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Pressure to TikTok is Growing

Here are some tips to keep you from falling on your face.

According to Matt Cleary, TikTok’s Director of Retail and Dining Global Business Solutions (and the fact that they have someone with this title tells you a lot), you’re not alone if you can’t figure out what-in-the-heck to do to market your store on TikTok. This is a question he gets a lot apparently, but he has some suggestions for retailers, offered during his interview just prior to the National Retail Federation (NRF) Retail Converge event in June.

His first suggestion is that if you can’t figure out something authentic to do, dig deeper. He points out that Gen Z is “a very discerning audience. They can sniff out when a brand is not being authentic.” He pointed out that Aerie’s viral leggings are a great example of getting it right.

Aerie didn’t start the promotion. TikTok influencer Hanna Schlenker, with 878,000 followers, wore the leggings in her own, uncompensated video. But when the views racked up thousands of comments, Aerie was paying attention. From there, Aerie built on that exposure, creating a campaign that built on the exposure Shlenker had created, and using the same vibe.

So that’s tip number 1: Look for real needs - just pay attention! - and then build on what you learn.

Lesson #2: Don’t try to act like you’re Gen Z if you’re not. Being authentic means being yourself. Youtuber Hot & Flashy produces makeup videos for women over 50 (her tagline is “Rocking the menopause one hot flash at a time), and she’s unapologetic about it. Her crossover to TikTok has been highly successful, not just with her target demographic, but with young makeup enthusiasts who are interested in what to pay attention to right now. 

Lesson #3: Be in it for the community. Gen Z has practically invented the idea of community buying. They rely on their peers for ideas and advice, and they buy the brands that work for their peers. The joy of the hunt - which has always been part of the retail experience - is now the joy of the online, shared-with-all-my-friends-and-a-bunch-of-people-I-don’t-even-know hunt. Getting your product in front of someone who can share an authentic, emotional reaction — on camera — is a big part of TikTok success.

Lesson #4: Quality sells to Gen Z. As Katie Thomas, an executive at the Kearney Consumer Institute says, “Ultimately, the product has to deliver on quality. You can’t make something go viral. You can make great products.” Brands that consistently deliver high-quality products and take service seriously get called out on TikTok. Of course, the brands who don’t get called out too. 

So don’t go on TikTok trying to create a trend. Just do your authentic, high-quality best every day. When you do that, a trend may find you. And that’s something worth making a happy-dance video for.