September 21, 2023

Digital Marketing Education

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TikTok engages multigenerational shoppers with discovery and culture-informed creativity

The digital content boom of the 2010s introduced consumers to what seems like an endless menu of community-driven social platforms, democratizing access to information and dialogue worldwide. Advertisers have of course made it a main objective to occupy these platforms as another tool for audience traction throughout the marketing funnel. 

As we all know, the result has been favorable. According to Retail Touchpoints, nearly 80% of consumers have purchased a product they saw in a brand’s social media post. While 11% bought immediately, 44% bought later online and 21% bought later in a physical store. Home to over 5 million businesses and over 150 million users, TikTok is more than an entertainment platform, it’s a true marketplace for American consumers. 

What’s got consumers so engaged with TikTok as a shopping channel? It’s a combination of discovery, multigenerational utility, culture-informed creativity that encourages community commerce for consumers, and contextual advertising for brands. 

Interest-driven discovery

We’re all guilty of aimlessly engaging with posts that evoke a spontaneous reaction. However, typical social algorithms treat these reactions as indicators of interest, when the two are vastly different. An action is simply the process of doing something, while an interest refers to a feeling of curiosity or concern about something or someone. Actions can be taken without necessarily being coupled with an interest, and an interest can be had without a relative action being made. 

For example, readers may click the headline of this article, but that doesn’t mean by default that they’re interested in every piece of information covered. On the other hand, readers may indeed be interested in the content of this article, but that doesn’t mean they’ll take the action of subscribing. 

TikTok helps users discover, learn and eventually convert through an algorithm that lets interest and repetitive action shape the content experience. What this means for brands is that there’s a better chance of driving ROI advertising on platforms that differentiate action from interest, and curate user content relative to that difference. 

On TikTok, users receive ads tailored to the interests associated with the frequency of communities, creators and products each user engages with, rather than one-off actions that may have been spur of the moment. About 15% of all product discoveries in 2022 are attributed to TikTok. As a lead discovery engine for users across a range of ages and demographics, there’s a big opportunity here for advertisers.

Multigenerational utility

Obviously, all social media platforms have multigenerational users at this point. However, the origins of many social channels were rooted in acquisition and usership from the youngest generation at the time. TikTok is unique in that it has always been multigenerational. 

Different generations use TikTok to fuel their shopping experience, particularly in response to advertising. According to Matt Cleary, TikTok’s head of U.S. retail and e-commerce, 57% of Gen Z weekly TikTok users say they use ads to lead them to product/brand discovery. Influencership has a lot to do with this, as about 33% of Gen Zers have bought a product based on an influencer’s recommendation in the past three months. Meanwhile, over 50% of Gen Xers say they use TikTok to learn more about products/brands. 

Knowing this, advertisers should recognize the power of more intentionally A/B testing ad spend, rather than casting a wide net and seeing how different age demographics might react to broad or specific messaging. Particularly during heavy shopping seasons like holidays, when TikTok’s For You Page is the hub for shoppers of all ages with 1 in 2 users turning to the FYP for holiday and shopping events content. 

Culture-informed creativity

There is a difference between momentary trends and societal shifts that change cultural standards. Successful brands are able to recognize that difference and apply that information to organic and paid advertising efforts. Trends including buzzwords, specific filters or even songs may make their way into consumer communication preferences for a moment in time, while intricacies like diversity and inclusion are cultural standards informed by a societal shift in expectations from brands. 

Virtually every social advertising platform offers best practices for successful campaign creation and management. About 77% of TikTokers like it when brands use relevant trends, memes or challenges in their content. TikTok offers a unique value proposition in this regard through its Codes of Creativity playbook, articulating a clear differentiation between cultural moments, signals and forces, and enabling advertisers to leverage this knowledge to optimize ad campaign creative in real-time. This is facilitated through TikTok Pulse, which allows brands to leverage the For You Page using contextual ad placements next to the top 4% of trending content during key seasonal moments. Brought to life through solutions like video shopping ads (VSA) that deliver commerce goals with a 15% greater ROAS compared with non-VSA campaigns.

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Today marketers are navigating through a time of intensified consumer diversification and economic uncertainty, and are under pressure to positively impact the bottom line. Winning shoppers over is no longer a game of quantity over quality, particularly when it comes to social media advertising. It’s time to shift the collective mindset back to making digital assets work smarter, not harder.


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