As the festive season approaches, South Africans are looking forward to a much-anticipated break from the myriad of problems they face on a daily basis. But for retailers and service providers, it’s the busiest time of the year as they prepare for holiday-makers and revellers to spend their hard-earned cash on groceries, gifts, and entertainment.

So, with this in mind, how should brands be planning their festive season marketing campaigns in order to reach their target audiences in the right place, at the right moment, and with the right messaging?

A recent Holiday Season Shopping Report 2023 conducted by Redseer Strategy Consultants in South Africa revealed that during the holiday season , the Number 1 digital media channel for product discovery for users is now TikTok. It has emerged as a prominent digital media platform, with 71% of the adult Internet population of the country using it, and now having the highest influence on purchases compared to other digital media platforms.

Discovering new products, sharing recommendations and opinions, engaging in conversations about products and purchases has become so organic and natural for the TikTok community that it has turned into a global trend – #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt – with over 70-billion views. By offering an experience that blends community, entertainment, and shopping all into one, TikTok is making a culture-defining impact on modern consumption.

South Africans look to TikTok for shopping recommendations

South Africa-specific statistics indicate that TikTok is not only growing considerably, it is regarded as a credible and trusted platform for users when they are making purchase decisions. The platform now plays a significant role in influencing consumers throughout every part of the user journey: from search to discovery and purchase influence – and it increases during the holiday season.

Three key insights stand out:

Firstly, TikTok is part of the product discovery process: more than 40% of local consumers use TikTok for product search compared to other digital media platforms, looking for trendy products, personalised experience, and more variety in results. Moreover, almost half of South African consumers discovered products from trending videos on TikTok and 44% interact with videos posted by creators on TikTok when deciding to buy a product.

Secondly, TikTok is a platform for inspiration and this increases during the festive season: 55% of TikTok users use the platform for inspiration during normal times, and usage increases up to 1.2x during the holiday season, reaching 64%. In regards to shopping, TikTok content inspires 95% of the platform’s South African users to make purchases and almost 70% of them expect to increase their spending during the holiday season.

Thirdly, peer reviews in the form of “digital word-of-mouth” is central to the TikTok journey: 66% of TikTok users influence their communities to make purchases after seeing TikTok content and 20% of consumers prefer searching on TikTok over other platforms because of better reviews and recommendations.

Insights for brands

With a surge in retail, domestic travel, gifting and outdoor activities expected during the year-end holiday season, these insights represent a compelling reason for brands to harness TikTok as a critical marketing tool. In fact, TikTok represents an unparalleled opportunity for brands to tap into cultural and social moments and garner real impact for their businesses.

Here are the insights revealed in the Holiday Season Shopping Report 2023 that brands should take into consideration while planning their festive season marketing strategies and tactics:

• TikTok is a shortcut for brands on the entire purchase journey: more than 60% of shoppers are making immediate purchases after discovering products on the platform.

• When it comes to content preferences during the festive season, more than 40% of TikTok users are varied content seekers, but majorly prefer entertaining and creative content.

• Tapping into interactive storytelling is crucial. TikTok users cluster into communities or circles of influence – known as “Toks” or “digital campfires” – based on shared interests such as #BookTok or #BeautyTok. Communities are more powerful than followers because they engage with brands and with each other, making word of mouth scalable and peer reviews more trusted.

• Being able to fit into some of the main trends on TikTok or even for a brand to find a way to set new ones showcasing their creativity and individual voice on the platform can be a major opportunity to stand out among others during this competitive season. TikTok users are 1.5x more likely to follow trends on the platform when making purchase decisions during the holiday season compared to normal shopping times – and are almost twice as likely to interact with trending videos on TikTok when considering buying a product.

• The influence of content creators on users’ purchase journey is growing as well: 43% of the South African users discover products through videos posted by creators on TikTok. During the holiday season, creators’ influence on purchases is high, with 48% of TikTok users wanting to find out more about a product after seeing it in creators’ content. Users say that creators who make videos that portray real-life situations and show their personal experiences can influence and inspire them more when making a purchase decision.