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How TikTok could help boost social commerce in the UK

The UK is a nation of digital buyers. But their appetite for shopping online hasn’t yet extended to social media. That’s partly because social commerce has been slower to roll out in the UK than in the US and China, the world’s other top ecommerce nations. Another headwind is the relative maturity of ecommerce in the UK, where consumers and brands already have well-established digital habits that could take time to change.

In 2022, over 15 million UK consumers will make a purchase on social media, per our forecast. For UK brands and retailers, that presents a significant opportunity for social commerce to help fill the “discovery gap” that exists in traditional ecommerce. By leveraging the commerce tools available on social platforms, marketers can get their products in front of a relevant, engaged audience—increasing brand reach and improving engagement with both new and existing customers.

But there is strong potential for growth

The social commerce landscape is shifting. TikTok launched TikTok Shop in the UK in 2021, ahead of the US and the rest of Europe, because UK shoppers tend to be more advanced in their shopping habits. They’ve also been quicker to adopt new technologies, such as contactless payments. If the platform continues to invest in social commerce functionality, it could help boost social shopping in the UK—especially among Gen Z.

TikTok is Gen Z’s No. 2 social commerce destination and is almost as popular as Facebook among millennial social buyers, per Klarna. The fastest-growing social network in the UK, TikTok has overtaken Snapchat as the country’s third-biggest platform, per our forecast. It’s been investing heavily in social commerce functionality: 

  • TikTok Shop was launched in the UK in 2021 and offers a fully native shopping experience—with product discovery, product detail pages, product management, shipping, billing, purchases, and returns all powered and performed on TikTok.
  • TikTok Shop sellers can add a shopping tab to their account profile, as well as tag products in video content and hold livestream shopping events. 
  • TikTok has also partnered with Shopify for a pilot enabling select merchants with a TikTok For Business account to create product catalogs synced to their ecommerce platforms. 
  • In December 2021, TikTok launched its first live shopping event in the UK—the first outside of Asia-Pacific.
  • In August 2022, TikTok capitalized on its dedicated #FoodTok community by enabling UK brands to sell fresh food via its platform.

TikTok’s unique selling point is discoverability. That’s thanks to its algorithm, which surfaces content on users’ personalized For You page. The platform pioneered viral commerce through trending topics such as #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt, which has more than 27 billion views as of November 2022. And it recently launched Shopping Ads in three formats—Live, Video, and Catalog Listing, although the latter is currently being tested only in the US and by eligible merchants targeting the US.