Exclusive Q&A: Shopify sees TikTok as part of omnichannel strategy

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Shopify’s recent e-commerce partnership with TikTok fits into its larger goal of reaching high-value customers via their preferred channel.

Chain Store Age recently spoke with Arpan Podduturi, director of product, Shopify, about the Canada-based e-commerce platform’s decision to enable its retailers to create and connect their TikTok For Business account and deploy in-feed shoppable video ads directly within its site. Shopify is pursuing this partnership even as Walmart and Oracle continue exploring a joint merger with TikTok and the U.S. government considers a ban on the short-form video network.

What specific value does Shopify see in TikTok?
Building a successful brand means having a presence beyond a single channel. TikTok is one of the fastest-growing entertainment platforms in the world, with over 100 million monthly active users in the U.S. alone. Giving our merchants access to TikTok’s reach and scale enables them to grow their customer base and expand their sales.

Is Shopify concerned about a possible partial or full ban on TikTok in the U.S.?
We make product decisions based on what is best for our merchants. In this case, we wanted our merchants to have access to TikTok’s highly engaged community in the lead-up to the most important holiday shopping period in recent years, particularly for online selling. 

We also know that merchants are moving away from treating Black Friday/Cyber Monday as just a weekend. Data from our 1 million-plus merchants indicates Black Friday/Cyber Monday-like shopping is starting early this year, with orders up 17% week-over-week in the first half of November. During comparable periods in 2018 and 2019, orders were up less than 7%. Access to new channels like TikTok is key for merchants to leverage this shift in consumer spending.

Would a Walmart investment in TikTok's North American business affect Shopify's activities?
We don’t speculate on other companies’ pending business transactions or strategies.

Does Shopify see social media as a major platform for digital commerce?
Our merchants need to be selling where their customers are—and increasingly that means across social platforms. More consumers are turning to mobile-first shopping, so we believe that bringing a leading destination for short-form video to Shopify’s more than 1 million merchants will be pivotal heading into Black Friday/Cyber Monday and the holiday shopping season. 

Based on our recent research, we know that three-quarters of our merchants plan to sell through some type of social media and that younger shoppers are significantly more likely to say that they’re going to shop via mobile phone. This includes 54% of shoppers 18-34, 39% of shoppers 35-54, and just 9% of shoppers 55 and older.