A few weeks ago TikTok launched a $200 million creator fund with a goal of helping more leading creators in its community sustain themselves financially solely through TikTok. Fast forward to today, creators will soon be able to sell merchandise they design and create directly to fans via the app itself thanks to a new integration in partnership with realtor commerce platform Teespring.
This isn’t TikTok’s first foray into e-commerce, however. Last year it tested social commerce links in videos and piloted an advertising format with a call-to-action button that links marketers to social influencers. More recently, it introduced its ‘Small Gestures’ digital gift-giving program as a gentle reminder to practice digital empathy and not overlook the power of a small act, especially in these uncertain times.
A move towards non-apparel
As TikTok accelerates its e-commerce plans it wants to make clear its community will be at the center of its decisions and efforts.
“We believe, based on the current trend, that non-apparel items will be outselling apparel by this time next year,” Teespring CEO Chris Lamontagne told The Verge. “Layering in really smart commerce opportunities is key, so it could be physical merchandise or it could be something more digital…we as a collective need to think about creators in this way where they’ve got super engaged fans who love them — there’s already this connection.”
According to the official press release, creators will have a choice from over 180 different products in addition to having the opportunity to create bespoke products uniquely catered to their personal brand. Think beyond your typical t-shirt and hoodie and more along the lines of Skateboard decks and smartphone covers for instance.
Roughly 7,000 TikTok creators in total are part of the initial program though details surrounding which creators will be eligible to participate is still being hashed out. Another outstanding question — how will the products appear in the videos themselves? While details are still worked out the platform knows one thing: it wants to ensure a full shop functionality to make things as streamlined and simple as possible.
Tapping into underrated features
Amidst all of the conversation and social chatter around what TikTok’s future has in store, including the possible $30 billion price tag being discussed, former CEO of Vine, Rus Yusupov, used the opportunity to give TikTok some of his own advice in a CNN op-ed reflecting on the learning lessons garnered from his experience in the short-form video space.
“TikTok hasn’t stopped innovating. They’ve made bold moves we should have made. Specifically, its algorithm-driven distribution model is extremely accurate and effectively surfaces new personalized content. And allowing creators to monetize their content through live streaming is an underreported, underrated feature, and is key to their success.” In short, where he feels Vine failed is in not fully embracing new challenges and opportunities to experiment. It is one thing to become popular very quickly, but another to sustain yourself by constantly pushing the boundaries.
The growing role of exclusive merchandise
During an age of social distancing, e-commerce and exclusive merchandise continue to surge in popularity. Artists and creators enjoy leaning into digital experiences like shopping as a way to connect with their fans, gather feedback, and get creative in ways they haven’t before and are using various platforms to achieve these ends.
Earlier this summer YouTube dropped a feature that lets users include a virtual “shelf” underneath their videos displaying their merch. In June, Instagram opened up its own commerce platform for creators. Finally, late last month, TikTok took this trend a level further by hosting its first shoppable livestream in collaboration with Ntwrk — a home shopping network targeting Generation Z — and artist Joshua Vides. These are just a few of many examples.
With current findings showing that e-commerce is now five years forward due to the global pandemic, there is no shortage of white spaces to consider. The brands that will ultimately stand out above the crowd, however, will be those that can hit a sweet spot of premium content and experiences driven by gaming, shopping, and other means of engagement that feel fresh and accessible.
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