By now, TikTok has cemented itself as a major, need-to-have social platform for brands. According to TikTok for Business, 92% of users globally take action after watching a TikTok video. The platform is more relevant than ever before, especially since TikTok is planning on opening its own fulfillment centers, furthering its value for DTC brands.
While those who use TikTok love it for its vast amount of content and never-ending rabbit holes, DTC brands are still having a hard time figuring out where they fit in—how to optimize the platform and how to drive conversions.
To learn more about how brands can leverage TikTok advertising, we sat down with one of the leading experts in the space: Savannah Sanchez of The Social Savannah.
With over five years of experience as a media buyer and ad creative strategist, Sanchez harnessed her expertise to launch an agency, which provides user-generated content (UGC) and creative services to some of the top names in ecommerce, such as Fabletics, Outer, Gainful, and Peel. Plus, she launched her TikTok ad course.
The Facebook Migration: The Impact of iOS 14.5
iOS 14.5 changed everything for ecommerce brands.
The effectiveness of Facebook ads plummeted, and it hasn’t recovered. Now, brands have to leverage new channels and take a more holistic marketing approach.
Sanchez explains, “Since we no longer have the same metrics we once used to make decisions and analyze performance, we have to look for new ways to spend. That’s a huge challenge for brands.”
That’s why a lot of attention has shifted to TikTok marketing. “Brands have moved their media spend from Facebook to TikTok,” notes Sanchez. “Not only is it cheaper in terms of CPMs, but it’s also 3-4 times cheaper than Facebook to reach the same audience. There’s a lot of promise for scaling too. The conversion rate and ROAS are also really high.”
The only caveat: Most brands think that their Facebook content will translate to TikTok and resonate with that audience, but that’s not the case at all. That’s one of the biggest mistakes Sanchez sees on the platform.
What works on other social platforms doesn’t work on TikTok. The best-performing video ads use native transitions, animations, and text from the platform itself.
In an interview with Marketing Brew, Mae Karwowski, CEO and founder of Obviously, said, “When you’re a creator or when you’re a brand, [you’re] looking to get in front of as many people as possible, in the most cost-efficient way possible. And TikTok provides that.”
Nowadays, any marketing strategy—or social media marketing strategy for that matter—includes TikTok. It’s table stakes. The app has proved its value as an effective advertising platform, delivering clear results and even virality for brands.
Plus, part of TikTok’s value is that it engages hard-to-reach audiences, such as Gen Z, and it offers a wide variety of ad formats, ad groups, and more. Video is the next frontier.
“TikTok ads have to look like they belong and are made on TikTok.”
How to Create and Optimize Quality TikTok Ads
What makes a good piece of creative content for TikTok?
According to Sanchez, the first three seconds in TikTok advertising are the most important. TikTok is popular for its short-form, scrollable content, and that’s what users want to see. So, brands need to focus on getting noticed right from the start. TikTok ads that are under 15 seconds are performing best on the platform right now, according to Sanchez.
Trends change frequently on the platform, so Sanchez and her team are constantly tapping into what’s hot to see what resonates most with each brand’s target audience. Using trending content or popular formats (as long as it makes sense for the brand or product) is one of the best ways to immediately connect with TikTok users.
One tip from Sanchez: organically search and scroll on the platform to find trends and then look for unique ways to leverage them for each brand or product. These trends can inspire your ad campaign, ad formats, and more.
There’s a caveat, though. Trending TikTok content is often related to song or dance trends, which can’t be incorporated into TikTok ad campaigns.
That’s where UGC thrives. TikTok ads featuring creators and influencers perform extremely well since they appear native to the platform. One advantage of working with UGC creators is that they already have a good feel for TikTok’s time limitations and features. Plus, they understand how the algorithm works, and they know how to create quality content.
When Sanchez seeks out UGC creators, she goes straight to the source: TikTok.
“I want to find creators who already understand the platform and know how to create engaging content,” Sanchez says. "That doesn’t mean they need to have hundreds or thousands of followers. Even if they have a smaller audience (10,000 to 50,000 followers), they’ve already proved that they can build an audience and create strong content.”
Once Sanchez connects with a UGC creator, her agency provides details on how to best represent the small business/brand, the product, and the overall vibe. “As a creator, they already have a great understanding of what works well on TikTok. As an agency, we know the value proposition of the brand and product. We share that with the creator, and then they go off to create engaging, rewarding content,” explains Sanchez.
The Social Savannah even writes scripts for creators. They send over details and general asks, including recommended lighting, how to showcase a product, and what to include in the placements.
Sanchez says that brands who simply ship products to creators and expect them to know everything there is to know about the product will end up disappointed.
Bonus pro tip: Make sure all your TikToks have clear calls to action (CTAs) in your videos.
“Instead of handing off a product to a creator, it’s helpful to include as much information as possible: the main benefits, what you want creators to say (or not), and dos and don’ts. Then, let the creator do their thing.”
The Creator to Brand Connection
Good creators appreciate longer-term commitments. Sanchez recommends approaching creators and influencers with a long-term relationship in mind.
