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Marketers look to TikTok’s new video ad offerings ahead of this year’s busy holiday shopping season

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TikTok is rolling out new advertising options ahead of the holiday shopping season that it hopes will entice marketers and creators. Three new features will allow advertisers to link their products in in-feed videos, advertise a catalog of products from videos and place clickable ads in live videos.

TikTok hopes these features will make it easier for consumers to discover and purchase those products. The features also give advertisers access to its infamously targeted algorithm by reaching users who are more likely to purchase a product after seeing brands’ shoppable videos.

The timing of TikTok’s launch comes ahead of the holiday shopping period, which begins on Black Friday and ends on Christmas Day, marking the busiest shopping period of the year. It also marks a step to meet advertisers halfway, who have expressed unease with the platform’s ad offerings particularly given its targeted, one billion TikTok users.

“Similar to how brands release new products during the holiday season when buyers are most primed to spend, TikTok is applying that philosophy in its own marketing to advertisers,” said Alexa Kilroy, head of brand at the e-commerce software company Triple Whale.

It’s the most recent advertiser gimmick, but the short-form video app has already made strides this year to appease marketers. Throughout 2022, TikTok has slowly introduced QVC-style live shopping into various international markets with mixed results. “It is a call to action presenting itself at the ideal moment. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out, both for the advertisers and the TikTok audience,” said Nicole Penn, president of EGC Group, a full-service advertising and marketing agency.

The new shopping ads provide advertisers with a way to promote one or more products in their in-feed video ads to amplify their products, similar to the way Facebook approaches its in-feed ads. Using the tool, called Video Shopping Ads, brands can showcase their shoppable videos to users who are more likely to buy them. As well as creating a landing page for those advertised products, the ads will generate a score that determines how likely a user is to purchase. A limited number of advertisers (though TikTok did not name names) are currently able to test video shopping ads in a beta program in the U.S. and U.K. Naturally, TikTok did not reveal how its shopping ads algorithm works.

Marketers told Digiday that TikTok’s offering can help them navigate bumpy holiday seasons, especially after last year’s which saw a number of issues related to supply chains, iOS updates, and platform volatility. Marketers suggested that inventory issues will be the highlight of this holiday season, which is something they should consider with shoppable ads.

“It’s critical that brands think through fulfillment when working with shoppable ads so the experience for the end customer lives up to expectations,” said Margo Kahnrose, CMO of the omnichannel platform Skai.

Shopping with influencers

TikTok is also hoping the new offerings will appeal to influencers — and close the gap between TikTok users and brands’ products, particularly as live streaming continues into the holiday season. This will likely encourage brands to sign contracts with the influencers themselves, said Kilroy.

“TikTok has thrived because of its strong community between creators and their audiences,” said Kahnrose. “Shoppable ads are a huge opportunity for influencers to bring authentic brands that they are passionate about to their followers.”

But marketers are cautioned to take on these advertiser partners organically akin to other TikTok content so as to not threaten their brands’ authenticity. “Brands and advertisers need to be conscious of not getting overeager in their transition to shoppable ads,” said Kahnrose.

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