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16 April 2024 / Opinion

Exploring the Rise of TikTok Search: Leveraging Social Commerce for Brand Growth

Mitchel White / Senior Strategist

Google, do we have a problem?

In the month where a US TikTok ban took a step closer to reality, we look at how TikTok search is affecting Google, consumer shopping behaviour and brand activity.

The meteoric rise of TikTok as a key player in search and social commerce, can’t be ignored – so what’s behind its success and how can your brand leverage social commerce?

Younger demographics are driving changes in search behaviour

Google’s own research reveals that 40% of Gen Z’ers prefer TikTok and Instagram over its own search engine when searching for recommendations.


Younger audiences are looking for richer, multimedia formats like video and images for a more engaging search experience. Gen Z audiences don’t want to dig through written content to find answers, they want visual content from brands and content creators.

It's not just Gen Z driving this trend. In the U.S., around 40% of travellers aged over 30 prefer TikTok over Google as a search tool for inspiration.

Google has responded to the changes in expectations and demand for more immersive search experiences with a focus on more content rich SERPs and the upcoming launch of Search Generative Experience (SGE) using generative AI.

Lots of people are talking about the future of search and its impact on commerce and advertising revenue, but Google is in a unique position with access to huge amounts of merchant data. Google’s Shopping Graph has more than 35 billion product listings — making it the world’s most comprehensive dataset of constantly changing products, sellers, brands, reviews, and inventory.



Social commerce disruption

Social commerce isn’t new, it’s been around for quite some time in various forms with varied success over the past few years, having said that – social commerce is set to explode with sales via social media platforms expected to hit $8.5 trillion globally by 2030.

As you’d expect, TikTok is at the forefront of the rise in success of social commerce in recent years. The platform is transforming the entire consumer journey, disrupting not only brand and product discovery, but also purchases with TikTok Shop and in platform checkout services with Shopify integrations.

Whilst social has always played a supportive role in a customer journey, its importance is growing and brands are becoming increasingly reliant on a strong social strategy to reduce funnel disruption and unlock new sales channels.

Social commerce has advanced to become a credible ecommerce channel beyond on-site purchases and 3rd party retailers, creating more streamlined and seamless transactions direct within platforms.



TikTok Shop – an opportunity for all brands

Again, TikTok is leading the charge in new social commerce tools for brands. Nearly half of ‘TikTokers’ are buying from brands they see on the platform.

TikTok Shop is perhaps the biggest example of platform commerce offerings, with four selling options, enabling product discovery, checkout, and delivery in-app: a shop tab multi-brand marketplace, live shopping (aka LIVES), pre-recorded Shoppable Videos, and a brand’s Product Showcase.

In 2023, TikTok Shop generated global sales of $20 billion. Health and beauty are obvious category winners, however there are huge opportunities for apparel and other direct-to-consumer (DTC) categories with the right content and targeting.

Beyond TikTok shop, brands are seeing huge success with Spark Ads, TikTok’s product allowing brands to amplify a creator’s organic content featuring product by paying to boost a video’s exposure. This provides brands with a risk-free way to piggyback on an influencer’s organic success. Beauty brand Isle of Paradise saw a 68% increase in sales and a 500% ROI using Spark Ads, demonstrating the power of integrating creative and media to amplify sales performance.



Live shopping – is 2024 the year?

After some false starts, livestream shopping is predicted to fly globally in 2024.

Leveraging platforms like TikTok live shopping and YouTube Shorts, which are introducing new AI features, brands can create engaging and interactive shopping experiences. This is performing well for British beauty brand, Mallows Beauty, which has seen a 500% increase in sales since employees started TikTok Live selling. China’s largest ecommerce platform Taobao has also seen huge success in recent years, last year generating $15bn from livestreaming alone.

The rise of TikTok as a search and social commerce platform was perhaps inevitable, combining the changes in consumer needs and wants with the tools and means to meet new expectations.

The opportunity for brands that understand and leverage these digital trends and changes in consumer behaviour is huge. Brands that can harness the power of enhanced integration between creative and media will reap the rewards of better consumer connection and substantial brand growth.

If you’re ready to make the most of the opportunity social commerce presents, speak to us about how we’re integrating media and creative across paid media to unlock impressive results for our clients.