COMMENT: Is TikTok really a place for grocers to play?

When you think of TikTok, what are the first things you think of?

Is it dancing? Lip synching? Comedy? This is perhaps not a surprise, as when TikTok launched in the UK just three years ago as a video-sharing and entertainment platform, it quickly became famous for such things as viral dance challenges and hilarious comedy creators.

You’d be forgiven for not immediately thinking of the grocery sector, but I have a feeling that’s a perception that will quickly be a thing of the past. That’s because now what’s becoming famous is the incredible food revolution that’s happening on the platform.

TikTok has quickly grown into a hub of delicious culinary trends and recipes, where more than one billion people across Europe come together to share and riff on ideas, from the airy delight of cloud bread, to the simplicity of baked feta pasta.

Consequently grocery retailers from M&S Food to Co-op, have been using TikTok to tap into the community’s insatiable desire for food content, driving interest around new product launches and even finding fresh new ways to engage and champion their employees.

So what makes TikTok such a good fit for grocers?

Food content has undoubtedly taken off on TikTok, with #TikTokRecipe seeing an incredible over 4.8 billion views of content, #Cooking leading to 54.9 billion views, and #GroceryHaul generated 292 million views. The interest and engagement in food on our platform is high.

#TikTokMadeMeBuyIt has also become a phenomenon in itself, now with 5.4 billion views and consistently surfacing great finds that people have been convinced to buy because of TikTok.

Little Moons is a great example of a brand that tapped into our community’s love of great food content, seeing their sales in all UK supermarkets skyrocket, up 1,300 per cent in Tesco in February compared with the same period in December.

Whilst there is no doubt that Little Moons is a trailblazer, there is still a huge opportunity for brands to be part of the conversation and engage the next generation of consumers, and champion their employees, in fun and joyful ways.

What can we learn from the grocers already on TikTok?

For grocers thinking about bringing their brand onto TikTok, it’s important to remember that content, culture and creativity sit at the heart of everything we do on TikTok. Some top tips for what best practice looks like include:

1) Don’t be afraid to work with up and coming creators.
TikTok isn’t about always working with the biggest names or the people with the most followers. People on TikTok are served content based on what they like and engage with, not who they follow. That gives grocery brands the opportunity to go viral and collaborate with new and emerging talent on the platform who know how to make TikTok content that is authentic to both your brand and the platform.

Sainsbury’s recently teamed up with home cook @ollie_eats, setting him a couple of challenges including the vegan breakfast challenge which saw him create an entirely vegan cooked breakfast (3.7million views & 42.7k likes) and creating a delicious sweet dessert using only Jude’s (7.4 million views and 219.1k likes). Both performed enormously well with the TikTok community. We’ve also just announced a suite of tools to help brands collaborate with creators via our Creator Marketplace portal.

2) React and act.
In the past year, we’ve seen some incredible examples of the real world impact of TikTok food trends. The #fetapasta (one billion views) trend, involving baking a whole block of feta in the oven with a base of tomatoes and stirring it into a creamy delicious pasta sauce, triggered a massive spike in feta cheese sales.

Spotting the trend, Asda introduced a special Baked Feta Pasta bundle for people wanting to try the trend at home. This shows that grocers don’t just need to sit back and watch trends, they can be part of them and drive sales.

3) Embrace the unique look and feel of TikTok
The most successful brands are the ones that create content that is inherently TikTok – joyful and authentic – whilst speaking to their customers’ values and beliefs. We tell brands we work with that they need to make TikToks, not ads, as that’s the best way to resonate with potential customers on our platform. Which really means make ads, but make them with the TikTok audience in mind. Often the simplest looking creative or truth produces the strongest sentiment with our audience.

M&S Food does this perfectly – one of their TikToks recreated a famous Love Actually scene using Percy Pig and Colin The Caterpillar, hitting just the right note with the TikTok community.

4) Champion your employees
At a time when supermarket workers are needed more than ever, platforms such as TikTok can be a key way to drive employee engagement and shine a light on jobs in the sector. M&S’ Longbridge store went viral for featuring their hilarious store manager Craig Field on their TikTok account, who has now become something of a viral sensation in his own right.

Woolworths, one of the biggest supermarkets in Australia, went live on TikTok just this month with their own channel and an advertising campaign on the way.

They started exploring TikTok when one of their employees, Liam Kirley, created a TikTok account and started sharing content on the job to great success. Woolworths HQ loved the work so much that they then went and hired him to lead the charge on all things TikTok from head office.

The pandemic has ripped up the marketing rule book and the grocery sector is no exception. There’s a big opportunity for grocers to use TikTok to engage with a new generation of shoppers, sharing content that not only provides inspiration for recipes, but also celebrates their frontline employees.

With more food trends being born on TikTok every day, grocers can be part of this revolution in a way that drives meaningful engagement with their customers and sales both online and in-store.

by TikTok UK, head of CPG brand partnerships, Cody McKim

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