The Ticking Clock Of Social Commerce: MVP Goes To TikTok

Is social commerce becoming the most popular selling channel for retailers? Should brands invest in TikTok?

Nikole Wintermeier | Nov 04, 2021


Is social commerce becoming the most popular selling channel for retailers? Should brands invest in TikTok?

Are Instagram’s shoppable ads the future of eCommerce? Should retailers start hiring TikTok professionals now? When will we see matchmaking apps for shoppers – like Tinder for products? 

As more retailers start to see the importance of shifting from commerce (selling products) to content (selling experiences), social media is coming in hot and heavy. 40% of retailers’ online revenue comes from social selling. 

And with social commerce in tow, the experience economy grows nobler every day. Retailers across all service verticals are seeing buzzwords becoming like phygital, contextual commerce, and artificial intelligence manifesting into reality. 

Against this landscape, social media is proving to be a necessary channel to disrupt traditional purchase journeys and personalize the product experience.  

And the MVP everyone’s talking about? TikTok. 


From social shopping to community commerce


TikTok currently has more than 100 million monthly active users in the US alone. Recently, behemoth brands from McDonald’s to Disney to L’oreal have jumped on the TikTok bandwagon.

Ahead of the back-to-school season, JanSport hired a “chief mood officer” to exclusively queue TikTok posts throughout the school year.  

With 70% of shopping enthusiasts turning to Instagram for product discovery, brands can see the rising importance of social commerce.

But what TikTok does differently is to, ‘encourage audiences to create their own content featuring a brand’ (BusinessofApps), forging communities to achieve ‘intimacy at scale’.  


Autonomy in the context of others

tiktok social commerce

TikTok shopping leverages things like checkout buttons and product tags (so you don’t even have to leave the app to complete your purchase journey). TikTok’s For You page features videos that allow users to discover new products through tailored content. 


And even before this feature, 80% of TikTok users used the platform to get ideas about brands and products they’d never thought of before. 


Where social commerce leads brands to adopt the right attitude to selling products, community commerce provides the tool to execute this mentality. Radically empowering customers to be autonomous in their purchase journeys, while allowing brands to leverage their content in a closed ecosystem of like-minded customers. 


Which means brands that succeed in the social commerce space are ones that understand the importance of experience, entertainment, and influencers content, content, content! And it’s not the kind of content you find anywhere. TikTok is ripe with word-of-mouth, tutorials, and user-generated content (which drives purchasing decisions by 80%). 


tiktok social commerce the ordinary

The Ordinary on TikTok


Beauty brands like The Ordinary and Glossier do so well in this content-led space because they can give beauty tips, show products in use, and educate their audiences about things like skincare routines. 

They recruit the help of TikTok celebrities to promote their products, and communities are formed linking brands to culture, trends, and reality in under twenty seconds.

Which begs the question: is it enough?



It certainly may feel like enough for Glossier’s $1.2 billion valued company. But is this kind of autonomy in the context of others as authentic as it could be? Will shoppers be satisfied with shopping on social? 

Has TikTok already reached its zenith before its inevitable plunge into the social media abyss?


Data scandals & outages: Is there a future for social commerce?

tiktok social commerce

TikTok’s community commerce shows what the future will hold for retail: A purchase path that loops endlessly from awareness and consideration. Product discovery becomes so contextual, brands can ignore traditional selling paths...or can they?

As we’ve seen with Facebook ad scandals, WhatsApp outages, and the rise and fall of Vine and Snapchat, social media can go from omnipresent to consciously rejected in the time it takes to say Bezos (bless you). 

tiktok social commerce twitter

Yes, brands are growing their virtual communities on TikTok. But consumers are only given the semblance of autonomy.

Communities are largely virtual, and shopping is still mostly seen as separate from consumable content (why don’t we have Reddit or Twitter shopping yet?). Here, authenticity is key for consumers to truly get on board.  

Don’t leave me this way


While customers would theoretically want to learn about a product in a tweet and then make a purchase directly on Twitter, the same shoppers don’t want to be retargeted with ads across other platforms.

Consumers actually want data protection as much as they want ease and convenience in their purchase journeys. 

According to Salesforce

  • 90% of people are more likely to trust a company if they have a firm privacy policy.
  • 92% of customers appreciate companies giving them control over what information is collected about them.  

social commerce

Alexander McQueen Instagram page


For social commerce to keep the ticking clock at bay, brands need to show they care about their customer’s privacy. eCommerce needs to provide a valuable exchange for using customer data to personalize ads or products.

Without transparency and authenticity, community commerce won’t stay an effective strategy.  

Investing in TikTok is one thing, but brands shouldn’t leave behind their other channels to effectively move from commerce to content. 

Shoppers still value elevated in-store experiences (62% of Baby Boomers and 58% of GenZ still prefer buying in-store despite the pandemic).

They want interactive experiences across multiple platforms and will shop from brands that provide a unique selling point (USP) not saturated by the need to push products. 

Content – and how it is used in innovative ways – becomes the ultimate make-it factor, not social media.  Communities are formed through storytelling. And consumers will want to see a similar social platform to TikTok where delight is at its core, community is its USP, and authenticity is a clear benchmark for success. 


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