, we will discuss why TikTok is a platform for retailers to take seriously as part of their overall marketing strategy and how you can build your own presence on TikTok.

The rise of social commerce: why retailers need to take this trend seriously

As marketing evolves with the times, brands are realizing that engaging their audience, building brand awareness and creating valuable online content have become more effective than traditional ads when it comes to digital marketing. 

While advertising is important, modern consumers have grown weary and defensive of being constantly sold to. TikTok is excellent for engaging your audienceorganically while also raising awareness about your company. 

For example, companies can promote a hashtag or challenge that is entertaining for TikTok users. A campaign like this gives your product or service high online visibility, and comes at a very low overall marketing cost. One of the many benefits of engaging with TikTok is their access to a global audience, making the channel ideal for large corporations with an international presence. 

Chipotle’s #GuacDance had thousands of customers sharing videos of themselves dancing to music and enjoying Chipotle guacamole. The campaign smashed records  with 250,000 video submissions and 430 million video starts. This is an example of a win-win marketing strategy, as customers are entertained and more likely to remember your brand and buy again, while marketing costs remain low. 

Popular cosmetic company e.l.f. is another TikTok success story. The company knew that their hashtag had 3 million organic views, so they knew it was worthwhile to engage more with the community. The brand launched a TikTok campaign with the hope of reaching 1 billion views globally, which the company exceeded in a mere three days. TikTok has advantages over other social media platforms because they have a non-chronological feed and hidden comments section, which cuts back on trolls and negative conversations.

How retailers can engage with customers on TikTok

Brands can open their own TikTok for Business channel and build a following by posting videos, hashtag challenges and engaging content related to their brand. 

A popular option for marketers is to work with TikTok influencers to capitalize on the enthusiasm of their existing followers.

For maximum exposure, companies can pay to advertise on TikTok and place strategic ads on feeds for a relevant customer demographic. Chipotle’s #GuacDance hashtag challenge campaign became successful partially due to their enlisting of social media influences Loren Grey and Brent Rivera. 

TikTok uploads can be linked to other social media accounts, meaning your TikTok videos can be automatically uploaded to different channels. For inspiration regarding content, consider some of the questions and concerns your customer demographic has by checking out other online forums and social media channels. Similarly, running searches for keywords relevant to your niche will give you ideas for content creation and trends for TikTok. 

Companies should always use multiple relevant keywords to enhance SEO on TikTok. Keep in mind TikTok captions allow for a maximum of 100 characters. For paid advertising, TikTok allows retailers to narrow their viewers based on interest targeting or behavioral targeting. 

The platform also offers “custom audience” and “lookalike audience” targeting. This allows companies to choose to only market to those who are already engaging with your online content, or users from a similar demographic who haven’t visited your page yet. 

How the Shopify partnership illustrates how merchants can reach new audiences

If you need an example of how TikTok can work well with retailers, take a close look at the new partnership announced between the company and Shopify.

For brick and mortar retail stores that want to enjoy the benefits of ecommerce, Shopify remains one of the best ecommerce platforms because of its wide variety of user friendly themes and strong customer support. But the new partnership with TikTok means that the online retailercan engage with young audiences like never before. 

With the average TikTok user ranging from 16-24 years old, building brand loyalty at this early stage could give companies a customer for life. By allowing Shopify to access user data to provide relevant shoppable videos and ads, TikTok users can receive recommendations for Shopify products that meet their interests. 

The new partnership allows Shopify’s one million merchants to link their TikTok for Business accounts with their online stores. They will also have access to templates to easily make marketing content on TikTok. Shopify merchants can also take advantage of “TikTok Pixel,” a web analytics tool that helps stores track sales connected to their TikTok ad campaigns.


It’s more important than ever for digital marketers to remain at the forefront of online trends. TikTok’s explosive popularity and growing user base makes it a prime environment for engaging and building followers online. The recent partnership between TikTok and Shopify underscores this trend, and any online retailer who wants to increase their sales conversions should consider utilizing this platform. 


Sam Bocetta is a former defence analyst, now a freelance journalist –

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