It’s hard to imagine a world without online connections. In the realm of marketing, the impact of online connections and transactions is widely recognised as it cuts across the industry verticals of B2B, B2C, MNCs, and SMBs.
In fact, today, APAC is leading the way as one of the world’s fastest growing regions in digital device adoption, where internet usage is highly focused on mobile devices, according to a report by Mordor Intelligence. The adoption rate of smartphones in APAC is expected to rise to 84% by 2025 – a rate on par with those in North America and Western Europe.
In light of this, an interesting new trend has emerged in the digital space: the evolution of discovery. According to research company Milieu Insight, platforms such as TikTok have transformed beyond a space for entertainment into a powerful force that fuels discovery, becoming a rich resource for users on the hunt for the next big thing across travel, fashion, food, and more.
This change has also triggered the growth of transactions on platforms such as TikTok. A trending hashtag driving this conversion from discovery to sales is #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt, which currently has over 50 billion views.
Many creators and brands in the skincare, make-up, home improvement and crafting industry have since worked the hashtag's growing popularity to their advantage by creating authentic content under it to drive sales.
Moreover, given that TikTok currently boasts a vast – and fast growing – community in APAC, the platform is also seen to be a lucrative one for advertisers looking for cost-effective solutions and reach. According to a report in the Financial Times, quoting VaynerMedia, the platform is at least half the price of its closest competitors.
The cost-effective pricing has been of particular interest to TikTok’s growing base of SMBs across APAC which benefit from the platform’s large and impressional audience.
With SMBs having to juggle between time, resources, and talent, the platform’s holistic suite of solutions and features is a key attraction in which SMBs feel empowered to thrive in a unique and diverse ecosystem of merchants, shoppers, and creators.
Offerings such as the TikTok Creator Marketplace help give the power back to SMBs to connect sellers with the right content creators to drive diverse product marketing projects.
Esme Lean, head of small and medium business, Asia Pacific, at TikTok, shares the products presented by TikTok were built keeping in mind first-time advertisers.
“We create products which are user-friendly in nature to help small business owners drive traffic back to their profiles, turn viewers into potential leads, amplify their creator marketing investments, and target their desired audiences with the new targeting and boosting features,” Lean said.
She added that content on TikTok is created for the everyman, by the everyman, and TikTok’s short-form video format, coupled with its in-app easy-to-use creative tools, means that most SMBs have the potential to create viral content and get their business in front of millions of users.
“This lowers the barrier of high production costs or the pressure to bring perfectly curated and polished assets to life for SMBs,” she said.
But does engagement on TikTok truly translate into sales?
According to Lean, when it comes to the commerce aspect of the platform, what she sees is that most consumers on the platform are actively seeking out “joyful online shopping experiences”, with a joint white paper by TikTok and WARC reinforcing how entertaining content effectively guides consumers through the purchase funnel more seamlessly, increasing brand affinity and purchase by over 15% and 14% respectively.
This is where the human side of brands can play a major role. Authenticity on the platform is a major component to winning the hearts of consumers, she said.
“Some of the most popular videos on the app have taken the form of everyday, relatable situations – from messy behind-the-scenes to raw conversations that bring an unmistakable human touch to the platform,” she said.
“What this did was transform TikTok into a safe space for users to freely express themselves, and for brands to creatively engage with audiences, solidifying the platform’s ability to connect with audiences in ways that they can’t elsewhere.”
Moreover, being on TikTok allows SMBs to not only have access to a library of trends, hashtags, challenges, and songs that are sweeping the region, but to also leverage TikTok Shop to grow and scale their business and reach potential customers in a more engaging way.
“SMBs need to consider re-prioritising the platforms they utilise when engaging with their target audiences.”
So which are some of the SMBs that have managed to build a presence and convert their content into sales?
BMKS and Bio Herbal
Founded in 2016 by a self-made entrepreneur, BMKS and Bio Herbal sought to create quality, yet affordable, body care products sourced from herbal and natural ingredients.
While its early chapters as a small business started in brick-and-mortar stores and exhibitions, the brand quickly established roots on digital platforms when the pandemic hit in 2020.
This transition meant that BMKS and Bio Herbal had to compete with bigger brands who had already cultivated strong followings, raising the need to create content that would not only grab young netizens’ attention, but also educate them on the significance of using natural ingredients in products to give it an edge over its larger competitors.
The brand decided to take its journey onto TikTok after joining the first #MajuBarengTikTok programme in 2021. The team learned how to tap into TikTok’s intuitive video production features to create compelling short-form videos that would easily capture the attention of both Gen Z and Millennial users on the platform.
