Lauren Gonzalez loves vintage clothing. She scours thrift shops for the best finds and enjoys upcycling and reworking the pieces she finds. Gonzalez especially loves embroidery and mending jeans in creative ways. She’s developed some unique products to help her customers do the same including a set of visible mending stick-and-stitch guides to help crafters create neat rows of visible mending on jeans.
Gonzalez says she’s been selling the guides on Etsy and Shopify for a while now but hasn’t made many sales. The TikTok videos she’s made demonstrating visible mending have been gaining traction, though, and just recently created a TikTok Shop to connect her Shopify site to TikTok so her audience can buy the stitch guides right in the app.
“From my one video yesterday, I’ve had 10 orders, so I’m actually pretty pleased with it so far,” Gonzalez says.
Even though she only has 9,482 followers on TikTok, she says the app seems to be putting her content in front of more people than Instagram has, even when she’s posted the same video in both places. TikTok Shop is allowing her to directly monetize her short-form video viewers in a new way.
TikTok first began testing its TikTok Shop feature in November 2022 and officially launched it this summer so it’s fairly new to everyone. It’s an ecommerce platform that’s integrated into TikTok allowing creators to sell right from their videos.
There are three options for selling products with TikTok Shop. The first is live shopping. During a TikTok Live, you can list products on screen for your viewers to click and buy within the app. The second option is a pre-recorded video like the sort that Gonzalez is creating that has a product link for viewers to click and buy within the app. And the third option is for your audience to click the link in your profile and shop your TikTok Shop catalog that way. According to TikTok, hosting the entire purchase experience right within the app leads to higher conversion rates and sales for sellers than linking out to a shop off the app.
Setting up TikTok Shop is a similar process to setting up other ecommerce sales channels. To get started setting up TikTok Shop, you’ll need a TikTok account and a phone number or email address. You’ll also need to submit a few documents. If you’re selling as an individual, you’ll submit a passport and driver’s license (always be cautious and use your best judgment when sharing personal information with a third party). If you’re selling as a business, you’ll need your business license, certificate of incorporation, business information, and documents and then wait 2-3 days for approval. Once your business is approved, you’ll link your bank account and then begin listing your products.
Showcase and sell your products by connecting your Shopify site to your TikTok shop.
You can sync your TikTok Shop to your existing ecommerce catalog on Shopify, or list items natively in the app. Other ecommerce integrations include Ecwid, BigCommerce, and Square (it’s not possible at this time to integrate your Etsy listings with TikTok Shop). One nice thing about TikTok Shop is the threshold of followers you need before you begin selling is fairly low at 1,000. Another positive is the transaction fees are low as well at .30 per order plus a 2% referral fee. It’s difficult to find documentation from TikTok regarding when creators get paid and creators report different time periods for receiving their money.
According to one creator it can take a month or more, although others report that once new shops are selling for a period of time, their money is starts to be released within just a few days. TikTok Shop seems to require products to be shipped within three days of the order which means the platform is likely not useful for shops making custom orders or handmade products to order (again, its challenging at the moment to find documentation from TikTok outlining these requirements).
Right now, TikTok is offering discount codes and free shipping to customers to build momentum for the platform while its new. These are paid for by TikTok and not by shop owners.
The platform does seem to be glitchy at the moment and creators are reporting various difficulties such as products being randomly unlinked to their listings, or an increase in bot accounts on live videos once the shop is set up. There also seems to be a limit of 100 orders a day, frustrating some high-volume sellers.
Tanner Frost Bowen has 91,000 followers on TikTok where his motto is “sewing is for every body.” Bowen writes zines and sells them on his site, Garbie. Recently he released a limited-edition zine to sell exclusively on his new TikTok Shop. How to Develop a Sewing Brain is a photocopied booklet with sewing inspiration, instructions, and ideas. The TikTok Shop release exceeded Bowen’s expectations. In a video, Bowen says he’s maxed out the daily sales threshold, selling 2,400 copies in 30 days and causing TikTok to reach out to him for a private meeting.
Affiliates and Brands
TikTok Shop has an affiliate program so if you’re a content creator who enjoys spreading the word about other companies’ products you can direct your viewers to where they can purchase and earn an affiliate commission. To get started, you’ll set up an account through a platform called Impact. Then you’ll email TikTok with your account ID number and your account will be reviewed. Once it’s approved, you’ll be able to generate your unique affiliate links within Impact and then begin using them on TikTok. Affiliates are paid within 30 days of a sale. You can monitor your performance in your Impact account.
Tanner Frost Bowen’s limited edition Zine “How to Develop a Sewing Brain” sold 2,400 copies in 30 days from his TikTok shop.
As a brand, setting up a TikTok Shop can allow you to partner with creators on the app in an affiliate arrangement where both parties are compensated. Affiliate creators can find companies seeking partners through the Affiliate Product Marketplace. You get to set the commission rate and can offer an affiliate access to your entire product line or on just select products. You can choose to send affiliates free samples, or not. Creators can apply to get free samples if they meet the eligibility requirements you set and you’re free to accept or reject the creator applications. If you do send free samples, the creators who receive them are required to post content with your products.
For both brands and affiliates, TikTok Shop’s analytics are helpful for checking out how your videos and links are performing.
TikTok Shop has many of the features ecommerce sellers have come to expect. You can create discounts and offer free shipping to help drive sales to your shop. You can also manage orders, and track shipping and returns. Customers can leave reviews using a five-star system and, similar to Etsy, customers can also upload their own photo as part of the review.
Just like TikTok itself, TikTok Shop is clearly not for everyone, but for those sellers who enjoy making short-form video on the app or going live to demonstrate products and who can ship products within three days, TikTok Shop a new ecommerce platform with potential.
Abby co-founded Craft Industry Alliance and now serves as its president. She’s a sewing pattern designer, teacher, and journalist. She’s dedicated to creating an outstanding trade association for the crafts industry. Abby lives in Wellesley, Massachusetts.