TikTok senior director of e-commerce operations, Patrick Nommensen, said that since TikTok has made it easier for more people to discover food brands, the next logical step was to allow them to sell on the platform.
“There will also be a huge opportunity for new food brands looking for a springboard to market, and I am excited to see more fresh products available on the platform,” Nommensen said.
The ‘natural evolution’
“It’s exciting, and I would say it’s a natural evolution [for social media],” Arnold Ma, founder of Qumin, a UK-based creative agency that specialises in Chinese audience behaviours, told Inside Retail.
“The traditional ‘shop.com’ structure also started with discretionary items [and then moved on to non-discretionary], and as general consumers move towards a social commerce model, we will also see it move to add more and more non-discretionary items.”
Additionally, social media’s visual nature has long made it a great space for food-related content, Ma said – from the early days of Instagram to #FoodTok on TikTok.
TikTok’s food-related content received more than 26 billion views over the last year, the Retail Gazette reports.
“That kind of content makes people hungry, and hunger makes people impulsive. We’ve already seen TikTok sell long shelf-life packaged food for a long time, and I suspect, as logistics get better in the West, we will see even more fresh food and eventually frozen food,” Ma said.
TikTok’s social commerce advantage
Social platforms have long tried to become e-commerce mainstays, but often struggle to maintain the balance between what users want and what businesses selling online would want.
Ma notes that Facebook and Instagram have tried and failed to properly integrate social commerce into their platforms without “upsetting their current users with legacy attachments and expectations from the platform”.
“Even the shift [from photography] to short-form video on Instagram is causing issues,” Ma said. “Two weeks ago, Kylie Jenner and her sister Kim Kardashian posted a widely shared story on Instagram calling for the service to make ‘Instagram Instagram again and stop trying to be TikTok.’ ”
But Queensland University of Technology lecturer of advertising, marketing, and public relations Dr Shasha Wang says TikTok may have an advantage, as it isn’t trying to change its business to fit social commerce: users are already expecting short-form and live video.
“TikTok is the best at combining localisation and livestream influencer marketing strategies so far,” Wang told Inside Retail. “They aim to provide localised products, including fresh food in a local area, to enhance customer convenience and brand sales. Their move to the non-discretionary space reflects this, particularly with the usage of livestream influencer marketing.”
And while Western social media platforms initially started as a place to catch up with friends and family and have slowly been monetised, TikTok has always billed itself as a place of entertainment that has been driven by influencers – enabling an easy transition to an influencer-led live shopping experience.
This model is widely used in platforms popular in Asia, such as Xiaohongshu (or Little Red Book) and Taobao, but has yet to catch on with Western audiences.
That said, with the rise of Twitch.tv in the gaming and entertainment industry, it’s fair to say younger shoppers in the West are more familiar with spending money through influencer-led live content.