TikTok announces new Shopify partnership: What does it mean for Shopify brands?

TikTok and Shopify extended their partnership to pilot TikTok Shopping for eCommerce merchants in the UK and US. We take a look at the features it enables, and what it means for the future of social commerce.

Robi O'Cleirigh
Content Manager

Social media giant TikTok is flexing its eCommerce muscles. Last week the video-sharing platform extended its partnership with Shopify to allow consumers to shop directly within the TikTok app for the first time. But what does this functionality enable for DTC brands in the short term? And how will it impact the way they sell online in future? 

Shopify merchants can link TikTok profiles to their stores

TikTok is one of the world’s fastest-growing entertainment platforms, and is already a key awareness driver for eCommerce brands. Although its ad platform and in-app shopping functionality is less mature than its social media rivals, TikTok’s huge popularity among the Gen Z audience means it has massive revenue potential for merchants. 

It first entered an official partnership with Shopify in October 2020, in a move that enabled merchants to run TikTok ads via their Shopify dashboard. Under the recently extended agreement, the pair are now piloting TikTok Shopping among select Shopify users across the US, UK and Canada. 

The move enables merchants with a TikTok for Business account to add a shopping tab to their profile synced with their Shopify store - creating a mini-storefront that links directly to a checkout: 

The move is a significant step in the rapidly developing social commerce space - once which combines TikTok’s video-centric virality with a frictionless shopping experience. 

Tag products in organic TikTok posts 

Another aspect of the pilot that will have eCommerce Managers licking their lips is product tagging. Showcasing products in TikTok videos is already big business, but brands can now tag organic videos with a specific SKU, which is then linked to a Shopify checkout page in one-click. 

Among the early adopters is Kylie Jenner, whose makeup and skincare brand Kylie Cosmetics boasts 2 million TikTok followers - “The ability to shop my products directly on these platforms is so important because that’s where our audience is going first” wrote the star.

TikTok are also rolling out a new advertising feature - similar to Facebook’s post boosting tool - allowing brands to put additional budget behind well performing organic content, as well as experimenting with five minute video formats.

What they said 

Shopify President Harley Finkelstein summed up the mood of the moment by emphasising the ongoing importance of social content in eCommerce acquisition:

"Creators are paving the way for a new kind of entrepreneurship where content, community, and commerce are key. By enabling new in-app shopping experiences and product discovery on TikTok for the first time, Shopify is powering the creator economy on one of the fastest-growing social and entertainment platforms in the world.”

TikTok counterpart Blake Chandlee, President, Global Business Solutions concurred, suggesting: 

"Our community has transformed shopping into an experience that's rooted in discovery, connection, and entertainment, creating unparalleled opportunities for brands to capture consumers' attention. TikTok is uniquely placed at the center of content and commerce, and these new solutions make it even easier for businesses of all sizes to create engaging content that drives consumers directly to the digital point of purchase.”

The big picture

Rhetoric aside, what does this all mean for the future of social commerce online? Well, in many ways TikTok’s partnership with Shopify is an attempt to replicate the in-app shopping experience already offered by Facebook and Instagram. 

Indeed, brands are still spending the majority of their acquisition spend with those more established channels. That creates a short term opportunity for merchants with a large TikTok presence - right now its ad costs are 80% cheaper than those of Facebook. 

Long-term, the partnership represents a clear statement of intent from TikTok to start seriously competing with the social media big boys in the eCommerce space ahead of the holiday season. The vitality of its core video-sharing offering amongst a younger audience is something neither Facebook or Instagram can match. And whilst the platform must continue to make improvements to its in-app shopping functionality - the potential is huge. 

A recent survey with over 7,000 consumers worldwide suggested that 1 in 4 people make a purchase online after seeing a TikTok video - suggesting eCommerce and TikTok consumption are inextricably linked. 

All this reinforces what we already knew - that social commerce is here to stay. According to Shopify, merchant sales on social platforms, including TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest, grew by 76% from February 2020 to February 2021. The fact that 44% of all online purchases made during last year’s holiday season were done via smartphone, amounting to $28.2 billion in revenue (a 55% increase on 2019), suggests a similar trend.

As brands gear up for Black Friday once again, TikTok is well and truly in the game. 

Thumbnail image creds: Shopify & TikTok

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