December 6, 2022

If you’ve yet to take your business to TikTok, you may be missing out on a serious sales opportunity. 

You already know the video-sharing app, which recently broke a billion, mostly Gen-Z users, is popular, but you may not know that it also recently expanded into social commerce. In late August, Shopify became the first commerce platform to partner with TikTok to launch in-app shopping. A month later,  Square announced a similar partnership. Both integrations, currently in beta testing, will allow businesses that use the platforms to seamlessly link their products in videos on TikTok, where viewers can shop them directly without having to visit a web browser. 

Businesses can request access to the features by applying via Shopify’s TikTok and Square’s website, respectively. Similar shopping functions exist on social networks like Facebook and Instagram, but even businesses that have used these features say that they don’t quite compare with the fast customer growth they’ve seen from TikTok.

“We saw an immediate response,” says Kyle Jiang, founder of the San Francisco-based, Gen Z-focused skin care brand Juno & Co., which started using the Shopify integration as soon as it launched. “Our sales on TikTok are 10 times what we’ve gained from Instagram and Facebook.” 

Jessica Thompson, founder of the Dexter, Michigan-based zero-waste consumer-product shop Bee Joyful, who started using TikTok’s Square integration at the end of September, saw her first sale in the app within about 24 hours. “I’ve been tracking the sales of products I featured in videos [with the integration] and they’ve increased,” she says. “I’ve especially noticed more sales of products that aren’t normally top-sellers, like our lotion bars–but people are buying them on TikTok.”

Admittedly, the feature has its limits. The platform can’t accommodate all products, for instance. Angie Tebbe, CEO and founder of Minneapolis-based Rae Wellness, discovered that, after signing up for the Shopify integration, she couldn’t add her core product range of supplements, since they have an 18-and-up age restriction. The brand is permitted to sell one product on the app–its vegan collagen capsules–but largely uses the platform to drive customers to its website and to Target stores, where its products are sold.

Still, for many brands, the ability for viewers to shop directly in TikTok is promising. And the key to succeeding with the in-app integration largely comes down to nailing TikTok. With that in mind, here are three tips:

1. Show, don’t sell.

The key to succeeding with TikTok’s in-app integration, according to the small businesses that have had success: Don’t go too hard on the sales pitch. “It’s really about making it feel organic and not trying to tell people to buy the product–it’s more about presenting the option for them to do so,” says Maria Wilkes, founder of the London-based brand Candid Beauté. Wilkes uses the Shopify integration on her personal TikTok account, which has more than 46,000 followers, where she shares casual, front to camera videos, often showcasing how her hero product–an eyebrow-styling balm–works. 

Thompson agrees that a hard sell isn’t necessary. “My philosophy on TikTok is I don’t sell, I share how this is going to help you or help the planet,” she says, noting that she often leans into education and suggests small ways viewers can switch up their routines to make them more eco-conscious. One example: Viewers can use the brand’s beeswax wraps instead of plastic wrap.

2. Experiment for maximum exposure.

“The fun thing about the platform is that you don’t know what’s going to take off or go viral,” Thompson says. “I try to have a mix of things that are funny, trending, and informative.” Because TikTok’s algorithm is highly personalized, diversifying your content (especially when you’re first starting) while also using the in-app shopping integrations can help you get more sales, as different videos may be served to different TikTok users. 

Another way brands can try to increase sales: Stay on top of trends “before they die down,” Wilkes says. Because TikTok trends, which may pertain to a wide-circulating audio sample or editing technique, move quickly, Wilkes has an assistant who helps her stay on top of the platform, and follows accounts that document TikTok trends as they grow.

3. Make it organic.

When it comes to any brand’s success, authenticity is a constant buzzword–and on TikTok, that translates into videos that feel more personal or casual than a traditional ad. Wilkes gives followers behind-the-scenes looks at product fulfillment and her business ownership journey, while Thompson frequently lip-synchs to sound bites that are trending on the app. They realized that, when viewers feel personally connected to them, they’re more likely to convert into customers.

Once a viewer is drawn into a video, the rest is easy: “Having a link right in the video is gold, because all they have to do is click one button to get right to the product,” adds Thompson.