Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

TV to TikTok: How social has changed TV shopping forever

by Angharad Salazar Llewellyn, Editorial Director, We Are Social

For decades, QVC has been shorthand for TV shopping.

Purchasing products in real time, demonstrated by presenters in a live broadcast, asking viewers to pick up the phone and purchase products. An established format, it has gone relatively unchallenged for decades – that is, until now. 

For a new generation of shoppers, there’s no need to stay at home, navigate to the right TV channel and stay glued to the telly to get your live shopping fix. Now you can just do it all through your smartphone with the help of TikTok. 

Video-sharing platform TikTok – which has over 1bn users worldwide – has launched TikTok Shop which they describe as “an innovative new shopping feature which enables merchants, brands and creators to showcase and sell products…through in-feed videos, LIVEs, and a product showcase tab”.

E-commerce and TikTok is a marriage made in heaven. The platform already has an impressive and proven purchase power. Products that grab fame on TikTok go viral and sell out. Beauty buys such as Maybelline’s Sky High and Curl Bounce mascara sold out due to their popularity online, and #BookTok has sparked a love of reading for a new generation.

If you search on retailers’ e-comm sites such as Boots, you’ll see a badge that reads ‘as seen on TikTok’, while Cult Beauty sent an email campaign out this month based around what was trending on the platform. It’s clear to see why it’s recognised that it’s no longer “as seen on TV, but as seen on TikTok”.

And viral trends – and footfall – can easily spill out of the internet and into real life. The platform was recently set alight due to the (seemingly random) rise in popularity of a West Midland chip shop called Binley Mega Chippy. TikTokkers helped the food outlet go viral, and the digital and physical world collided as creators went on a pilgrimage to the now-famous fish and chip shop and filmed videos from there.

Fashion tends to go in cycles of innovation, and QVC was first established in the 80s. A traditional TV shopping programme usually consists of presenters selling directly to camera in a live broadcast, demonstrating a suite of products and listening to live sales data through an earpiece to react in real time, and max out sales opportunities. Who could forget those ever-increasing (and unmissable) discounts to encourage shoppers to impulsively purchase?

It’s not dissimilar to a TikTok live shopping event. The format is broadly the same as live sales data is recorded and the presenters can push viewers towards the most popular products. It’s already an established format in China on platforms such as Alibaba’s Taobao Live where social and commerce are closely linked. Billions of dollars in transactions can be made in less than an hour during key shopping periods in this market. It’s little surprise that Chinese-owned platform TikTok is now innovating in the livestreamed e-commerce space with major retailers and brands in Europe.

Recently, Westfield held a TikTok live event – a first-to-market for a European shopping centre. The event, called Summer Styled, was hosted by Love Island star Amber Gill who worked alongside a TikTok presenter to demo products from iconic beauty brand Charlotte Tilbury and High Street retailer JD Sports – showcasing and selling products in real-time to shoppers.

And where innovators lead, others will follow. YouTube Shopping is also following suit and shaking up the live shopping space enabling creators and brands to co-host live shopping events and work more closely together – combining the influential purchase power of creators with the infrastructure and range that a brand can offer. YouTube’s second annual Beauty Festival will be held live from Los Angeles – and for the first time it will be shoppable. A whole host of celebrities and influencers are in the line up.

Brands with a focus on youth audiences should be considering their presence on the existing and emerging live shopping platforms if they want to remain visible and competitive in today’s ecommerce landscape.

With the potential to make billions and a proven format by originators QVC, you can see why platforms are pushing this new way of shopping live and direct to consumers. 

The future of live shopping is in the palm of your hands.


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