As one of its earliest converts, the beauty industry is no stranger to the power of social media. But even the savviest marketers could not have foreseen the impact that TikTok would have in the beauty and cosmetics space.
As of this year, the platform has consistently remained the most downloaded app in the world. Primarily it is the domain of Gen Z. The app boasts 1 billion active monthly users worldwide and is expected to reach 1.8 billion by the end of 2022.
TikTok’s cultural impact
TikTok’s culture-defining influence lies in its ability to blur the line between social media, music and video streaming, all packaged up in bite-sized 15-second-long snippets. Add that to a compelling algorithm that pushes content personalised to you through your very own ‘For Your Page’ or FYP. The result? Total addiction.
On TikTok the number of followers an influencer possesses, or the profile of a brand is irrelevant. TikTok’s unique algorithm will find content that it thinks matters the most to you. This is unlike Facebook and Instagram where content is funnelled to users via the pages they follow. On TikTok even relatively unknown brands have the potential to go viral and sell out.
This element of discovery and level of engagement has turned TikTok into the premier beauty destination. It is fueling the next must-have purchases. In terms of numbers, the #beauty hashtag currently exceeds 100 billion views and counting, with studies finding that most social media users will access the app 13 times within the space of 24 hours, clocking in an average of 52 minutes per day on the app.
Why TikTok beauty works
A proven MVP when it comes to the potential for gaining massive organic brand awareness, TikTok has become an indispensable part of the beauty community. It’s there for product reviews, generating hype and accessing tutorials. Beauty addicts love the platform’s hyper-consumable content. The connection they enjoy with their favourite influencers is authentic and immediate in a way not rivalled by other social media platforms.
In official data commissioned by TikTok over half of TikTok users say they use the platform to discover new products. Relatively unknown brands like US drugstore staple CeraVe have been propelled to rockstar status off the back of TikTok reviews. In this case a single review by skinfluencer Hyram Yarbro was enough to trigger a cult following for CeraVe.
As the TikTok community continues to highlight new beauty favourites, retailers are flocking to the platform in droves. But just as there are rave reviews, there are as many controversies. Bobbi Brown’s parody of a negative product review is one that comes to mind. The makeup maven received more backlash than she expected, inadvertently sparking a conversation about which influencers should be trusted.
As with all social media, the caveat for using TikTok should be: proceed with caution.
What should beauty brands do?
Having witnessed TikTok’s seismic impact on the industry firsthand, I am both alive to its benefits but also its pitfalls. To start with, far too many brands fall into the TikTok trap by allowing it to dictate product development and control their narrative. So how can brands build a strategy that actually works?
In a saturated industry like the beauty industry, authenticity is a point of uniqueness. Surveys show a high number of consumers value authenticity. Ninety percent saying it’s a key factor when deciding which brands they like and support. As a platform valued for its “honest” and “authentic” opinions, TikTok is a great tool for keeping your finger on the pulse. It’s about learning from the user’s experience of the product firsthand. But that doesn’t mean you need to buy into every trend or let critical feedback drive the direction of your brand development.To strike the right balance brands need to have a strong identity. Know your product, your audience, and your brand ethos. Sure, you’ll have online detractors, but as the Bobbi Brown/Jones Road debacle demonstrated, you can’t be everything to everyone and it’s sometimes best to ignore the noise and stick to your brand’s core messages.
If there’s one thing TikTok users are likely to lap up, it’s educational content. TikTok audiences are there to learn about your products. Make it entertaining and informative and you’re well on your way. Viewers appreciate the behind-the-scenes perspective. They want to know more about ingredients, scientific rationales, and product formulations. For skincare brands, the rise of skinfluencers and interest in skincare and natural beauty is a huge area of growth. According to data compiled by Traackr’s State of Influence: Beauty report, influencer posts about skincare increased by 39 percent. Audience engagement increased by 164 percent between 2019 and 2020.
From dermatologists like @dermdoctor Muneed Shah to unofficial experts like Hyram Yarbo, the creative behind CeraVe’s viral success, TikTok is the mecca for skin education. Products like Glow Recipe’s Watermelon Glow Dew Drops, Korean staple Etude House’s SoonJung 2x Barrier Intensive Cream and Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant have gained loyal followings thanks to TikTok skinfluencers.
The lightning-fast emergence of TikTok as a platform to be reckoned is a timely reminder of how quickly things move in the digital commerce world. The next step for the beauty industry’s new darling is a fully integrated shopping outlet. On this front, the app is already making huge strides, with brands like Kylie Cosmetics currently trialling the TikTok shop function.
As it continues to bring in innovative new features there’s still plenty of room to grow for TikTok. Particularly in the e-commerce space. By preparing for this, brands have the opportunity to capitalise on a highly engaged audience. And these are the ones willing to spend big on the products they know and love.
Rohan Widdison is the CEO and founder of New Laboratories.