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February 5, 2021

Using TikTok To Sell Fashion

By: Peter Gregory

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TikTok has taken the fashion world by storm … but can it help you grow your clothing business? What are the best ways to make money out of TikTok if you’re a small apparel startup or fashion designer?

In this week’s article we’ll look at the commercial opportunities for small clothing businesses on TikTok. We’ll look at some examples of where TikTok worked really well for a fashion business, and we’ll give you some guidance on how you can sell more clothes with this powerful young social media platform! 

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TikTok and Fashion: What’s The Big Deal?

TikTok is the latest ‘killer app’ in the social media world. It gets more global monthly users than LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat and Pinterest (according to the latest Hootsuite report), and it’s perhaps best known for its short, entertaining dance and humour videos. 

TikTok is really popular with the 15-25 year old age group (source: Statistica), so it’s perhaps no surprise that the platform is seen as a good fit for fashion businesses. TikTok recently sent some of its top influencers to New York Fashion Week (NYFW 2020) and launched a special in-app creative effect called ‘On The Catwalk’ (read all about it here), but the platform’s affinity for fashion runs deeper than big corporate tie-ins. 

For those of us on the front lines of fashion, there’s evidence that TikTok can supercharge product sales …it all depends on how you use it.

How To Sell More Clothes With TikTok 

We had to do a lot of research to answer this question, but what we discovered is that there are three main ways that grassroots apparel businesses can boost sales with TikTok:

1: Go Viral!

You might have heard about a phenomenon known as TikTok Pants. Just before Christmas 2020, a TikTok influencer named @hannahschlenker wore a pair of high-waisted crossover leggings in a TikTok dance video, drumming up more than 7 million views. When Hannah told her fans that the leggings she wore in the video came from Aerie (part of the American Eagle brand), Aerie sold out of every size and colour in record time. It’s an incredible story of the viral power of TikTok — you can read all about it on Insider and Forbes


2: Use Product Drops!

Another way to sell clothes on TikTok is to tap in to the growing drop culture phenomenon. With a product drop, you produce a short run of limited edition designs and announce the design on social media. By offering the product for a very short period of time (say 24 hours), you can create a buzz around the latest product that’s ‘dropping’ right now, sell some clothes and build your following. ‘Drops’ only really work on the most popular social media platforms, as you need a lot of people to see the offer in a very short period of time, and it helps to have a loyal group of fans before you drop the product (learn more about drop culture here).


3: Pay Influencers!

If you’re short on time and you’ve got the budget, you can always hire an influencer. TikTok makes it easy for brands to connect with its most popular users through its TikTok Creator Marketplace service. It costs money to work with an influencer, but it’s a good option if you just want to get a TikTok audience up and running quickly and start winning some attention for your brand. 

Which Fashion Companies Use TikTok?

Not all UK fashion brands are on TikTok. In fact, a surprising number of the most popular fashion & clothing brands in the UK (Clarks and Next, for instance) are nowhere to be found on the social media app.

Here’s a cross-section of some of the well-known fashion brands that are on TikTok. Fashion and activewear brands use the platform very differently. Fashion brands tend to celebrate the product itself, showing the garment on a model, while activewear brands publish more ‘slice of life’ content that echoes the lifestyle promised by the brand:

Top Clothing Brands On TikTok:

BrandFollowersLikesLinks to a Shop?
Gymshark2.3 million36.9 millionYes
Pretty Little Thing1.3 million19.9 millionYes
Nike1.3 million4.3 millionNo
Gucci982,0006.4 millionYes
asos503,0008.2 millionYes
boohoo483,0004.9 millionYes
Louis Vuitton476,0003.5 millionNo
PRIMARK142,0001.4 millionYes
Selfridges107,0002.1 millionYes
The North Face36,000153,000No

* stats gathered on Friday 5th February 2021 – rounded to the nearest thousand

If you look at the numbers of likes and followers, it’s easy to see that there’s a huge appetite for brand engagement on TikTok. What’s less clear is how these brands are meant to turn all of this attention into real-world sales. For example, Nike has 1.3 million followers on TikTok, but it doesn’t have a link to an ecommerce store, or even an ‘about us’ page. 

Based on our research, TikTok just isn’t very ecommerce-friendly, which may be why some fashion brands have chosen to ignore it. There’s no ‘buy now’ button anywhere on a TikTok profile page — many profile pages aren’t even allowed external links. On those rare occasions where you can click on a link to a shopping page, you have to visit a special consent page to proceed. TikTok have made it very difficult to draw fashion fans out of the app and into your shop in one seamless move. 

TikTok As A Branding Tool

There’s more than one way to sell clothes, of course — it’s not all about winning the sale there-and-then. The fact is that TikTok has a massive, engaged, young audience. If you can win their attention, then you can boost your chances of selling them something in future. 

You might want to try duets and hashtag challenges. With these two tricks, you ask fans to create their own video using an idea that you have had or content that you have posted. 

Hashtag Challenges

With a hashtag challenge, you come up with a fun challenge and ask TikTok users to upload video footage of them attempting it.

A great example is the  #bottlecapchallenge, but we’ve seen some pretty entertaining fashion-specific challenges too, like the #pillowdresschallenge and #inmydenim

Duets

With Duets, you combine your own video with someone else’s in a sort of split-screen ‘commentary’ mode.

The king of the TikTok duet at the moment is probably chef Gordon Ramsay and his duet campaign called #RamsayReacts.

The key thing to remember when creating a duet or hashtag challenge is that it has to be fun to do (otherwise it won’t go viral) and it has to be linked to your brand (otherwise you won’t get the credit!). Have fun with it and let us know how you get on! 

Is TikTok Right For Your Brand?

TikTok is a powerful marketing tool — there’s no question — but you should think carefully before you sign up to it. It might not be right for your brand. 

TikTok is a massive social media platform and it’s growing quickly, but a lot of that growth is still coming from India and China. If your business is only selling clothes to consumers in the UK and EU, then you may be better off sticking with YouTube, Facebook or other platforms with a bigger footprint here at home. 

Another thing to bear in mind is that 69% of TikTok’s users are aged 13-24 (according to Hootsuite). If this isn’t the demographic you’re aiming for then you might be better off looking at other marketing opportunities. 

We hope that gives you a fair and rounded overview of TikTok as a sales tool for fashion businesses!  It’s a highly competitive platform that demands consistency and creativity, but if you think you can deliver really interesting content to a younger crowd, then by all means go for it! 

Good luck, and please let us know how you do!

Thanks for reading!

Pete

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