Whether your business is a well-established company, a startup or a scaleup, you may want to consider partnering with other organisations. Partnerships present invaluable benefits as they can greatly stimulate your business growth and turn your company’s weaknesses into strengths. Forming partnerships and therefore seeking partners not only can help increase your value proposition and accelerate your customer acquisition but also enhance your brand awareness and marketing strategy.
To give you more insight into what a successful partnership can offer from both sides, we’ll use the recently formed partnership between e-commerce leader Shopify and video platform TikTok. After a brief introduction of these two tech leaders, we’ll share seven key points that we learned from this innovative partnership which should give you more tangible reasons to consider finding your next business partner.
Headquartered in Ottawa, leading global commerce company, Shopify provides trusted tools to start, grow, market, and manage a retail business of any size and delivers an enjoyable shopping experience for consumers. To date, Shopify powers more than one million businesses across 175 countries and is trusted by brands such as Allbirds, Gymshark, Heinz, or Staples.
TikTok is a short-form mobile video app aiming to inspire creativity and bring joy to its users through videos for a genuine, inspiring, and joyful experience. TikTok was first initiated in China where it’s known as Douyin, a video-sharing social networking service owned by group ByteDance. Later, in 2017, the international version known as TikTok was introduced for iOS and Android outside of mainland China. It’s only in 2018 that the app became available worldwide, including in the US, once merged with another Chinese social media service Musical.ly.
And so last month, Shopify was proud to announce it would initiate a one-of-a-kind alliance with TikTok. Why? To bring the video platform to its database of over one million merchants across the US, and from early 2021 North America, Europe and Southeast Asia. Here are the seven inspiring things that we learned from this unique partnership.
Finding common grounds: TikTok will allow merchants to create a TikTok for Business account and deploy shoppable video ads directly within Shopify
Thanks to a fully dedicated TikTok channel for Shopify, merchants can benefit from TikTok’s global scale and reach engaged younger audiences. Merchants can create a TikTok for Business account and implement in-feed shoppable video ads directly within Shopify.
In a statement about the new partnership, Shopify’s VP Satish Kanwar commented:
“We’re thrilled to be the first partner to welcome TikTok to the world of commerce, particularly right now, as our merchants prepare for a busy online holiday shopping season. TikTok is one of the world’s fastest-growing entertainment platforms with over 100 million highly engaged users in the US alone. The TikTok channel means Shopify merchants – even those without a strong TikTok following of their own yet – can connect with these new audiences using content that feels authentic and genuine to the TikTok experience.”
How does the TikTok channel for Shopify work?
Essentially, the app lets independent merchants or retailers create video ads, track results, and manage their orders directly from Shopify. The TikTok channel for Shopify will include the following features:
- TikTok For Business on-boarding
- 1-Click Pixel installation
- Products promotion on TikTok
- Audience targeting
- Video generator tool
- Marketing campaigns optimisation
- Free ad credit for each merchant’s first campaign
Establishing shared KPIs: Shopify’s 1 million merchants will be able to reach TikTok’s younger audience and drive sales
Partnerships help companies find common interests and establishing clear objectives and KPIs is fundamental in pursuing healthy business relationships. In this collaboration, Shopify aimed to help merchants take advantage of TikTok’s tremendous growth and TikTok naturally wanted to bring them onto its platform. In return, TikTok saw Shopify as the perfect commerce platform to achieve these objectives.
What can merchants achieve through this joint channel?
Technically, Shopify merchants can create, run and optimise their TikTok marketing campaigns directly from the Shopify dashboard by installing the new TikTok channel app from the Shopify App Store. Then merchants can access the key functions at their disposal from the TikTok For Business Ads Manager. To resonate with the TikTok community merchants can create and plan native, shareable content and messaging that turns their products into In-Feed video ads.
Even though ads costs may fluctuate according to their objectives and how much they want to spend, they can:
- Target their audiences across gender, age, user behaviour, and video category;
- Track their campaign’s execution and performance over time.
Combining technical expertise: Merchants will be able to track conversions driven by their TikTok ad campaigns by installing a “TikTok Pixel”
In a partnership, all companies can decide to put their IT resources at each other’s disposal for better performance and to achieve their objectives. One example highlighting the combination of Shopify and TikTok technical expertise and tools is the creation of a TikTok Pixel to help merchants easily track conversions generated by their ad campaigns.
How can Shopify merchants use the TikTok Pixel?
To get started with the TikTok Pixel and use the other new features, merchants who want to advertise on TikTok will first need to install the TikTok channel app. Then only can they create and connect their TikTok For Business account and install the one-click pixel.
Once they’re all set with the TikTok Pixel, they can start deploying In-Feed shoppable video ads by selecting the product they want to feature – using business ad templates. Since these templates use existing imagery or videos, the TikTok channel works for merchants of any size. To encourage merchants to try the joint channel, they receive a $300 ad credit with their first TikTok campaign.
