How TikTok is wooing creators for its shopping program, including offering cash bonuses, private group chats, and other perks

  • TikTok is offering a slew of cash bonuses and rewards to creators that use its new shopping feature.
  • The company is holding influencers’ hands as it rolls out TikTok Shop to more users.
  • TikTok may be course-correcting its e-commerce strategy after a rocky start in the UK.

Sharon Jayy, a beauty and lifestyle creator, visited TikTok’s office in Culver City, California, last month to discuss future plans for its e-commerce platform, TikTok Shop. According to Jayy, the discussion centered on how to formalize the role of “TikTok Shop creator” as a new category of influencer, similar to a sports or food personality.

“I’m thinking about marketing myself as a TikTok Shop creator,” she revealed. “Every creator should jump on this early because it’s going to be saturated.”TikTok’s personal office invite was one of many high-touch efforts in recent months to entice influencers to use its social-shopping tool, which launched in the United States in November after launching in the United Kingdom and other markets in 2021.

Some influencers are receiving cash rewards from the company for exceeding sales, posting, or livestream goals. It also assists influencers in obtaining coupons for freebies from brands for TikTok Shop, either through promotional campaigns such as a “Summer Sale” or by connecting them to popular Shop sellers.

In one case, a creator was offered $200 in cash for posting one or more videos that resulted in at least ten Shop orders. In another case, they were offered $1,000 in cash in exchange for generating at least $3,000 in Shop sales through a video. In a third case, a different creator was paid $20 for mentioning a product in a livestream that lasted at least 30 minutes and received 300 or more views.

“These incentives have allowed our creators to amass high volumes of sales and gain first-hand experience on how to make the most of TikTok Shop,” said Ross Hawthorne, director of operations at TikTok Shop partner Real Quick Media.

Launching rewards programs and offering cash payments to encourage creators to try new features is a common strategy employed by large social platforms. Meta has used time-limited incentive programs to encourage creators to create short-form videos for Instagram and Facebook.Pinterest and YouTube have also experimented with similar bonus payments for short-form videos.

Many of these reward programs, including TikTok’s, are only available to specific users.

“Right now, it’s still kind of like an invite-only sort of thing,” said Nadia Lynn Garcia, a social-commerce manager for the creator-agency Grail Talent who works on TikTok Shop campaigns. “Creators will be whitelisted for a campaign, and those tasks will then populate into their account.”

Even without the incentive of a reward, early TikTok Shop users can earn thousands of dollars in affiliate payments if they meet certain follower and age requirements. Influencers who include TikTok Shop products in their videos or livestreams earn commissions on the sales they generate.

They can also earn money by highlighting items from different sellers on a separate page within their profiles, much like Amazon influencer storefronts. Typical commission rates have thus far ranged from 10% to 20%, which is relatively high when compared to more developed e-commerce platforms.

TikTok is coddling creators as it looks to smooth out Shop’s operations

As TikTok expands Shop to more users, creators and other industry professionals told Insider that the company is providing some influencers with coaching and round-the-clock support, including first looks at products, beta-test features, and announcements of special promotions via its messaging platform Lark.

“I think my experience has been so great because I’m working with TikTok themselves,” said Shayna Farnan, a TikToker with around 300,000 fans who posts videos about coupons and bargain hunting. “If I have a problem with a seller, getting a product, or anything else, I can contact the TikTok team and they’ll take care of it.”

The company’s hand-holding could be a reaction to its previous problems with Shop in the UK. According to the Financial Times, TikTok faced backlash from influencers and its own employees in the country over its Shop operations, including complaints about low creator pay.

Despite early setbacks, TikTok and its parent company ByteDance appear determined to make Shop a success.Social commerce has been profitable for TikTok’s sister app Douyin in China, and TikTok hopes to replicate that success in other markets. Features that are popular on Douyin frequently make their way to TikTok.

Some TikTok creators now have a direct point of contact who advises them on how to be successful on Shop.

Maryam Malik, a UK-based creator with approximately one million followers, stated at a recent TikTok event in London that she has been working with a TikTok Shop manager for about a year. The manager assists her in negotiating long-term partnerships with brands, shares best-selling products for Malik to promote on Shop, organizes free product samples, and invites her to events.

However, these direct lines of communication with brands and TikTok employees are only available to a select few. Most creators work on a self-service basis, grabbing products from a TikTok Shop marketplace that are eligible for commissions to any creator who meets the platform’s eligibility requirements.

Lauren Mabra, one of the creators behind the account @theofficialitgirls, announced this month that she was accepted as a Shop affiliate. She stated that she is still figuring out the platform without direct assistance from TikTok.

Mabra, like other creators, has access to a Shop tab that invites her to “complete tasks to earn rewards.” That page is currently empty for her, and she anticipates that it will begin to fill once she posts her first affiliate video.

It’s unclear whether TikTok will be able to maintain its white-glove service or lucrative bonuses as more creators and merchants join Shop. Other platforms, such as Meta and Pinterest, have phased out their rewards programs over time. According to the Financial Times, TikTok rewards for Shop livestreams will be phased out in the UK in early 2022.

Creators who have benefited from TikTok’s direct support acknowledged how difficult it would be to be without a point of contact.

“They have no one to explain what they should be doing and the intricacies of the program,” Farnan explained. “Most people lack the support or knowledge to be the TikTok Shop creators that TikTok wants them to be.”

TikTok refused to comment for this article.

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