Why viral videos have made TikTok Shop a ‘roller coaster’ for sellers, as they scramble to cash in without getting penalized

  • TikTok Shop is humming for sellers whose videos take off.
  • But unlike e-commerce apps like Amazon or Shopify, success often relies on short-term virality.
  • Quick spurts of sales can make it hard for sellers to manage order fulfillment and plan ahead.

At the beginning of this summer, pickle sweatshirts became the subject of an internet frenzy on TikTok.

The app was suddenly flooded with videos of users wearing gray crewnecks that were decorated with jars from various brands of pickles, such as McClure’s, B&G Kosher Dill, Grillo’s, and Claussen.

One user commented on a video, “I’m not a pickle lover but I AM a lover of the shirt,” despite the video being about pickles.

Many of the posts, which have collectively driven tens of millions of views, have included links for viewers to purchase the garment on TikTok Shop, the app’s new e-commerce marketplace. This has driven a significant amount of traffic to the posts. When one of an influencer’s videos results in a sale, that influencer receives a commission on the sale; this provides the influencer with an incentive to promote the brined-cucumber apparel.

As is the case with the surge in popularity of any product, a slew of retailers have rushed to position themselves to capitalize on the pickle craze.

A user can purchase from a seller by the name of Frank Bloomer a “Picklesweatshirt Century Clothing Winter Casual Women’s Loose Sweatshirt” for the price of $16. And Wild Herd Designs has made more than one thousand sales of “Viral Pickle Jars” t-shirts and sweatshirts on TikTok, with prices beginning at $19.99 for each item.

“We sell so many of these a day that we stay up all night and day just trying to get them cranked out for everybody,” said Ashley Martinez, who runs Wild Herd Designs with her husband out of their home in West Texas. Ashley Martinez and her husband run the business together.

TikTok Shop is distinguished from other e-commerce platforms, such as Shopify and Amazon, by a number of factors, one of which is the pickle-wardrobe craze. TikTok Shop, just like the rest of TikTok, is built around viral videos, whether it’s an uptick in viewer interest in pickle-jar sweatshirts or a mad rush to buy freeze-dried Skittles. TikTok Shop is available on both iOS and Android.

For sellers, it can be both a boon and a bane in equal measure.

It’s possible for Shop sellers to get their 15 minutes of fame and a bump in revenue from a viral video that features their product, but this type of income isn’t always sustainable. A sudden increase in the number of orders can leave merchants scrambling to meet the stringent three-day shipping window that TikTok requires in the United States.

Despite the fact that a three-day processing time may be standard for enterprise sellers, many of the early adopters of TikTok Shop are owners of small businesses or people who run side businesses out of their homes and process goods during that time period. The obligation of satisfying stringent shipping requirements is a heavy burden, particularly during periods of increased sales volume. Even though it’s exciting to see an increase in revenue after a video goes viral, you shouldn’t count on it as a way to pay your bills in the future.

Michael Herling, a Shop merchant who sells hats under the brand name Herling Handcrafted, said that “when [your] TikTok shop is doing very well, it could be an anomaly.” Michael sells hats under the brand name Herling Handcrafted. “Or it could be a blip and the next week you might not be.”

“It’s a scary venture to jump down,” he added. “I’m not going to lie to you.” “I’m not sure I’m so comfortable with that, but for what it’s been, the extra money for the house has been nice.”

Packing and shipping orders on time after a viral video can prove daunting

The rapid pace of sales that can accompany a video going viral on TikTok can put a strain on vendors who all of a sudden receive an increase in order volume.

US merchants have a maximum shipping window of three days to fulfill orders on TikTok. If they consistently miss this deadline, they run the risk of having a limit placed on their order volume or receiving “violation points” from TikTok, either of which could eventually result in being banned from the Shop platform.

“A three-business-day turnaround could be rather aggressive and draining on somebody to try and fulfill all that by themselves,” according to Herling. “Thanks be to God, when my wife gets home from work, she is able to assist. And then there are times when the kids pitch in, which is really cool.”

It became impossible for Jessica Slone, the founder of Bad Addiction Boutique, to keep up with the order volume and meet the requirements of TikTok after thousands of users paid a total of more than 42,000 dollars to purchase her company’s $44 “Pickle Jar Sweatshirt.”

Slone and her husband initially enlisted the assistance of their children and her in-laws in the order packing process. But in the end, after several nights of working until three in the morning, she came to the conclusion that it would be more efficient to delegate the responsibility to a local print and fulfillment team.

“TikTok has very strict policies and rules on their orders, so we had to bring in someone else,” according to her. “It was literally physically impossible for just my husband and I and our small family to keep up with that requirement,” she said of the three-day shipping rule. “It was literally impossible to keep up with that requirement.”

TikTok’s incentivizing of quick fulfillment is similar to policies that are set by other e-commerce marketplaces that are looking to create a consistent buying experience across their respective platforms. For instance, Etsy will award a shop owner the title of “Star Seller” if the shop owner meets a certain set of metrics, one of which is the ability to reliably process and ship orders. In addition, Amazon sellers who regularly provide fast shipping have the opportunity to have their products designated with the “Prime” shipping badge.

Etsy and Amazon do not, on the other hand, host a platform with content that has the potential to become extremely popular in the same way that videos on TikTok do.

