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TikTok: How retailers are making use of the social media sensation

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It’s frequented by Justin Bieber, Will Smith and Liverpool Football Club. But is there space on TikTok for retailers? With over a billion downloads and around 800 million monthly active users, the social media app has proven it has the scale to offer an effective marketing channel.

Content on the app mainly comprises short, comical, user-made videos. It has built-in video editing software and the ability to add a range of popular songs as background music. Unlike other platforms, people don’t necessarily need to follow an account to see content from it but are automatically served with appropriate videos through the ‘Discover’ page. Its user base is the younger generation, aged roughly from the teens up to about 30.

Yuval Ben-Itzhak, CEO of social media consultancy Socialbakers, tells InternetRetailing the platform “exploded last year and is showing no sign of a slowdown.” Accordingly, he says brands are now shifting their attention to it.

“Every time there is a new technology, [brands] need to assess whether it’s worth spending time on it. For a brand to start to produce content for a platform is an investment.”

Ben-Itzhak says campaigns are quite unique to the platform; they are often centred around coming up with a challenge and getting users to submit their own videos.

TikTok started to do paid adverts last year, with mixed results according to Ben-Itzhak. However, in the same way Facebook did, he expects the app to eventually move to paid adverts. The platform doesn’t currently allow direct sales to the customer, a feature which is already present in counterparts such as Instagram and Snapchat.

Below are some examples of the so far small cohort of retailers engaging with the platform.


Burberry launched a TikTok account in June 2019 to coincide with a new collaboration, featuring the Thomas Burberry Monogram collection. Fashion fans were challenged to submit pictures of themselves recreating the new monogram with their hands. The brand has 22,600 followers on the platform and 225600 likes.


Macy’s promoted its back-to-school clothing collection with the “All Brand New Challenge”. This encouraged users to share their style in celebration of the start of the school year. However, the company doesn’t have an official account on the platform.


June also saw TikTok working with Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo. The #UTPlayYourWorld campaign invited users to share their creative, authentic and inspiring moments wearing their favorite UNIQLO UT outfit. The winners were offered the chance to have their videos showed on a screen at the Grand Prix.

Ralph Lauren

Ralph Lauren has launched its own #winningrl (winning Ralph Lauren) hashtag and encouraged users to share videos of how they are winning. It has also worked with influencers on the platform, who have modelled its clothing. The brand has 55600 followers on TikTok and over half a million likes.

As Ben Itzhak says, investing in a social media platform, especially one as idiosyncratic as TikTok, is a major decision. Retailers may wish to wait for the platform to evolve a bit more and demonstrate its value before they invest heavily in content for it.

The common thread is the participatory element and the brand recognition. Crafting a challenge that will resonate with users, while tying in a new clothing, jewellery or make-up collection with a major event or seasonal trend, is key.

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