The infinite loop: TikTok’s unique retail path to purchase

February 10, 2022
On TikTok, brands can build engaging consumer experiences that make shopping exciting and entertaining.
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TikTok is where entertainment and commerce intersect, and it's transforming how brands connect with their audiences, drive purchases and find success. We conducted a global research study with Material to understand TikTok's role in and perceptions across the retail consumer journey (the "Study").¹ The results of the Study highlight that the impact of TikTok is translating outside of the platform and into the real world, reshaping the current path to purchase and driving sales at scale.

Introducing TikTok's infinite loop

The old ways of the traditional marketing funnel are growing outdated and irrelevant in today's constantly-evolving world where community, shopping, and entertainment sync. Today's consumers rarely go from the top to the bottom of the traditional funnel to make a purchase. They often enter, exit, and re-enter at different stages of the purchase journey based on their needs and wants. Additionally, the funnel often leads consumers to make one-time purchases, failing to help brands nourish long-lasting and meaningful relationships with consumers.

But instead of trying to force consumers onto the linear purchase path of the past, TikTok's path to success has relied on putting the power into our users' hands, building around their behaviors, and following their lead.

By listening to the TikTok community, we meet users where they want to be met, and it's not in the funnel. Rather, it is an infinite loop with no start or end point, and it empowers brands to establish more meaningful relationships with consumers that result in communities of brand loyalists, repeat purchases, and greater spending.

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By running on hyper-relevant, personalized content across TikTok—based on users’ preferences and interests—the loop brings commerce that entertains. On TikTok, brands can build engaging consumer experiences that make shopping exciting and entertaining. According to the Study, 44% of daily TikTok users want branded content to be fun and entertaining.

The infinite loop is driven by the TikTok community’s creativity and willingness to participate. When our community connects and creates together, they present real brand opportunities, drive massive engagement, help products sell out and lead brands to success. The Study also showed that TikTok users are 1.4x more likely than other platform users to say posting on TikTok allows them to show their creativity.

The infinite loop is also fueled by our community's desire to constantly learn and discover something new.

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Lastly, the infinite loop accelerates through the TikTok community's willingness to buy something immediately after they discover it. According to the Study, TikTokers are 1.5x more likely to immediately go out and buy something they discovered on the platform compared to other platforms' users.

This paradigm shift in the retail journey is creating real impact. When consumers see brands authentically on TikTok, they're empowered to put more trust and more loyalty into the brand. As a result, the Study showed that people spend more money when TikTok is a part of the retail journey.

Now, let's dive into why that is. Here are the three major themes of TikTok's path to purchase that drive results:

1. TikTok impacts every stage of the purchase journey

TikTok is changing the marketing landscape by driving discovery, consideration, and purchases in novel ways. Compared to other platforms, TikTok is leading at every stage of the retail journey—discovery, consideration and purchase.

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2. TikTok’s influence continues after the purchase

And the magic of TikTok continues in the post-purchase stages, propelled by our users' boundless creativity and their willingness to participate in the TikTok experience. They come to our platform to review the products they're excited about by creating content like unboxing, how-to, and tutorial videos—sparking a new kind of word-of-mouth marketing that spreads like wildfire. Within the app, this leads to communities of brand advocates that are rooted in loyalty and drive engagement. Off the app, TikTok's influence shows up far and wide. The "As Seen on TV" trope of the past has morphed into products being labeled "As Seen on TikTok"—from Barnes and Nobles' #BookTok section to Amazon's "Internet Famous" category.

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3. TikTok’s consumer journeys are powered by joy

Millions of people come to our platform every day for different reasons: to find something new, to be entertained, to be inspired, or to be part of a community. But the one feeling that unites them all? Joy.

TikTok lifts users up through the power of positive feelings, which have an undeniable impact on their purchases and relationships with brands as well. They want brands to create experiences and campaigns on the platform that are refreshing, and the feelings of joy and euphoria stay with them even after they've purchased the product. This long-lasting wave of positivity is unique to TikTok.

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How brands can drive the biggest results on TikTok

There’s room for everybody on TikTok’s infinite loop, and brands that join in on the fun will see real results. We want to empower brands to succeed and participate on TikTok, and there are a number of ways to get started:

Build your brand’s presence: The brands that see massive results on TikTok don’t just show up when they have something to sell. Instead, develop a consistent presence by focusing on your brand’s role as a creator of entertainment. Leverage your TikTok Business Account to create a home for your brand on the platform, establish your unique brand voice, and build a community.

Integrate natively with user experiences: To pull TikTok users into your brand, it’s important to align your content with their language and interests. In-feed ad formats are perfect to help your brand show up natively within the app. Use TopView to create top-of-mind awareness and mass discovery and In-Feed Ads to build branded content that helps you drive business goals from discovery to action.

Partner with TikTok Creators: Collaborating with Creators is a great way to get started on TikTok. They’ll help you learn the lingo and culture, connect with their dedicated audiences, and build meaningful relationships rooted in loyalty. Tap into the TikTok Creator Marketplace to find the right Creator for your brand's next campaign.²

Harness the power of trends: Trends are an integral part of the TikTok experience. Brands can be part of the latest trend on the platform, and they can put their own spin on a TikTok trend to educate, engage, activate, and sustain consumers in a way that blends seamlessly into the TikTok culture. Leverage the Trend Discovery Tool to know what's on your audience's mind, what's hot in your vertical, and what's going viral on TikTok in your part of the world in real-time.

Engage and collaborate with the community: TikTok users love to create and engage with brands. On our platform, engagement takes many forms, and brands are invited to explore and tap into every side of the conversation. Join the conversation, create Duets with users, and respond to their comments through videos to spark participation and drive meaningful relationships. Encouraging co-creation through Branded Hashtag Challenges or Branded Effects makes collaboration even more interactive.

Click below to read more about TikTok's results-driving and audience-growing retail path to purchase. Glad we could loop you in!

1. Source: TikTok Marketing Science Global Retail Path To Purchase Study 2021 conducted by Material

2.  For detailed information about TikTok's branded content toggle and our policies regarding what can be posted as branded content on TikTok, please refer to our Branded Content Policy here.