“It’s time to be where your audience is”: 92% of TikTok users are ‘purchase ready’

The TikTok audience is more receptive to influencers and social commerce than on any other platform. Just don’t make your content look like an ad, new research suggests…

TikTok is the platform on every marketer’s lips it seems, as its explosion over the past few years has brought with it opportunities to reach audiences in a new spirit of authenticity.

Far from its days as a “fun” app on which to post lypsyncing efforts and comedy dance acts for entertainment value only, TikTok is now a premier platform to discover, get up to date with the news and learn. And, it would seem, once they’re there, users are willing to shop.

More than half (56%) of US consumers surveyed by M&C Saatchi Performance said they had bought something based on an ad they saw on TikTok – and a further 36% were willing to do so.

For 54% of “purchase ready” TikTok-ers, the strongest motivator to buy was a family member or friend sharing information about the product, but 43% said they were more compelled to purchase when they saw a promotion multiple times.

Trends and influencers were a motivator for a third of users, with 46% of consumers saying they were more likely to engage with an ad or influencer promotion on TikTok than any other platform. Meanwhile 36% of users stated that an ad was more memorable when it featured a trusted celebrity or influencer, though this wasn’t as high as the inclusion of funny content in the ad (58%) or a catchy tune (43%) – perhaps unsurprising given the platform’s origins.

TikTok promoting authenticity?

Speaking to PMW on the release of M&C Saatchi Performance’s report What TikTok users want: the essential guide for performance marketers, Managing Partner Jennifer Sudo stresses the authenticity that TikTok generates as central to its explosive growth over the past three years – and the opportunity this presents for brands.

“During the pandemic there was a shift towards authenticity in general. Initially on TikTok there was still a lot of lip syncing and dance videos, but then you saw other creators producing content just sharing their real life, and during the pandemic a lot of people appreciated that raw authentic video content.

“There’s a lot of niche communities around every single type of interest - people are very open about sharing tips and how to navigate their life. Other platforms are more where people go to connect with family, friends and influencers they follow.

Sudo also notes the “clutter” of paid sponsorship on other platforms. “I don’t feel like they’re as authentic as they were before, and people can see through those posts.”

Make it native – "people don’t go to TikTok to see ads”

Sudo’s advice to prospective TikTok marketers – in line with that authenticity – is to make an ad as native to the platform as possible.

“It’s not enough to just repurpose ads across multiple social platforms – brands are finding you can’t do that on TikTok.

“They may take an ad from elsewhere and put it on TikTok and it doesn’t perform – so in their minds TikTok doesn't work. But the audience is still there – the ads are just not resonating with them. Our focus in the last year is just educating brands – especially those that have not found success – on the reasons why you have to make those ads more native.”

The challenge for any ad on a social platform is to find a way to not only raise awareness of products or services, but to make that push or conversion – whether the objective is for a purchase or traffic, or downloads.

Everyday integration into everyday content

Beyond Sudo’s specific recommendation to ensure where possible direct links to a site within the content using a call to action, if integrations are not available, brands need to think creatively about the right content creators and partnerships, and how products and services can be integrated into those creators’ everyday content.

Content from the perspective of an actual user is key and it pays to ensure that creator content organically integrates a brand’s product or service, through means like product integration or demos.

“If you’re going to work with content creators or influencers, don’t just pay them to promote your product, because people don’t go toTikTok to see ads. They go for content,” insists Sudo.

The demographics of TikTok

M&C Saatchi Performance surveyed 1,000 TikTok-ers late last year to understand their behaviours and consumption on the platform.

Despite nodding to the high proportion of Gen Z and young Millennials using on TikTok – 30% of those questioned were aged between 18 and 24 and a further 29% were 25 to 34-years-old – the research suggests an audience growing in diversity in terms of ‘generation’ demographics, with almost a quarter aged 35 to 44. And while a hybrid use of social media platforms existed for the majority of respondents, just over one in 10 (14%) cited loyalty to content exclusively on TikTok.

The average time spent across TikTok is 89 minutes a day, with 56% of users claiming they’re on the platform at least once a day. The Gen Z audience were found to be “power users”- with 67% saying they log in at least daily, and 42% reporting using TikTok several times a day.

TikTok is fast becoming a news source according to the research, with 74% of those surveyed saying they use the platform to get the latest news and 35% citing it as their primary news source. But users still require validation – while 85% say they trust the news they see on TikTok, just over a third will do independent research elsewhere to “confirm” it.

Searching on TikTok: the new SEO?

Central to the opportunity for marketers on TikTok is the number of people that reach for the platform to discover something new. Over half (53%) say they reach for TikTok first to discover new things, places and people – essentially to search – increasing to 62% for the Gen Z audience.

Most commonly, users turn to TikTok to discover funny or entertaining clips (59%), but 44% reach for the login button for lifestyle tips, 39% for fashion or beauty trends or cleaning tips and 41% for recipes.

TikTok is prioritising its search function, notes Sudo, and there is an opportunity for brands to hit ‘top of the page’ while the functionality still lacks in content compared to the likes of Google.

“Creators are sprinkling keywords into their content as they would for SEO on Google and brands should be doing the same. There’s this desire to see information in a very snackable format. You can go to TikTok easily and do a quick search – if one video doesn’t give you what you need in 15 seconds, you move on to the next one. We’re living in this very on-demand generation where people want info quickly.

“The opportunity is that brands can present to people who want more specific info in a very quick, easy way and you can post different videos to test how you communicate in that way. And if the content isn't there, it's a perfect opportunity for brands to create that content and you show up on the top.”

Will TikTok become a shopping platform?

Sudo notes the growth of TikTok LIVE ad content – where creators can reach their audiences live – which can help drive immediate sales with incentives such as discounts or ‘first come first served’ style promotions, but stresses the need for incentives while still in its infancy.

“It’s dependent on a lot of brands going to the platform and offering that experience - right now it’s just a little too fragmented in my opinion. But there’s different ways to get people to tune into TikTok LIVE experiences – but there needs to be an incentive for people to do it – otherwise why would you do it to buy when you can just go to a website?”

It’s clear from the research that TikTok users go to the platform for content – not necessarily to shop. The jury is out on whether TikTok will become a shopping “destination”, despite increased functionality to help users shop on the platform.

Sudo says: “It’s primarily an entertainment app and it’ll always be an entertainment-first app. But it’s a great way for brands to get exposed to different consumers purely through the content.”