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American Express, TikTok team up in small business holiday promotion

Lifestyle creators
Lifestyle creators Sofia Bella (left) and Anna Sitar (center), along with small business owner Brandon Blackwood (right), teach small business owners how to use TikTok. Courtesy of American Express

American Express is partnering with TikTok to help small businesses connect with young customers during the holiday season.

Starting on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 26, the two companies are launching the #ShopSmall Accelerator, a new program designed to help small business owners reach Gen Z shoppers throughout the holiday shopping season. The #ShopSmall Accelerator will include an offer for eligible small business owners to earn a $100 TikTok advertising credit.

In addition, small business owners will be given access to tools and resources for TikTok marketing, including an online tutorial on how their businesses can stand out on the platform. The program will also feature lifestyle influencers and small business owners teaching small businesses how to use TikTok as a search engine; leverage sounds, trends, hashtags and communities; and how to drive engagement with users.

This joint promotion builds on two trends in retail: the growing importance of small businesses and TikTok’s emergence in the U.S. as a mainstream consumer engagement channel. Both Walmart and Amazon are actively assisting third-party retailers (which are mostly small businesses) that sell on their platforms.

TikTok grows retail presence in U.S.
An ever-increasing number of U.S. retailers (including Walmart) are using TikTok as a promotional platform, with movement toward full-fledged e-commerce activity. In August 2021, TikTok partnered with e-commerce platform Shopify to bring organic product discovery and shopping tabs to select U.S. users.

And in November 2022, TikTok reportedly commenced testing of an e-commerce feature called TikTok Shop in the U.S. The pilot is said to be part of a larger effort by TikTok’s parent company, China-based ByteDance, to establish a robust livestream shopping business in the U.S. 

TikTok has also posted ads on the LinkedIn professional social networking platform for U.S.-based product fulfillment centers. The ads said the centers, which TikTok apparently has not yet built or leased, would be part of an "international e-commerce fulfillment system."

All this e-commerce activity comes even as the Biden administration is continuing to express serious regulatory concerns which began under the Trump administration. In a June 2022 tweet, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) commissioner Brendan Carr publicly called on Apple and Google parent Alphabet to remove the TikTok app from their app stores, citing fears over possible ties between its parent company and the Chinese Communist Party.

In response, TikTok has publicly said 100% of its U.S. user traffic is now being routed to U.S.-based Oracle Cloud infrastructure as a default storage location and that it is developing additional steps to ensure the security of U.S. user data.

“The #ShopSmall Accelerator will help give small merchants the tools they need to reach the next generation of consumers on TikTok, where our Shop Small Impact Study found that 67% of Gen Z users have shopped from a small business that was displayed on their For You Page,” said Elizabeth Rutledge, chief marketing officer, American Express. “Shopping small has a significant impact on helping local communities, with two-thirds of every dollar spent at small businesses staying within the local community. Last year, consumers reported spending more than $23B shopping small on Small Business Saturday, and we want to exceed that in 2022.”

"More and more American small businesses are turning to TikTok to take us inside their world in a fun authentic way, and as a result, they are reaching new customers, hiring more employees and growing their business. The real world impact is undeniable, with 44% of TikTok users saying that they discovered something on the platform and immediately went out to buy it, according to our Global Retail Path To Purchase Study," said Sofia Hernandez, global head of business marketing for TikTok. "This holiday season, the TikTok community is ready to #ShopSmall and support small businesses."

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