A monthly retainer with a schedule for ongoing content works best for both parties. It also makes the process more efficient. With that consistency, creators and influencers can hone in on what a brand truly wants and figure out what works best in TikTok advertising.
Dulma Altan reminds brands to let the creator work their magic. There will always be brand talking points,” says Altan. “When brands are too prescriptive, they shoot themselves in the foot.” These creator/influencer partnerships are incredibly valuable for a brand; therefore, brands need to invest significant effort in making them work.
“I highly recommend investing in those long-term relationships,” adds Sanchez. “My agency has creators that match the target market of my clients, and we’ve created a system and process that align creators with products in an effective way. Now, all my creators have been doing this for a while and know exactly what to do.”
“Long-term relationships work for creators and the audience. It should be a relationship, not a transaction.”
TikTok Data: How to Measure Success with TikTok Marketing
Brands always want to know: “How do we measure data? How do we optimize our videos? What does success look like on TikTok?”
None of Sanchez’s clients are interested in general engagement, video views, or brand awareness; instead, they’re more interested in detailed metrics, such as CPA and ROAS.
“Clients are interested in every dollar I spend on TikTok. They want their investment to be profitable and proven,” Sanchez shares.
Because TikTok data only records last-click purchases, it takes a combination of other tools to get a larger picture.
Does Sanchez think TikTok will expand attribution models in the future?
“100 percent,” she shares. Longer click and attribution windows will be rolling out to ad managers, says Sanchez.
In addition to the data, Sanchez recommends rolling out post-purchase surveys like Kno Commerce and third-party attribution tools.
“On a more holistic level, if you’re watching your revenue grow as you’re increasing ad spend, that’s a good sign. Then, I recommend going over to third-party tools to further validate that what you’re doing is working.”
How to Get Started with TikTok Ad Campaigns
To get the most mileage out of TikTok, start with organic posts first.
Starting off with organic posts, brands can spend time learning the platform—what works and what doesn’t. “Brands that have never logged into TikTok or know what’s trending will never know what types of content will do well,” notes Sanchez. “I recommend trying to build up a small, organic presence to get a better understanding of the platform.”
When the momentum starts to build, it’s time to consider in-feed ads. Once you understand the platform and start thinking about ads, you can consider whether or not to boost them for added visibility.
“Spark Ads will boost engagement metrics. There will be more comments and views,” Sanchez explains. “So in a way, you’re paying for virality, which can serve as social proof when new viewers find your page.”
From there, you can start allocating part of your ad budget to TikTok, and exploring different ad formats, video templates or video creation tools, and custom audiences in TikTok Ads Manager. Some ad types include in-feed ads, top view ads, brand takeover ads, branded hashtag challenges, and more. Afterward, you’ll outline campaigns, define ad groups and placements, and create your individual ads. (Note: You’ll also need to set up the TikTok pixel.)
Sanchez recommends having boosted posts and doing a mix of both paid and organic ads to see what performs best.
TikTok is constantly rolling out new features to TikTok Ads Manager. Since October 2022, brands can now target TikTok users based on purchase intent. This is especially helpful for Shopify brands since these audiences are small but highly qualified. Plus, you can even target based on household income among many more demographics and characteristics.
To learn more of Sanchez’s best practices, check out her TikTok ad course, where brands can learn everything there is to know about setting up, optimizing, and scaling TikTok campaigns.
“You might find the results surprising. Sometimes the best performing ads are the organic ones, so it’s good to balance out your strategy.”
- What to pledge
- How to improve
- Which tools will set you up for success
I think the most important thing brands can do in 2023 is to better manage their customer data—both ethically and effectively. There’s an opportunity for brands to know their customers better than ever before—a clear benefit for both the customer and the brand. When you manage your data correctly, you’ll create stronger and more personalized ads, creative, site experiences, and so much more.
This is a classic: Let the data guide you. Go where the buyers for your products are and communicate with them on a personal level (i.e. by persona and funnel position) and nurture those relationships (past, present, and future customers). It’s possible—all through data.
We recommend that Shopify brands analyze and update their websites using data-driven decisions. Using analytics tools such as heatmaps and scrollmaps can help brands better understand how customers are interacting with their store.
Store owners tend to make assumptions about the way customers interact with their website. Most never go back and analyze their design choices to find pain points or areas of opportunity. By using heatmaps and scrollmaps, they can see where real customers are clicking and concentrating their attention. Leveraging this data, brands can start to iterate on design and make their online store experience streamlined and intuitive.
Hotjar provides a simple way to implement heatmaps, scrollmaps, and recorded user sessions on your site, helping you acquire incredibly informative user data. Additionally, it gives you the ability to create on-site surveys, which allows you to obtain direct and often critical feedback from users about their experience.
Test various attribution models and analyze the impact on your business. At Fifty Six, we are always here to help our clients identify and optimize their approach—a critical step in any successful marketing strategy.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times–Customer Lifetime Value. And even more importantly, Future Lifetime Value (FLTV). With the ever-growing importance of first-party data, it is crucial that brands take a good look at their CRM and FLTV metrics.
OrderlyEmails is our go-to tool for transactional emails. It helps us level up our brands’ email aesthetics with customizable, quick-to-implement Shopify templates.
