Words by Aref Yehia, Head of Business Partnerships for Retail & E-Commerce, Global Business Solutions, MENA – TikTok
The dizzying journey of commerce has evolved over the course of thousands of years, from the barter of cattle to the development of currencies, trade routes and corporations, to new shopping and digital payment technologies. This history of commerce is, in many ways, a history of the world and the starting point is important because commerce is ingrained at the heart of the human experience, but how we experience it has fundamentally changed.
In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region alone, the retail commerce market is currently estimated to be worth $1 trillion – with digital platforms serving up to 40 percent of the total retail spend, according to MENA e-commerce platform Zbooni. But what has certainly come full circle is the spotlight on the community. Once upon a time, commerce was a limited but intimate experience between people – shaped by the size of the community, the bare necessities of goods, and the direct nature of the real-life marketplace where people could build connections, converse and create a support system built on trust.
However, as scale, reach and market share became the prominent drivers of commerce, they gradually erased the most essential part of the transaction: the community. The idea that commerce is ingrained at the heart of the human experience eventually faded into corporate archives. That is the reason why today – when consumers can buy just about anything from anywhere across the globe – an overwhelming number of brands are turning to a platform where the blend of community, entertainment and shopping is creating a unique commercial ecosystem where purchase decisions are influenced by authentic people and digital communities, rather than an elevated individual or corporation.
TikTok is the enabler of community ‘intimacy’ at scale. However, the key difference today is that the legion of TikTok users – the community – is no longer a commodity for brands to benefit from, but the actual drivers of commerce. That’s what we call Community Commerce. While TikTok is where this community lives, users have been building the blueprint of digital Community Commerce for some time, shifting its dynamics and redefining the type of experience they desire – in many ways harking back to the time when commerce
was a shared system built on trust.
The appeal of Community Commerce for companies is simple: leaning in on a platform where the community is at the center of the shopping experience that can amplify brands in a powerful new way. Consider the case of Itsu, for instance. When creator Emily Mariko began the #salmonricebowl TikTok trend, the hashtag hit 600 million views in a couple of weeks and sent sales of Itsu’s seaweed thins soaring by more than 100%. Or the case of Maybelline ‘Sky High’ mascara selling out four times over the course of two weeks, driven by TikTok trends.
This is the home truth about how commerce thrives today.
Community plays an oversized role in purchase decisions today, and the amount of content uploaded every day on TikTok shows that people want to be entertained – in fact, it’s the very reason for 75% of the people who go to TikTok. Catering to that community is one of the essential functions of commerce today – moving towards an experience that entertains, enables and connects, and allows for product discovery and transaction at rapid speed. With the community at the center, the archetypal conversion funnel has also collapsed and transformed itself into a flywheel on TikTok, with two key benefits: an accelerated journey where shoppers can traverse the entire process in one step or better yet skip some of them, and an engine that powers itself and is in a constant feedback loop.
That’s why TikTok’s Creator-centric content has created more targeted and dynamic opportunities for brands to build moments of discovery, awareness and buzz: the special kind of word-of-mouth marketing that is fueled by TikTok creators simply has no other alternatives and allows brands or products to take off overnight. With the right kind of tactical deployment, this is an opportunity that no brand can afford to miss. The new pathway to purchase for brands is led by spontaneous product discovery and inspiration. That’s why every moment on TikTok is an exceptional opportunity for conversion for any brand able to attract and retain the community’s attention, and requires a thorough understanding of four key pillars.
First, on TikTok, it only takes about 15 seconds to introduce millions of people to a product or brand – and that comes with the bonus of the community not only becoming aware but also ready to consider a purchase, thanks to the authenticity that lies at the heart of entertainment on TikTok. In addition, on the For You Page, Active Awareness is tied to the hyper-relevance of the content being served on TikTok, showing users videos that they’re more likely to engage with and share. This is an excellent accelerator for Community Commerce: because users get product recommendations from Creators they trust, they tend to act more quickly on their desire to purchase, and subsequently joyfully share their discoveries – perpetuating word of mouth. Thus, tapping into the community can convert the joy of discovery into both impulse and planned purchases for brands.
Secondly, content on TikTok is deeply immersive but rooted in unfiltered reality, and users gain a brand’s trust when they interact with it through authentic content. That’s why we see every day that spontaneous content created by like-minded individuals gets far better conversion than an ad-led campaign. Such content drives trust and higher consideration amongst shoppers, creating awareness to the point of action.
Lastly, rapid speed is one of the signature foundations of Community Commerce, and that’s what distinguishes it the most from e-commerce. Users abandoning their loaded online shopping carts while waiting for check out – termed Cart Drop Out – is every marketer’s worst nightmare. Community Commerce on TikTok takes a totally different approach because communities give confidence to each other to hit that ‘buy’ button through reviews and recommendations; there is no need for any external validation.
According to a recent study by Behave, that overall journey leads to a frictionless shopping experience accompanied by more joy and confidence. So, what’s the best way of keeping your finger on the trend pulse and connecting to the world of opportunities in Community Commerce? Be at the intersection of community, shopping, and entertainment – on a platform built by the community, for the community.
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