What is live shopping on TikTok, and will it ever take off in the UK?

Navigating the beast that is TikTok is hard enough for small businesses, let alone mastering the TikTok shop while you’re at it. Getting a TikTok marketing agency on board will help any business to get the most out of live shopping on TikTok, and boost sales as a result, while also putting a face to the brand. 

With over 30.8 Million Daily Active Users globally via iOS alone, this ever-rising app has been the money-making machine for many creators on the platform. Utilising the platform in the UK market, prolific creator, Sumayah Saadi, an LSE student who first set up her online shop aiming to provide affordable, modest fashion in February 2021 whilst still at university, now generates around £50,000 in sales from her usual 2 hour live.

There are plenty of ways to leverage live shopping on TikTok to benefit your business, and these are some of the best ways to get you started. 

Live shopping was launched in the UK late in 2020, and is a feature which allows creators to promote products on the TikTok shop to their followers and on the For You page. 

The process is similar to the traditional live shopping experience on QVC, where users tune in to watch a variety of products being demonstrated one by one, before being offered an exclusive discounted price to be redeemed within a short time period. This creates that urgency that a prospective customer may need to do business with you.

Brands outside of TikTok can host live shopping events too, and collaborate with influencers to sell exclusive collections during the event while communicating with all the users watching. 

For those in the industry, especially TikTok marketing agencies, finding a way to get businesses on TikTok live is a crucial part of their social media strategy, particularly those in eCommerce, since the platform’s recent Summer Sale event racked up over 276 million live views, nearly 135 million views on associated hashtags – that’s a huge market that you are currently leaving to your competitors!

A feature that TikTok live shopping has that trumps its predecessor, QVC, is the live chat feature. This means that users can ask questions and request more detail in real time, allowing the seller to respond and convince the user to purchase; this is an effective tool for business owners to leverage, since it helps the prospective customer to know, like, and trust you – the three fundamentals of sale 

Live shopping so far

Of course, live shopping on TikTok hasn’t just launched in the UK, but across the world. It was first launched in China, where the owners of TikTok, ByteDance, reside. Here, they launched live shopping on China’s sister app of TikTok, Douyin, where these lives turned into significant events that were hugely successful for brands, creators and the app itself. In fact, according to Statista, in 2021, via live broadcast on the platform, Douyin generated $119 billion worth of product sales. 

While shopping on social media has been part of Instagram, TikTok and YouTube’s strategy for a while now, live shopping is a very different experience,  that proves itself to be more profitable than all of its predecessors.

As it is a relatively new feature, brands will likely need guidance when taking part in live shopping. A TikTok marketing agency would be best suited to provide the insight needed to maximise sales and boost that bottom line. 

It launched in the UK with an event called ‘On Trend’ last December, and has become increasingly common with more and more creators opting for live shopping as a way to monetise their following.

How to use live shopping for your business

Every business will use live shopping differently and there are lots of ways to showcase products without coming across too sales focused, unless that’s the goal. 

Here are some of the ways that brands can utilise live shopping on TikTok for some inspiration on how to get started:

  • Live demonstrations
  • Behind the scenes of the business
  • Special guests
  • New product releases
  • Live model runways
  • Live manufacturing

Although the focus of the event will be on the products, brands should also consider the ways in which they present them. For example, a small business that sells crystals might host a calming session describing the benefits of each crystal, whereas a business selling leggings might host an excitable try on haul of all their different products. 

Tips and tricks 

To make the live as engaging as possible, ensuring the highest return, businesses should use the features that TikTok provides, which are effective in boosting the viewing time, whilst helping to stop the user from scrolling past – remember, the app itself is built upon an immediate gratitification culture, so hooks must be used throughout for a live stream to be profitable on a usually-short-form-focussed app, like TikTok. 

This could include inviting a co-host to join the live to perhaps share their own experience of using the products or entertain watchers. This is a great technique to social proof the product with real stories in the most raw and authentic manner, while someone other than the business owner – in this case, a happy customer – flies the flag for the business.

When there is a large audience tuned in, the comments can become overwhelming and sometimes surly. To avoid this, consider getting a moderator to monitor the chat and ensure that everyone in there is following the rules without disrupting the live. 

Plan the time carefully. For businesses in the UK, the best time to go live would likely be in the evening, as this is when users are relaxing after work and scrolling on their phones. Planning the event ahead of time also gives users notifications about the event and could improve attendance. 

Will it take off in the UK?

There has been some dispute over whether TikTok live shopping will be truly successful, not only in the UK but across the world, as TikTok cancelled its plans to expand live shopping across Europe following disappointing results in the UK. 

With any new feature, it can take some time for the platform to get it right, and TikTok continues to run live shopping in the UK and China for now. 

Referencing some incredibly profitable case studies, it is still worth utilising the TikTok live feature as this will help to boost brand awareness and sales while improvements are made to the platform. It can still be a great way to communicate with your customers and promote your products online, all free of charge!

What the future holds for live eCommerce events is hard to tell right now – but there’s no doubt that the social media giants will continue to push this for the benefit of both brands and creators. It may take some time for users to understand the concept of live shopping, and brands will have to test different styles to find the one that works for their audience. 

If you’re a brand looking to utilise the TikTok shop, get in touch with a TikTok marketing agency to find out how your business can start reaping the benefits of online shopping now. Or, if you feel confident enough to navigate it alone, then hopefully this article will have provided some useful insight in how to get started. 

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