Ever since young Americans began their exodus from commercial television to streaming services and social media, advertisers have searched for the digital equivalent of home shopping channels, a place online where users might engage with ads rather than just quickly clicking past them.
Now, they think they’re closer to finding this holy grail of marketing, and it doesn’t look anything like QVC.
Welcome to the holiday shopping season on TikTok, where retailers are present like never before, their authentic-seeming advertisements dropped in between dances, confessionals, comedy routines and makeovers.
Young men and women showcase shimmering American Eagle tops as pulsating music plays in videos designed to look as though they were filmed in the 1990s. A woman in a unicorn onesie retrieves a specific brand of cookies at Target to the tune of “Jingle Bell Rock.” A home chef mixes and bakes cinnamon apple cakes from Walmart in 30 seconds, displaying a blue bag from the retailer.
This kind of advertising presence would have been unfathomable for retailers last year, when President Donald J. Trump was threatening to ban TikTok because of its Chinese parent company and marketers were still struggling to figure out how to best reach the platform’s users. But President Biden revoked the executive order in June, and TikTok crossed one billion monthly users in September. As a result, a regular stream of products, from leggings to carpet cleaners, have gone viral on the platform this year, often accompanied by the hashtag #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt, which has been viewed more than seven billion times.
TikTok has been working to make the platform more lucrative for marketers and the creators they work with. And TikTok’s popularity with Generation Z and millennials, who are lured by its addictive algorithm and its setup as an entertainment destination versus a social network, has made the appeal undeniable for retailers.
“The growth that we’ve seen is insane,” said Krishna Subramanian, a founder of the influencer marketing firm Captiv8, where roughly a dozen employees are focused on TikTok. “Brands have moved from just testing out TikTok to making it a budget line item or creating dedicated campaigns for TikTok specifically.”
Since August, at least 18 public retail brands, in apparel, footwear, makeup and accessories, have referred to their efforts on TikTok on calls with analysts and investors. Competitors have also taken notice. Instagram, for instance, has developed a TikTok-like …….