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How does TikTok commerce stack up against Instagram and Facebook?

TikTok is the social commerce platform of the moment, as brands and marketers look to cash in on the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt phenomenon. While TikTok may not have as large a shopper base as Facebook or Instagram, its shoppers are highly active and engaged.

TikTok is a strong driver of purchase intent. If #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt has taught us anything, it’s that a seemingly random assortment of products, from yoga pants to carpet cleaners to ranch dressing, can quickly go viral and lead to sales. TikTok’s strength in discovery is powered by its algorithm, which surfaces relevant and entertaining content to users on the main, personalized “For You” feed. Those videos often feature products, including items that a user never considered before seeing it in the feed.

People who shop on TikTok browse and buy goods more frequently than shoppers on other social platforms. More than one-fifth of TikTok shoppers worldwide said they bought goods on TikTok “all of the time,” ahead of all other platforms measured, per the January 2022 Bazaarvoice survey. The study didn’t indicate where those purchases were completed, however.

Many TikTok-inspired purchases take place off-platform, including on ecommerce sites, in stores, or even on rival social networks with more robust commerce offerings, like Facebook and Instagram. In some cases, TikTok may facilitate this behavior: It allows businesses to direct people to their Instagram (and YouTube) accounts with an embedded link at the top of their TikTok profiles.

TikTok’s younger user makeup helps explain the high levels of off-platform buying. Teens and young adults make up the core of TikTok’s US user base. They’re more inclined than older generations to keep up with current trends and be influenced to buy based on them—but they may have less purchasing power or lack access to digital payment methods. But many of those teens and young adults share TikTok content with relatives or friends, who then buy the featured item for them elsewhere.

As a result, TikTok’s share of the total US social commerce market will remain relatively small. US consumers will spend $45.74 billion on social commerce purchases this year, including purchases made via in-app checkout and those made by clicking through to a retailer’s site. Facebook and Instagram will continue to account for the majority of those purchases, and they will account for the majority of social buyers.

Small can still be mighty. Our forecast does not account for the in-store or other off-platform buying that is common with #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt purchases. TikTok is also rapidly releasing new features to drive more in-app buying, including mini storefronts, product links, and the ability to integrate product catalogs into select ad formats and livestreaming. That will help it capture more social commerce spending.