TikTok is the Future of Ecommerce. It Better be in Your 2020 Marketing Plans

The holiday season means a million different things to a million different businesses. For some, it’s high sales season. For others, it’s time to spend that budget. But the standard across all businesses seems to be the desire for change. Entering a new decade, I’m sure the calls for radical change will be even more prevalent.

Instead of thinking radically, think about a small change you’ve likely put off for many years. I’m referring to video marketing.

A 2018 survey found that 85 percent of millennials in the US reported buying a product or service after watching a video.

Whether watching an honest review about TurboTax or a Galaxy Note 10 unboxing video. Video is no longer just entertainment with the commerce element as an inconvenient advertisement.

Commerce is the entertainment. Especially on apps like TikTok.

Andreessen Horowitz just published a prediction on The Video-First Future of Ecommerce where they discuss why apps like TikTok are a perfect shopping platform.

Whether you’re buying instant noodles or high-end sweaters, it has become increasingly clear that short video clips are the future of ecommerce. Think of them as compulsively watchable commercials—with a direct link to buy.

Connie Chan & Avery Segal, a16z

Looking at China as a futuristic reference point, they can see how the entire Buyer’s Journey – from Awareness to Consideration to Decision – exists entirely on a viral video app.

Rural farmers broadcast their latest haul of fruits to thousands of locals, circumventing the supermarkets to sell their produce. A phone screen protector manufacturer is gaining attention for their drop test videos and protective durability, with a link to buy the product following the videos. From fashion to education to one-off craftsmanship, they outline many other case studies where this video commerce is catching on.

Why would people care to search for videos of this stuff?

They don’t. But that doesn’t mean they won’t watch it. Because TikTok (and the Chinese counterparts: Douyin and Kwai) are designed as discovery-based platforms, the user-experience revolves around an AI guessing what a user will be interested in watching. This means that anything entertaining – the shorter and more attention-grabbing the better – has a chance of gaining an audience.

“I’m a fifty-year-old CFO of a company that sells enterprise sales software. I don’t belong on TikTok.”

Sure you do! Don’t let excuses stop you from trying.

Just after browsing TikTok for less than an hour, I was fed an account called Logical Finance that gives basic financial and economic lessons. Then I was fed Cory Mane who parodies history lessons. Later I stumbled on The Bentist who is the coolest orthodontist ever, helping kids overcome their braces problems. And Dr. Leslie is warning kids about the dangers of vaping.

None of these professionals and their content “belong” on TikTok. But they all took a shot and it worked – amassing followings between 100K and 2M.

On discovery-based platforms like TikTok, anyone can turn their 15-second commercial into mass entertainment.

It’s a level playing field. So if you’re that fifty-year old selling enterprise sales software, maybe you don’t need to pitch your company on TikTok. But you can teach teens about sales psychology. You can teach them valuable social skills in a fun and entertaining way. If a dentist can do it, you can do it.

Last week I interviewed an artist by the name of Gengar Cade who is finding early success on TikTok. He caught my attention by being one of the few musicians I’ve ever seen creating content in 360º video, so I had to know what this future-thinker had to say. His simple advice for creators going to TikTok that don’t necessarily fit the traditional TikTok content:

  • Do your market research (understand the culture)
  • Stay one step ahead of the “now” in your industry
  • Embrace the format

TikTok and our video platforms aren’t quite built out like China’s where the marketplace and entertainment exist in one. However, we are trending that direction. And those who have built trust with that TikTok audience will have a much easier time selling their wares when the opportunity arises.