Creating a co-branding partnership: To celebrate Black-owned businesses, the two companies have launched their first co-branded Hashtag Challenge Plus campaign, #ShopBlack
In a partnership, both parties can decide the nature of actions they’ll jointly implement, and sometimes this also implies a co-branding strategy. Additionally to their revolutionary digital common platform within Shopify, they launched the #ShopBlack Hashtag Challenge Plus. The idea? To showcase Black-owned businesses and make e-commerce more diverse by bringing more Black entrepreneurs in the sector.
The social campaign – which provided a custom-branded effect, music and creator content, to highlight products from over 40 Shopify merchants – successfully ran from November 10 to 15, while TikTok users could spotlight their favourite Black-owned businesses using the hashtag #ShopBlack (to date, the hashtag received 48.4 million views on TikTok).
Before the campaign, Michael Terrence Nightwing, Founder and CEO of Neter Gold, a natural body care brand, commented on this brilliant initiative:
“Being able to quickly and effectively drive new customers to my website is extremely important since we live in such a fast-paced world. With TikTok and Shopify working together with the process for reaching new customers will be much smoother. And I can spend less time working and more time creating, which is exactly why I’m looking forward to the #ShopBlack Hashtag Challenge, and why deciding to participate was a no brainer for me.”
But this wasn’t just a one-off. Indeed, to continuously support Black merchants and help surface new Black-owned businesses to customers, Shopify parallelly created a Black Business Directory. Shoppers can use the directory to discover and buy from Black Shopify merchants. Furthermore, the ambitious and global Operation Hope initiative aims to create one million Black-owned businesses by 2030.
The importance of testing: The two companies have been testing many social commerce initiatives before this partnership
Before signing off the operations faceting their partnership, Shopify and TikTok have gone through many discussions. Testing your business idea is key to see if it is a viable business model. Generally, companies shouldn’t rush into launching a product without carefully considering the viability and risks. Equally, they should be testing their solution and ideas as much as possible.
Since you can’t just assume the success of an idea, lack of tests can be devastating on your business. Unfortunately, businesses usually skip this step because they’re in a rush to launch their product. As a result, they don’t create a business plan or business model based on their market research or testing, and they just go on in their business journey without solid grounds.
Shopify and TikTok have learned the valuable outcomes of testing as they discussed and trialled many social commerce initiatives, including a version of the TikTok Pixel and a shop button before launching the TikTok channel in Shopify. Other TikTok testing involved the adding of e-commerce links to merchants’ bios and the shoppable components to hashtags as used for #ShopBlack.
And the agreement means new shopping features to come soon, too.
TikTok should be testing new in-app features to facilitate the user journey in discovering Shopify merchants and their products, for instance, or to shop directly from the app.
TikTok Global Business Solutions VP Blake Chandlee commented on this partnership:
“We are delighted to partner with Shopify and provide a channel for their merchants to reach new audiences and drive sales on TikTok. As social commerce proliferates, retailers recognise that TikTok’s creative and highly engaged community sets it apart from other platforms. We are constantly exploring new and innovative ways to connect brands with our users, and Shopify is the perfect partner to help us grow and expand our commerce capabilities globally.”
But Shopify and TikTok aren’t the only companies testing shoppable content. Other businesses like LG TV, Instagram, Poshmark and Google have implemented their shopping features, which makes the market pretty competitive.
Stronger together: this partnership will help TikTok better compete against other social channels
This partnership should help TikTok win some ranks in the relentless shopping apps race. It should also help the platform better compete against other social channels offering advertising services to businesses including live stream shopping apps such as Facebook and its apps.
The social network has developed some shopping-focused updates across Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, aiming to direct users to shop in its apps, then check out with Facebook Pay.
TikTok’s advantage is all in its powerful video-led platform. Compared with visual-led platform Instagram where its video features have been added over the years – such as Feed posts, Stories, Instagram Live, IGTV, and the most recent Instagram’s TikTok competitor, Reels.
Many saw the tremendous potential in TikTok coming and Shopify isn’t the first tech brand to see shopping opportunities in the video app. With the existing partnership, its capacity to drive retailer traffic and sales also decided Walmart to be involved in the TikTok-Oracle partnership – even though this agreement is paused with the current restrictions related to Trump’s TikTok ban.
An opening for the future: Now available in the US, the TikTok channel for Shopify merchants will expand to Europe and Southeast Asia next year
Although TikTok faces a bit of uncertainty since a trade war has been going on between the US and China the past year – with Huawei or Tencent -, it became extremely popular in recent months. Indeed millions of Americans and Europeans created funky or prank video content, cumulating the duets and encouraging even more users to join the platform.
In Europe and self-isolating cities, the number of new TikTok users skyrocketed with more than 17 million citizens spending over an hour a day on the app – in Great Britain alone.
Fundamentally, on top of adding new features in the future, the outcome of this partnership should offer opportunities for both brands to expand internationally. Now launched in the US, the TikTok channel in Shopify will open in North America, Europe and South-East Asia in early 2021.
The relationship between TikTok and Shopify confirms the importance of seeking allies in any entrepreneurial journey. More and more entrepreneurs should focus on refining their value proposition, enhancing their visibility and marketing strategy to meet their customers’ behavioural trends. Not only can finding potential partners enhance your offering, but it can help you balance your budgets wisely and start growing your business strategically.