Short-form social video embraces social commerce

TikTok turning into the new QVC channel is like watching your grandma suddenly decide she’s a skateboard enthusiast—it’s unexpected but kind of makes sense when you see it in action.

This transformation is all about TikTok embracing the world of “social commerce,” a fancy term for shopping while you doom-scroll through endless streams of 15-second videos of people doing the most bizarre yet captivating things.

So, what does this shift mean for TikTok’s demographics? Well, first off, it’s like throwing a party and suddenly realizing your guest list includes everyone from hip teenagers to savvy grandparents looking for the next best thing in gardening tools. TikTok, known for its young user base, dancing teens, and viral challenges, is now attracting a broader audience.

We’re talking about shoppers of all ages who are there not just for the latest dance craze but to snag a deal on a new gadget or skincare routine they’ve seen in a TikTok video.

It becomes “all about the deal” … and impulse purchases that get used once and then put the back of the cupboard: Remember the George Foreman Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine? The “clam-shell grill on a slant” that cooked both sides of your steak and drained the fat away into a congealing tray. Nice.

For TikTok et al demographics, it’s a mix-and-match situation. The platform is still a kingdom ruled by Gen Z and millennials, but now you’ve got older generations tiptoeing into the TikTok realm, intrigued by the blend of entertainment and shopping. This shift broadens the platform’s appeal, making it a hotspot not just for fun and games but for businesses looking to tap into a diverse audience ready to swipe their credit cards after swiping up on a video.

Short-form video is cheap to produce – got iPhone, can speak English, off you go – but that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. The cheapness (or guerrilla as some might say), speeds up production and release but lacks a professionalism and the weight that some organisations require and many users crave when looking at a considered purchase. Fine to one-click buy cheap tat from China, or narrate an aspirational brand but not so good for complex sales journeys that need in-depth information, trust, and credibility.

And, of course, the market is entirely unregulated: TikTok‘s business account (and live shopping features) require no proof of the company or product’s quality. Shoppers have to take extra precautions because there’s a chance the items may not be as advertised, could be of shoddy quality, or not even arrive – the platform is rife with low-quality drop shippers that prey on your impulsiveness and usually manufacture a false sense of urgency. So, much like the QVC shopping channel, but not as trustworthy and very little comeback if the purchase process goes wrong.

Just because the move to social commerce can drive the platform down-market, it doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate a good TikTok shopping spree; after all, it’s all about connecting with audiences where they are—and right now, they’re checking out the latest in e-commerce between attempts at viral dance moves. So, TikTok’s new QVC vibe is weaving together different demographics, each looking for their own slice of the digital marketplace pie, served with a side of entertainment.