Lindzi Shanks, cofounder of the company XO Marshmallow, which sells gourmet marshmallows, stated that she had discussed the possibility of setting custom Shop order limits with TikTok in order to assist her business in situations in which sales surge after a video becomes popular.

“We got close to a thousand orders in one day, which again is wonderful, but when you can only produce a certain amount in a single day, those orders back up,” according to her.

According to Shanks, if an organization uses Shopify and experiences an unexpectedly high volume of orders, it has the ability to choose a slightly longer processing time without incurring any additional fees. At this time, TikTok does not provide users with that option.

“They’re running with some policies that may not be the greatest for small businesses, but I will say every time we come to them with feedback, they’re so open to the feedback and they’re so curious and they’re listening,” she said when discussing TikTok.

According to a spokesperson for TikTok, the company establishes its fulfillment policies to make it possible for timely fulfillment and delivery of orders. This is done with the intention of providing a positive experience for customers as they explore and buy products on TikTok Shop.

The company makes available to merchants a number of applications and integrations, such as the TikTok Shop API, the Shop app store, and the Fulfilled by TikTok services. These are all designed to assist in the management of orders and fulfillment. They also mentioned that TikTok regularly hosts webinars and question-and-answer sessions with the TikTok team.

The spread of virality can result in a dramatic increase in orders, which can make stocking difficult.

When a video goes viral on TikTok Shop, it can be difficult to anticipate which product will start selling like crazy next. This makes it difficult for sellers to ensure that they have enough inventory to meet customer demand.

According to Laura Ritchey, CEO of the e-commerce logistics company Radial, larger brands have the ability to use tools like artificial intelligence to analyze their prices as well as past sales in order to make predictions about the future. However, if they lack the resources necessary, independent sellers may have a more difficult time accomplishing this goal.

TikTok has implemented some new measures in order to reduce the amount of buyer activity for new sellers. It gives new merchants a trial period of either 30 or 60 days, depending on the region, during which their daily order volume is capped at a certain level. When a seller has satisfied the performance, order completion, and duration criteria, they have graduated from the probationary period. At this point, sales surges can occur at any moment without warning.

A video that went viral in August promoting college student Julia Cote’s “Katie Necklace” led to a flurry of orders that sent her scrambling to fulfill them all. Cote sells jewelry on TikTok Shop and other platforms like Etsy.

“It’s a good thing I was at home because the video started going viral while I was there,” she said. “I hadn’t moved into college yet,” she said. “I was still living at home.” “I was working crazy hours, like 13 or 14 hours a day to try to get everything because I make them and package them myself. I was trying to get everything done.” As a result of the fact that I had never before dealt with such a large number of orders all at once, I was extremely sluggish when I first began.

It’s possible that the frenzied pace of sales at TikTok Shop in the United States is in part being driven by all of the incentives the company is offering to boost e-commerce activity. TikTok is making its prices extremely competitive by offering sellers shipping discounts and other forms of financial assistance, as well as by providing cash bonuses to influencers who sign up for its affiliate program. It’s possible that the company’s sales volume will slow down as they reduce their use of coupons and other forms of promotion in an effort to increase their profit margins.

The success that TikTok Shop has had in the UK can be seen as a precursor to what will happen in the US in the near future.

TikTok has spent the past two years using the United Kingdom (UK) as a testing ground for Shop, and the company’s trajectory in that region could provide insights into the future direction of its operations in the United States.

According to sources who spoke with Insider, the program got off to a shaky start in the UK, and large-scale adoption has only really picked up steam in the most recent few months.

Merchants in the United Kingdom informed Insider that, similar to those in the United States, they had direct access to support from TikTok employees whenever problems arose; however, some of them questioned how long this would continue.

“There’s no way they can create a sustainable business that’s going to grow over the next five years while giving this much hands-on help to this many merchants,” said Ben Muir, the head of marketing at TikTok Shop partner agency Unsociable. “It’s impossible,” he added.

The pursuit of virality appears to be, from the perspective of UK sellers, to be the distinguishing feature of the TikTok Shop experience. According to Hira Tariq, who has been operating a TikTok Shop for her candy company It’s Like Candy for more than a year, consistent posting does not guarantee consistent business.

“Sometimes I will post a video and I’ll get loads of orders from it, and there’ll be times when it’s a really dry spell,” according to her. “It has been up and down.”

TikTok has introduced features in the United Kingdom that make it simpler for sellers to deal with a sudden increase in the number of sales. It requires a shipping window of four days in the country, in contrast to the three days required in the United States. Some UK sellers have found that fulfilling customer orders through “Fulfilled by TikTok,” the company’s logistics solution that includes warehousing as well as shipping, has been helpful in the event that their products unexpectedly go viral.

The company just recently launched a similar fulfillment offering in the United States, which has the potential to assist sellers in better managing the unpredictability of order volume.

And despite the drawbacks, staying up late to pack orders is well worth it for many US merchants who are suddenly making thousands of dollars in sales from TikTok Shop. Despite the drawbacks, the upsides far outweigh the downsides.

According to Slone, owner of Bad Addiction Boutique, “it has been absolutely life-changing for both of us and for our business.” “TikTok Shop is a little bit like a roller coaster, and right now it’s on this incredible ascent. And we’re going to keep riding that roller coaster until the wheels pretty much fall off.”

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply