Why TikTok is ripe with opportunities for grocers

On a platform where food is “huge,” what’s the opportunity for grocers?
Shellee Fitzgerald
Editor-in-Chief
Shellee Fitzgerald
Nik Djukic-Walker
Nik Djukic-Walker

As a social media platform, TikTok is a phenomenon, capturing the imagination and eyeballs of people around the globe with its user-created short-form videos. Statista reports that in 2022, it was the most downloaded mobile app worldwide and counted about 1.7 billion users. Why should grocers care? Food is huge on TikTok; according to the company, it’s among the platform’s top five content categories (out of 58) with engagement continuing to rise. We recently spoke with Nik Djukic-Walker, head of partnerships and performance media at TikTok Canada, about why the platform’s content resonates with users and how grocers can use it to win customers. The interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

TikTok is known for its viral food trends – #GirlDinner and #FetaCheese pasta are two that come to mind. Why do you think these captured the imagination of the platform’s users?

I think it’s just a function of the platform, where it’s straight entertainment… there’s literally a trend picking up every few weeks. #FetaCheese pasta started as a simple dinner recipe on TikTok and more and more people then started contributing to it, creating their own versions and spinning it; soon [feta] was an addition to grocery baskets everywhere. People come to the platform to learn and they [come to learn] how to make the next great viral recipe. Food is huge on the platform – engagement on our platform is on fire when it comes to all things food and grocery. When you look at #ItsCorn, #CharcuterieBoard, #PancakeCereal, #ChoppedSandwich and #FruitRollUpIceCream, these are really interesting trends that just come out of the creativity of people on the platform. #GirlDinner, for instance, started with a simple thing like an assortment of pretty much anything you could find in your pantry to create a “girl dinner.” Fast forward to now, it’s ended up as a menu item at restaurants. That’s the power of trends on the platform. We’re not social media, we’re entertainment. 

READ: PepsiCo partners with TikTok influencers to launch new Pure Leaf and Brisk Iced Teas

How can grocery retailers tap into these trends and engage users? 

I think for us it all boils down to being authentic. So, grocers can respond by understanding the shopper behaviours and addressing key concerns people are sharing on the platform; for instance, the cost of groceries or conveniences like home delivery or value additions, like sustainably-sourced ingredients. I think it’s crucial that brands remain transparent and show up authentically to connect with communities. So, #FoodTok or #GroceryHaul or #ShopWithMe, they’re not just hashtags that are popular on the platform, think of them as entire communities of people that brands can connect with. This can be done through creator partnerships, or by exploring tools… we have a suite of solutions that grocers can tap into, to really [seize upon] the trends. 

Can you share some examples of how grocers have been effective on TikTok?

I’ll talk about two. They’re Canadian, so the first one really was the success story with Voilà by Sobeys. This was a big deal. They really crushed it with their Trending 2 Table campaign; they leveraged that #FoodTok community to deliver trending recipes to table. So, users watched a video, they were then driven to a pre-populated cart on Voila.ca, but what [Sobeys] did was really interesting because they closed that loop. When the orders were delivered by Voilà, their CRM auto-triggered a follow-up with a link back to that TikTok recipe, which encouraged people to get cooking. And then Loblaws, that was another success story and [the campaign] was something very easy and turnkey to do. They looked to our platform and the community of shoppers to simply drive awareness and consideration for their PC Optimum Points Days event. 

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Anything else?

It’s an exciting time for grocers. It’s an exciting time for retail media. And we are excited to build a framework where we can extend the reach of retail networks. For instance, for flyer content on TikTok, we recently introduced carousel ads that dynamically pull catalogue content and create an instant page with featured content. We’re saying there is also a place here for flyer content on TikTok, especially when we think about [people] hunting for deals and things. We are also screaming towards a world with no [internet] cookies. So, a lot of platforms now are starting to talk about what does that world look like? What are those conversations? How do we leverage server-to-server to really help take your marketing budgets further, and really reach audiences where they want to be found? We’ve also recently launched our “out of phone” initiative. So, we’ve partnered with another company to bring TikTok content to digital out-of-home boards; it’s connecting the offline to the online world, and really making an interesting experience that can be found in the real world, not just on your phone.

This article first appeared in Canadian Grocer’s December 2023/January 2024 issue.

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