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Embracing community commerce to win Black Friday, by TikTok’s Aref Yehia

By Aref Yehia, Head of Retail & E-Commerce, TikTok Global Business Solutions, METAP.

“Do you have enough inventory to avoid running out of stock?” That’s actually one of the first questions to consider when you kickstart your brand’s journey on TikTok.

In this past year, there has been a lot of talk about sold out retailers and empty shelves because of #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt. These won’t fit in an op-ed. A quick search would bring you the story of how Finland ran short on Feta cheese because of the Feta Pasta TikTok sensation. A similar search would reveal global media coverage of when brands that went viral on TikTok were back in stock, including American Eagle’s leggings, KVD Beauty’s Good Apple foundation and many more. While I wish we could take credit for it, #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt was created by the TikTok community and has crossed over 5.4 billion views to date.

So how come this is happening primarily on TikTok? What’s the secret sauce behind this phenomenon? We believe the answer is Community Commerce. This is what we call these products based viral tends.

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These accelerated commerce transactions are driven by word-of-mouth among communities of content creators on the platform. This goes back to the early days of commerce, where the exchanges happened primarily within tribes. Commerce was an intimate experience, from person to person in smaller communities where they built connections and trust. TikTok today offers that communal intimacy – at scale. This is a direct outcome of how the For You Page operates and how the algorithm is based on a content graph, that serves hyper-personalized content. A content graph set-up leveraging smart recommendations results in people with common passions gathering, virtually and across geographies, to exchange information and reviews about products or brands that they are likely to be interested in. This is far more powerful in relation to commerce than a social graph, where your feed is based on family, friends and connections stemming from personal networks. Surely brands can appear on social media platforms, but advertising there sells to consumers, rather than enabling them to participate in the creation of the content themselves. On TikTok, content creators are the ones who use the App best to tell stories about the brands that they want to share with the world. Creators within communities are in a very different league than generic, paid-to-promote ‘influencers’ that don’t garner the same levels of trust. Community Commerce is about entertaining, compelling content that features brands in such a native and authentic way, and being served to the right audiences, resulting directly in sales.

This is why we have started moving away from the traditional phased approach of a marketing funnel and more towards a flywheel. We refer to a flywheel of active awareness, consideration, and conversion because TikTokers can go from discovering a brand to buying it almost immediately when it’s presented to them authentically. Ahead of the busiest sales period of the year, with Black Friday coming up, our Retail & E-Commerce team’s mission is to work with partners to help them embrace the phenomenon of Community Commerce. So long as a brand is willing to embrace a genuine, almost organic tone of voice and working with TikTok creators, the rest becomes effortless and is on us. Our platform has been designed to be easy to use and results in efficient content creations, even for the biggest brands in the world. Little time or money is needed to produce compelling videos – just a bit of talent and authenticity. By connecting the right brands with the right ideas for Black Friday and the right creators, we can then leverage the best performance marketing tools in our suite of advertising solutions to bring these creator-led assets to the right audiences and drive conversion. So what’s the catch?

In full transparency, it’s potential out-of-stock situations. Community Commerce is less about the media investment you’re planning and more about how prepared you are (both mentally and stock-wise) to have your products fly off the shelves. But that’s a good problem to have if you ask most people.