TikTok for retailers: how businesses can benefit from the trendy platform

There are only silly videos on TikTok? Quite the contrary in fact! TikTok offers huge potential for retailers. “TikTok is a platform where you can unleash your brand's creative side.” With these words, the social media platform invites firms to take part in its “TikTok For Business” programme. This may come as a surprise, because many associate TikTok more with funny video clips of Generation Z than with a serious advertising platform. But the social network has undergone a major evolution in recent years, making TikTok interesting for retailers in a wide range of industries, including the paper, office supplies and stationery industry.

Reaching millions of people

There is hardly any big brand that is not represented on TikTok. But small and medium-sized paper, office supplies and stationery companies also benefit from having a presence on TikTok. Firstly, the platform provides open access to around 690 million people a month. Secondly, the TikTok algorithm regularly pushes even small accounts to the top of the views, so that even smaller retailers have a good chance of raising their profile and reaching potential customers via social commerce. 

TikTok for retailers: how businesses can use the platform

The TikTok Ads Manager with its advertising offers is explicitly aimed at SMEs, which can use it to increase brand awareness among potential customers. TikTok offers various advertising formats for this purpose. 

Branded Hashtag Challenges 

TikTok thrives on challenges and they consistently generate a lot of views and a high degree of engagement. With Branded Hashtag Challenges, firms can place their challenges prominently on the discovery page for three to six days to encourage participation. According to TikTok, the average engagement rate for these formats is 8.5%. 

In-Feed Ads and Top Views

In-feed ads are short full-screen promotional videos. They are prominently featured on the “For You” feed. They look like normal TikToks, but their placement allows them to reach a lot more people directly. The 60-second Top Views, which also generate a lot of attention in full-screen mode, work in a similar way. 

Branded Effects 

Effects like stickers or filters draw more attention to an ad. Retailers can create their own effects with branded effects and even use them to market their products. For example, if a stationery retailer introduces a new colour palette, these colours can be presented to the public using branded effects. 

Brand Takeover 

This full-screen ad appears when someone opens the app. It can be a three-second image or a short GIF. These ads can also be linked to your profile page. 

TikTok Hub for SMEs

For newcomers, the platform also offers a hub for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Germany. There, retailers can find tips on how best to create campaigns for the platform and develop a lively exchange of news and views with the community. 

Tips for advertising on TikTok 


TikTok's motto is “Don’t make ads. Make TikToks!” Because unlike on Instagram or Facebook, high-quality ads aren’t very popular on TikTok. Spontaneous, authentic clips are much better received. Businesses can create successful ads if they do the following:  

  • shoot their videos vertically
  • include popular hashtags, challenges or dances in their ads
  • work with TikTok Creator to better reach their target audience 
  • upload new ad content regularly

Besides ad formats, however, TikTok has already set the stage for a new shopping experience: shoppable live videos. 

Shoppable live videos: the format of the future

In a pilot with US retail chain Walmart, TikTok trialled the format for the first time in December 2020 – and it exceeded all expectations. Walmart’s video, in which influencers showed their wardrobes and viewers could buy Walmart products directly, generated seven times more views than expected. Not surprisingly, Walmart repeated the event as early as March 2021. TikTok is expected to roll out the feature to more businesses soon. 

Conclusion: TikTok is definitely worthwhile for retailers

TikTok already offers businesses many ways to reach potential customers and will certainly expand its social commerce offerings in the future. SMEs in particular can reach many people via the platform, expand their online presence, and even generate sales. Retailers who position themselves here at an early stage will end up benefitting in the long run. 

About the author:

BASIC thinking is an online magazine and is one of the widest reaching tech platforms in German-speaking countries. The magazine reports about social media, marketing, and business topics daily. This article was written by Christina Widner from BASIC thinking GmbH.

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