Retail in Asia


EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with entertainment platform phenomenon TikTok

Source: TikTok

TikTok saw exponential growth in recent years. App Annie predicts that the platform will surpass 1.5 billion active users in 2022. It is one of the fastest growing apps in the world and it has not gone unnoticed by the brands.

In partnership with FUTR Asia, Retail in Asia had the pleasure to interview Arjun Sarwal, Head of SEA Regional Business, Global Business Solutions, TikTok. Together we discussed the recent growth of the platform, Shoppertainment, working with influencers and shopping trends.

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RiA: The global pandemic is responsible for people’s thirst for a new form of entertainment. TikTok’s user base increased dramatically over the last year and a half. Can you elaborate on this upward trend and the reasons behind TikTok’s success?

Arjun: TikTok is “entertainment that connects”.  People come to TikTok to have fun, spread joy, and be entertained. The power of our platform lies in the intersectionality of video, social, and entertainment. 

People are looking for content that entertains. When they can’t find it, they create it for themselves. On TikTok, 1 in every 2 users have created content in the past 30 days. The high levels of engagement and creation on our platform owe to these factors; TikTok is sound-on, mobile-first, vertical, creative, authentic, diverse in content and easy to use.

We continue to see high levels of engagement on TikTok. In SEA, more than 240 million people come to TikTok every month to be entertained, inspired, or discover something new, and around 800M videos are created monthly.

Source: TikTok

In fact, based on the recent Kantar Media Reaction report, TikTok was ranked the #1 most preferred media by digital consumers, showing that in terms of ad equity, people prefer ads on TikTok. Today, brands have become an entertaining part of the TikTok experience and TikTok is a key component of marketing plans to drive business outcomes.

RiA: The platform is dominated by content creators. How can brands leverage TikTok to engage with customers in a meaningful way?

Arjun: First, brands need to engage with customers through Shoppertainment, which is bringing entertainment into commerce. According to a GlobalWebIndex study, 1 in 3 consumers say it’s important for them to be entertained during the purchasing process. When brands focus on entertaining rather than treating the audience as just another consumer, they can connect with them on their terms and in turn, sell products. 

Using joyful content and not intrusive ads, shopping is transformed into an experience that’s rooted in discovery and entertaining content, creating unparalleled opportunities for brands to capture consumers’ attention. 

Our community is also primed to engage and share branded content as we’re fostering a lean-in community that embraces brands as much as they do music, trends, interests and more. 

My second recommendation is to tap into the power of creators. There’s no better way to inject authenticity and entertainment into branded content than through creators, who know the platform and our users best. Brands can work with creators to amplify their brand message when using our suite of solutions like Hashtag Challenges and In-Feed Ads, injecting authenticity to campaigns. 

Take the case of Maybelline Vietnam, which recently won 3 awards at MMA 2021. To promote its hero brand of makeup, SuperStay, the brand launched its “We are unstoppable. We fear nothing” (Mấy bé Lì. Chẳng sợ gì) campaign. The brand injected entertainment and fun to reach younger audiences with its very own music video and track titled “MẤY BÉ LÌ”. Paired with a Branded Effect, Maybelline was able to convey its brand message through music and dance. 

Maybelline also worked with local creators to drum up excitement and share the initial set of campaign videos with their followers. On the back of a total of 75,000 videos submitted, #Maybeli reached a massive 19M TikTok users in Vietnam. To top it off, it generated 173M video views, while brand preference increased by 141.26 percent.

The brand not only drove awareness and inspiration, but also used retargeting to usher audiences down the sales funnel. By featuring multiple products while entertaining users, the brand also drove direct e-commerce sales, resulting in SuperStay products selling out in 4 minutes, 790 percent more sales of SuperStay products and a 32.4 percent lift in online sales year-on-year. 

RiA: #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt has gotten more than 5 billion views on TikTok. What are TikTok users buying in SEA? Can you tell us more about their shopping habits? Have you noticed a shift during the pandemic?

Arjun: This year, we see 5 big trends about shopping habits:

There is a need for Joy

According to a commissioned survey conducted by Nielsen IQ, 70 percent of our users say they come to our platform to seek joy.  Our users prefer the content vibe on TikTok vs other platforms and come to TikTok to lift their spirits, so creating joyful content on the platform is the first step to being discovered.  

Buying online is the new normal

Consumers have demonstrated that the pandemic has fundamentally transformed the way they shop and this will continue as we adapt to the new normal. Research by Kantar shows that 1 in 3 digital service consumers started buying online due to lockdowns, and 67 percent of marketers expect the shift to eCommerce to be permanent (WARC Marketer’s Toolkit 2021).

Discovering and buying new things through videos 

As buying online becomes the new normal, users love to discover and buy through short-form videos. According to a commissioned study with Nielsen, 83 percent of users prefer to see videos from brands over images or text posts. We also see TikTok videos with interactive and fun elements such as branded effects or gamified effects see great traction with consumers. 