Lately, I’ve been really interested in Smile.io’s loyalty platform. Their UX is fantastic for teams with low bandwidth!
Stop allocating budgets to low-hanging fruit that doesn’t move the needle on conversion. Think about what’s really going to improve your CX and the return of undertaking different initiatives—not just on what’s top on your list of bugbears on the site!
One of the best ways to understand your customer behavior is by using HotJar. Their heat-mapping and screen recording tools shine a light on where customers are navigating to and from on your site, where they're rage clicking and experiencing frustration, and where conversion is dropping off within real life customer journeys and flows!
Understanding your customers’ pain points via data and analytics , will allow you to work with your CRO/CX Agency to solve customer frustrations and improve conversion.
Rewind backs up all product, customer, and order data for Shopify sites—essential since Shopify itself doesn’t provide this solution. It's saved so many of our clients time and money from administrative accidents.
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33% of customer service inquiries are pre-sale questions. What does this mean? If you’re not investing in customer service, you’re missing out on revenue-generating opportunities.
The benefits of elevating your customer experience:
- 10% to 25% increase in AOV for customers who engage with live chat pre-purchase
- 21x higher conversion rate for customers who reach out via Live Chat or SMS compared to other site visitors
- 87% of customers who have a great customer experience will make another purchase
- 72% of customers share positive experiences with 6 or more individuals
Gorgias is our favorite Helpdesk platform. They can reduce costs by 35%, primarily by decreasing the average ticket handle time. Their machine learning algorithms are trained on millions of ecommerce-related interactions across Gorgias’ customer base and provide accurate, automated replies for the most common ecommerce inquiries. This helps our agents resolve tickets faster, which provides the customer a seamless experience.
Trust your agency! Agencies do the same things across multiple brands and niches, so we see the trends and have the practice and experience!
Don't be afraid of data and insights. If customers aren't clicking on your emails, try a new CTA. If your ads are driving good metrics at a small spend, start scaling. If your customers are complaining about a product, look into QA! If the data tells you something isn't working, let it go and try something else!
I'm supposed to say Tydo, right? 😉
Double down on differentiation. There will be a lot of headwinds this year and standing out from the crowd will set you apart.
A picture is worth 1,000 words. A video? Probably millions. In ecommerce that value translates into engagement, acquisition, and retention—everything you need to impact your bottom line.
At soona, we've seen the we've seen the impact of creative and the continuous split testing of it yield results. Our resolution is to challenge ourselves and double down on innovation and creative optionality so that each brand we work with can distinguish themselves in a crowded sea of D2C ecomm. We'd love to see our brands share this resolution and keep pushing the creative limits.
Klaviyo. We're using it to power our email and newsletter at soona too!
Optimize your returns strategy! This can lead to valuable customer insights, enhanced user experiences, and increased revenue and customer loyalty.
Brands need to dive deeper into understanding their customers to set themselves up for success. Conduct research to gain insights into customer needs, preferences, and behaviors. By doing so, you can develop targeted strategies that will enhance customer experience and boost overall retention.
Right now I would say Gorgias. Having a good customer service tool is crucial to building strong customer relationships.
Start paying heavy attention to data, specifically around retention. We see a lot of effort put towards acquisition with the assumption that once someone buys, they are your customer forever. Instead, get to know your customer, understand their needs, and analyze their behaviors once they are on-site and judge their sentiment after they have visited. Work with a retention focused and data-driven agency to implement tools that contribute to repeat business and customer delight. It will pay dividends.
When surveyed, about 80% of ecommerce merchants think that they are delivering a great experience to their customers. However, when the same customers are surveyed, only 8% of those customers think that they are getting a great experience from the merchant. Now, more than ever, retaining loyal customers is an essential part of any online business and you should spend time with your customers to judge their experience with your website and products and offer improvements based on that feedback.
Tydo's report cards are an essential tool, along with Klaviyo for email and SMS, Recharge for subscriptions and memberships, Okendo for reviews and surveys, Rebuy for AI driven collections and upsells, Loop for self service returns... each tool is great on their own, but their strength as the ultimate tool comes from when they are used together!
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Report Cards is a customized glimpse into your business, delivered to your inbox for free.
Report Cards consolidates all your key metrics across platforms for an at-a-glance pulse of your business.
Discover metrics for every team member so they can stay updated with the right data on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
It's free because we believe everyone should have access to the basics.
Portfolio is a hub for analytics across multiple Shopify stores. The perfect tool for agencies.
See an aggregate view of all your data for all your stores in one place.
Make real time assessments on marketing initiatives across every storefront you manage.
Analyze the performance of one store versus another in seconds.
More about the project
Here at Tydo, we try to highlight DTC founders who run their business in various ways. And, that's because there's no "right" way to run a DTC brand.
This project illustrates exactly that. Whether it's how a founder supports their team or how they talk about mental health in the workplace, every founder has a different approach. How do they discover these different approaches? One way: reading. Discover the greatest books that have changed the way 15+ founders think about or operate their business.
You can also listen to these book picks on Spotify or Anchor.fm.