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Tik Tok: why retailers need to master it to reach Gen Z

Lauretta Roberts
28 October 2019

Just as retail seems to have mastered millennials, along comes Gen Z and a whole new ball game. This generation (18-25 year olds) is the first to have lived their entire lives in the digital era and as such they have their own behaviours, their own set of values and their own preferred media channels.

It is estimated that Gen Z spend around 3.4 hours a day on social media and just one hour a day watching television. And while millennials are posting preening selfies on Instagram and following their favourite celebrities and influencers while looking for inspiration on self-improvement and purchasing decisions, Gen Z are hanging out in the little understood world of Tik Tok.

Originated in China, Tik Tok throws all the accepted norms of social media out of the window. This short-form video platform (content ranges from 15 seconds to one minute in length) is entirely built around virality.

Successful Tik Tok content has nothing to do with popularity and likes, but everything to do with creativity. The more engaging your video, the more it will be shown to Tik Tok users and the holy grail is to make it onto the “Popular Page” where you can be sure of reaching a vast audience, and one which is set to be one of the most influential consumer groups on the planet.

Tik Tok’s algorithm can seem like something of a mystery. In essence it doesn’t care whether you are Versace or a VSCO Girl (one of the many Tik Tok tribes), if your content is good and is being engaged with, it will be widely served, if it isn’t, it will not.

It’s crucial, therefore, that you get it right as you won’t necessarily know if your video is being watched or not. London-based Gen Z marketing agency Fanbytes specialises in helping brands achieve success on Tik Tok. Its services include successfully onboarding brands on to the platform, helping them scale authentically (since Tik Tok is not based on gaining followers then there are no short cuts such as buying them) and ensuring brands make use of the platform’s full functionality, such as its raft of filters, lenses and transition features that help create more visually appealing content.

Fanbytes says that some 60% of Tik Tok users are under the age of 30 (with 50% under 24) and the platform is experiencing explosive growth with 500m active monthly users worldwide. Last year it was downloaded more times that Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat racking up 1.27 billion downloads.

The agency, which has worked with some of the biggest names in fashion and consumer goods from Boohoo to Missguided and McDonald’s, has created a guide for brands to cracking Tik Tok, which can be downloaded here.

What seems key is that the content for Tik Tok needs to be bespoke to succeed. Creating a cross-platform social campaign and simply reformatting for Instagram, Facebook, Youtube and Tik Tok is not going to cut it. Equally you have to commit by posting frequently and you need to think carefully about your choice of influencer, if you go down that route. As well as creativity, authenticity is the name of the game for Tik Tok content and if users feel they are simply being sold to without any value being added then the content will tank and not be widely shown.

It’s another world for retailers to get to know and another demand for their marketing departments, but getting it right could be a crucial step in future proofing their businesses and attracting a new generation of committed customers.

Top tips for Tik Tok success:

  1. Set aside what you thought you knew about slaying social media: this has nothing to do with followers and likes and everything to do with creativity and authenticity
  2. Make the most of the platform’s multitude of lenses, filters and transition tools to make your content as visually appealing as possible
  3. Success on Tik Tok requires daily posting to encourage returning traffic, which will send your content up the rankings
  4. Target your tribes (see below). There are a raft of sub-cultures popping up on Tik Tok who have their own rules, values and likes. Work out which ones you want to target and tailor your content appropriately
  5. Don’t blatantly sell; be sure to use your content to add value. Tik Tokkers are not used to being bombarded with ads and will not reward you with a view if your content lacks integrity

For more download the Fanbytes Guide to How Retailers Can Get Started on Tik Tok

Tik Tok tribes to know

These are just some of the tribes to be born out of Tik Tok. Do your homework and make sure you know who you are targeting.

VSCO Girls:brand-driven eco-warriers. VSCO girls dress and accessorize in ways that make themselves indistinguishable from each other. For the most part they are slim, white, teenagers with a passion for “eco-friendly” accessories such as metal straws, Hydroflask water bottles, Birkenstock sandals, Crocs and hair scrunchies. The general aesthetic is Socal beach-y.

eGirls: the eGirl is the ultimate cool girl and probably dismisses the VSCO Girls as “basic”. eGirls have a distinctly 90s nonchalance about them and are often identifiable by their off-beat make-up featuring heavy black eyeliner with drawn-on hearts, dots and Xs under the eyes. Noses are often pierced and if they’re not wearing beanies their hair is worn in bunches or adorned with hair clips. The male counterpart is the skater-boy or eBoy.

Softboi: what the Millennials might call a hipster, based on his appearance comprising a beard, scruffy clothing and beanie hat. This emotionally charged young man is known for being “woke” and for his old school activities such as listening to vinyl records, drinking craft beer and smoking cigarettes. On the downside is also known for emotional immaturity, which can lead to him “ghosting” friends and girlfriends and generally being a poor communicator.

This content was produced in partnership with Fanbytes.

Main image: Fanbytes-created content for Aurora.

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