Our unique For You feed, powered by a content graph and personalised for each user, fuels discovery like no other platform. From clearing shelves to #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt, people are not only talking about trends from TikTok, they’re taking action. On TikTok, 67 percent of users discover new brands and products they have never thought of before (TikTok commissioned study by Nielsen, June 2020)

The compelling combination of entertaining video content and shopping that happens only on TikTok is setting a new standard for what online shopping experiences can be.

Excited and empowered for Mega Sales 

Especially during big sales moments like the Mega Sales season here in SEA, we see that TikTok users are in a joyful mindset and ready to discover and shop for good deals. A survey of TikTok users by Toluna shows 67 percent of users feel happy and excited about the Mega Sales season. In fact, TikTok launched the “Win Mega Sales with Joy” campaign to help advertisers leverage the increase in shopping appetite and answer consumers’ need for joy this season. Advertisers can visit to uncover guides, best practices and success stories on how they can make the most of the remaining Mega Sales days with joy on TikTok.

Being entertained with Shoppertainment  

Increasingly, customers want to shop while being entertained and this is a trend that will dominate through 2021 and beyond. 1 in 3 consumers say it’s important for them to be entertained during the purchasing process (GlobalWebIndex, Connecting The Dots Report, Global, 2021). 44 percent of our users also say they want branded content to be fun and entertaining (TikTok Marketing Science Global Retail Path-To-Purchase Study conducted by Material, August 2021). 

RiA: The mega sales season is in full swing. Can you share an example of a successful campaign in SEA in 2021?

Arjun: Consumer products company, Colgate, wanted to reach its audience effectively and in the most relevant way during the 9.9 Mega Sales Day. 

Colgate created a Mega moment for the 9.9 Mega Sales day. Users first discovered the brand through engaging ads and were ushered to entertaining experiences like TikTok Lucky Draw and TikTok LIVE. These experiences then led them to Colgate’s ecommerce platforms to discover products and drive purchases in a few clicks!

It gained over 214.8 million total impressions, which led to 1.4 million unique visitors to TikTok Mega Mall. Over 75,600 people gravitated to TikTok Lucky Draw and 8,000 vouchers were won. The exuberant TikTok livestreams also proved to be a big draw as it garnered over 126,000 LIVE watch count.

Source: TikTok

The fun experience ensured that Colgate not just reached its audience, but also helped the brand maximise reach and relevance with its consumers during the 9.9 Mega Sales period. You can read more about Colgate’s success here

RiA: From fashion to tech accessories, some products have seen sales skyrocket after becoming TikTok sensations. How can brands jump on the Live Shopping trend with influencers? 

Arjun: Over the past year, the number of people going live and watching TikTok LIVE has doubled, becoming an integral way for viewers to connect with brands and creators in real time.

There’s no better way to run a livestream than with creators. TikTok creators are the lifeblood of TikTok – they authentically share product reviews, hauls, and other content featuring products and brands they discover and love on TikTok. Brands should leverage them to connect with their consumers on a whole new level. 

According to Influencer Marketing Hub’s report (The State of Influencer Marketing 2020: Benchmark Report, 2020), 51 percent of consumers discover new products and brands through creator content. 

Take Colgate as a case in point of how brands can utilize TikTok LIVE to raise massive brand awareness. During 9.9 mega sales period this year, Colgate utilized TikTok LIVE to engage the TikTok community who tuned in to livestreams hosted by prominent creators. Through the livestreams, TikTok creators such as Cristiana Cruz and Hoang Hon engaged and bonded with Colgate’s audience by turning personal brand stories into shared experiences.

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RiA: TikTok Fashion Month was launched in 2020. Can you tell us more about this annual event and how you collaborated with fashion brands and designers in 2021? 

Arjun: TikTok Fashion Month is a month-long celebration of beauty and fashion inspiration with livestreams, events and contests. This year, we put our creators at the forefront with the Fashion & Beauty Frontrunners list, spotlighting a group of talented and diverse creators we can all look up to and aspire to be.

We continue to raise awareness towards the fashion & beauty space here in SEA, with the launch of the inaugural TikTok FashUP campaign in Vietnam, the first ever online large scaled Fashion event we organized on TikTok in Vietnam, leveraging on our unique position as the home to trends, brands and fashion talents. 

This campaign celebrated TikTok’s commitment to empower and recognise fashion brands and talents alike. The FashUP Icon contest was organised through TikTok’s hashtag challenge, getting fashion brands and talents to create TikToks to be one step closer to being crowned the Fashion, Beauty, Modelling and Fashion Design icons in Vietnam. 

The #TikTokFashUP Hashtag Challenge reached 7.5B video views with over 2.2K top creators & celebrities joining the challenge. The campaign awareness is the highest in 2021.