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TikTok’s Next Move: The Future of Social Selling

October 18, 2022
October 18, 2022
Troy Ayala

In 1986, QVC, the flagship shopping channel specializing in televised shopping, was created. Several years later the company is still successful, making $11.35B in sales in 2021 alone, and consolidating 15.1MM customers. Arguably, QVC paved a new path in retail, one that is constantly evolving. Today, millions of companies are battling for the most innovative and successful ways to market their products as consumers demand products to be advertised in authentic and exciting ways.

In recent years, social media marketing has significantly increased, with advertisers spending $262.50 per internet user on average in 2022. Video selling has contributed massively to this average spend, with 78% of marketing professionals feeling that videos have directly increased their product sales. As a result, livestream shopping, which includes live demonstrations and real-time interactions with customers, is becoming a popular trend. In China, livestream purchases are predicted to make $300B worth of sales this year, accounting for 15% of the country’s total online sales. Hoping to follow in the footsteps of Chinese livestream sale success, TikTok is moving forward with plans to launch live shopping in the US.

Despite growth in Asian markets, livestream selling is currently struggling in the West. In July, TikTok felt this firsthand and abandoned their live shopping feature, dubbed TikTok Shop, which had been rolled out in the UK, after it failed to meet expectations. This time, in the hopes for the initiative to be a success, TikTok is partnering with TalkShopLive, the streaming and social selling online network “for anyone, anywhere, to sell almost anything,” who raised $6MM in a seed extension last year. TalkShopLive has four years of experience running shopping streams and the infrastructure needed to make TikTok’s visions a successful reality. Despite the news being broken by Financial Times, there has been no official announcement of the collaboration, which is likely due to the pair still finalizing the details of their partnership.

“When it comes to market expansion for TikTok Shop we are always guided by demand and are constantly exploring new and different options for how we can best serve our Community, Creators and Merchants in markets around the world. These efforts include exploring partnerships that further support a seamless ecommerce experience for merchants, which is an important part of our ecosystem,” TikTok told TechCrunch.

While brands and influencers on TikTok are making money, the platform is earning a commission on every sale made through the app. Once TikTok Shop is relaunched, it is predicted that TalkShopLive will take around a 10% commission from sellers for providing its services, and TikTok is expected to cover that cost for the project’s initial phase. With none of TikTok’s competitors currently using live shopping strategies, it would seem now is the perfect time for the platform to refine its technology and relaunch the livestreaming initiative.

Currently, TikTok offers e-commerce features through its partnership with Shopify, allowing business accounts to showcase their products on a dedicated profile tab. The company also provides brands with the tools to create, run, and monitor ad campaigns within the app.

Leslie Ann Hall, founder and CEO at Iced Media, feels that investing in a livestream selling function will create a further rise in Gen Z TikTok user numbers. Due to TikTok’s “unrefined nature of video content that makes branded ads feel less promotional,” Hall believes that the authentic narrative the app pushes will work in their favor for liveselling, as brands do not have the option to showcase high production quality or edits through a live video.

“What might be obvious to more seasoned marketers is that when a shopper already knows what they want to buy they go to Amazon, Google, or Pinterest. TikTok, rather, inspires shoppers to discover and shop new brands and products they may not have already considered.”
By Leslie Ann Hall, founder and CEO, Iced Media

However, Hall also suggests that for the tool to be a triumph, the company must introduce features that motivate their viewers to tune in for specific reasons, such as a certain brand, creator, or product, in the way that apps such as Flip and limited-edition collectables platform Whatnot have. The CEO suggests that TikTok introduce features like shopping with friends, limited-edition items, promotional pricing through bundles, or incentives such as capsule collections and gifts with purchases. “With Whatnot, the immediacy of live shopping is built into the format due to the scarcity of items, peer-to-peer reselling, and auction model of its platform. In the beauty space specifically, Flip’s brilliance was isolating its video content to user-generated and influencer product reviews, giving viewers the ability to shop testimonials from real people with similar skin problems, hair textures, or complexions to their own,” Hall tells BeautyMatter.

Further fueling the growth of social commerce, Kyra, the global creator economy company that aims to bridge the gap between brands and TikTok creators, announced they have closed $15MM in Series A funding. With the new financing, Kyra intends to build a solid foundation for its creators, beginning with the launch of their proprietary platform, Kyra Platform, that has been created to streamline and optimize TikTok partnerships for brands and creators alike.

“We built Kyra to help brands authentically connect with Gen Z on TikTok, and we’re excited to deploy our Series A capital to launch the Kyra Platform and alleviate challenges within the creator economy,” says Devran Amaratunga Karaca, CEO and co-founder of Kyra. “Ultimately, we’re aiming to channel our expertise in the Gen Z and TikTok space to foster a community in which brands and creators can thrive and maximize the effectiveness, scale, and impact of their partnerships.”

Kyra Platform will give creators access to premium brand deals, instant payments, avenues for community growth, and the opportunity to connect with other influencers. The interface enables brands to identify and collaborate with those who will best engage their target audience, maximize ROI, analyze content results through Kyra Lift studies, and consult KyralQ, a creator database that forecasts upcoming trends on TikTok.

The app also provides a community brief tool, which allows brands to open campaigns to the entire marketplace of Kyra-vetted creators, while enabling influencers to get paid based on performance. Kyra aims to activate bespoke concepts for brands while offering services such as an end-to-end creative process, from idea generation to production and optimization. To date, the company has a waiting list of over 5,000 creators, and already works with esteemed names in the beauty-influencer space such as Abby Roberts, paying out more than $5MM to clients in the past year, across nearly 300 partnerships.

"Today, one can see the fantastic impact of the ever-growing creator economy, and the launch of the Kyra platform will help secure an efficient dynamic between creators and brands, which couldn't be more exciting,” says Jonas von Hedenberg, Investment Director at Bonnier Ventures, one of the platform's investors. “Kyra has a track record of leading the way, constantly going the extra mile to super serve both creators and brands and this next phase is poised to accommodate the rapidly changing media value chain." An increase in financial interest and the desire to strengthen partnerships between brands and best-suited creators through companies like Kyra are sure to further benefit livestream sales figures. It’s also a sign of the increasing sophistication of social media strategies across the industry overall.

Whereas teleshopping from companies such as QVC is much loved by older generations, and was a more singularly focused activity, Gen Z wants to access this type of commerce in a more social-oriented way, where products are found while they are not actively looking for them, like a livestream or short video clip. “What might be obvious to more seasoned marketers is that when a shopper already knows what they want to buy they go to Amazon, Google, or Pinterest. TikTok, rather, inspires shoppers to discover and shop new brands and products they may not have already considered,” Hall adds. Through collaborations and campaigns created in tandem with apps such as Kyra and influencers, the relationship between brands, creators, and social media apps is only set to grow stronger. With social shopping in the US predicted to be worth $80B by 2025, both initiatives point to a strong future for social media selling.

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