This brought to life a series of engaging videos featuring everyday people using and explaining the benefits of BMKS and Bio Herbal’s products, which resonated with the wider community.
Local creators also played a central role in these videos – fronting product reviews and unboxing videos that netizens were interested in, or could relate to – cultivating authentic and long-lasting connections.
The unprecedented growth on TikTok also prompted the SMB to experiment with TikTok for Business Ads Solutions, which seamlessly weaved BMKS and Bio Herbal’s branded videos into users’ For You page, making them appear organic, while fuelling discovery among the local community.
This was complemented by the use of the TikTok Shop, which created in-app shopping experiences that prevented the team from losing any new customers along the purchase journey.
Within five months, BMKS and Bio Herbal was able to increase its sales by 300% during the pandemic. From a small business to a beloved medium-sized enterprise, BMKS and Bio Herbal’s journey on TikTok has highlighted the tremendous growth potential of the platform and the ways in which brands of all sizes can see their dreams come to life.
Jewellery brand XVXII first launched in Singapore in 2020, specialising in affordable, tarnish-free, and waterproof accessories. As the company began to expand its collections and grow its online presence, it sought to make new inroads with the budding community of young fashion enthusiasts. As such, it turned its attention to TikTok.
On the platform, XVXII decided to create content that detailed its founder’s journey, celebrate the little wins, and share honest views on the running of an SMB. With authenticity at the core of its content creation, the channel quickly resonated with the TikTok community, strengthening engagement with both loyal and new customers, resulting in a 70% increase in sales leads.
While resources were limited when it came to shooting these videos, TikTok’s array of intuitive in-app video production tools made it seamless for XVXII to highlight meaningful moments that truly captured the essence of the brand – from team introductions to interactions with customers, and even initiatives to support other small businesses.
EduTech start-up OpenDurian strives to make learning the English language accessible for all. While the company has been rolling out textbooks and online courses for the past 10 years, over the years it saw the nagging problem of apprehension towards learning the language amid the local community.
Wanting to find new ways to reach a wider audience by making learning English fun, it decided to turn to TikTok to create intuitive and creative content. It utilised features such as green-screen effects, live-streams, and trending sound bites to produce short-form educational videos that provided audiences with quick and easy ways to learn basic English. Lessons were also fronted by instructor Kru Dew whose fun-loving personality added an extra layer of engagement.
OpenDurian also began taking lessons out of the classrooms and into the streets, wherein Dew was able to showcase how English could be used in everyday situations. Since joining the platform, OpenDurian has reached more than two million followers on its channel, while live-streams have consistently seen 4,000 viewers on average.
Most prominently, OpenDurian’s unique content style – which seamlessly blends education with entertainment – has contributed to an 80% growth in engagement among target audiences, supporting the brand’s efforts to build a steady following of dedicated users on its platform.
Three key ways to grow on the TikTok platform
2023 is the year of authenticity and relatability for brands – especially as economies and communities get back to life as normal after the pandemic. As communities look to inspire each other, here are some tips for SMBs looking to ride on this trend to engage and build connections with users.
Tip No.1 – Being “flawsome”: The online community seeks brands that are comfortable showing their vulnerabilities and imperfection. On TikTok, this isn’t about brands highlighting their disadvantages or portraying themselves in a negative light, but rather making themselves accessible by being their authentic selves – or “flawsome” – that is aligned with their brand values.
Behind-the-scenes videos showcasing how products are made or capturing the everyday life of an SMB owner can make a real difference in showing a more human side to one’s business.
Tip No.2 – Make actionable entertainment happen: SMBs today need to quickly grab attention without misleading video thumbnails to earn the trust of their customers. Creative elements – from eye-catching visuals to trending music bites and creator collaborations – especially those aligned to the brand’s audience – will drive an increase in viewership, engagement, and paths to purchase.
Tip No.3 – Make space for joy: The past few years have been challenging, and users online are re-evaluating their choices in hopes of creating a positive space in which they can thrive. In 2023, this positivity will come in the form of prioritising joy in all its forms. Brands need to keep tabs on what’s trending and use that as a lever to reach their audiences.
TikTok has also established initiatives such as the TikTok Academy and TikTok Shop Seller University which provides SMBs with guidance as they kick-start their journey on the platform.
These initiatives also grant SMBs access to a myriad of resources, including step-by-step guides, tips, and inspirational case studies to take reference from as they start creating and engaging with audiences on TikTok.
To find out more, visit: https://getstarted.tiktok.com/tt4b.
This article was written in collaboration with TikTok.