Since TikTok’s popularity exploded in 2020, the platform has gotten famous for its power over shopping carts across the internet. Beyond the usual brand deals and gifting, TikTok creators have leaned into a whole genre of explicitly shopping-related content, like promoting “dupes” for designer products and recommending the best items in seasonal sales. But they drive shoppers to one place more than any other: Amazon.
When TikTok posted a job listing for a “Head of Amazon” a couple of months ago, many marketers and trade reporters wondered whether it was possible that a new age of media convergence was about to begin, very different from the arms-length competition between Google and Meta, which have both historically leaned into building up their own walled gardens instead of collaborating.
And it didn’t seem one-sided; Amazon has increased its ad spend by 30% on TikTok even as it has decreased its investment elsewhere.
But this symbiotic relationship is quickly morphing into a full-scale rivalry; Amazon has tried multiple times (with decidedly mixed results) to get various in-platform social-esque discovery features off the ground, while TikTok recently launched TikTok Shop (again, to mixed results) where people can convert and purchase without leaving the app.
And in the latest shot across the bow, Amazon has now inked deals with TikTok’s social competitors.
Amazon vs. TikTok? The current dynamic
Many TikTokers have Amazon storefronts and refer products to followers through related affiliate links. There’s even a whole category of “Amazon influencer;” creators who make content entirely around Amazon, whether that’s the best products to buy or how-to guides on cultivating aesthetics like “cottagecore” or “light academia” with Amazon products.
Amazon is looking for more opportunities to engage audiences that are discovering new products and impulse shopping, which is why it launched the social-esque Inspire and Posts, an Instagram-like option on the platform.
Amazon has announced new partnerships with Meta, Snap, and Pinterest that will allow users to purchase products from ads without leaving the social apps. TikTok, notably, was not one of the social networks Amazon is currently partnering with.
That may be because TikTok has bet big on TikTok Shop, a potential Amazon competitor that lets users shop directly within the app. TikTok wants to connect its discovery prowess to actual purchases. They have announced a string of new partnerships to appeal to both buyers and sellers by making the feature more reliable.
Despite both Amazon and TikTok’s significant investment in these projects, so far, neither effort seems likely to win. TikTok has aggressively promoted its Shop feature by driving videos with ‘shop’ buttons to users’ For You pages and offering steep discounts and coupons to potential shoppers, but it’s faced criticism that the available products are shoddy, low-quality, or even counterfeit. Amazon’s Inspire and Posts haven’t seen much more success, with few users making the leap to these new feeds.
In an ideal world, the two would work together to innovate the social commerce space. But (at least for now), that’s not to be.
The convergence of TikTok and Amazon could be a big opportunity for brands but right now the possibilities remain limited. TikTok and Amazon seem committed to remaining separate, and most brands can’t justify maximizing investment unless and until the platforms can actually talk to each other. But if your team is looking to build a cutting-edge social and ecommerce strategy, it’s worth thinking about what brands can do in the future and today to make the most of the way these platforms work together.
How Amazon and TikTok could work together in the future
To facilitate more discovery and more conversions, brands look to consumer behavior and focus their efforts where people are already discovering and converting. The real opportunity–for both brands and the platforms themselves–lies in bringing Amazon and TikTok together.
We’re already getting a preview of how a partnership could function based on Amazon’s new deals with non-TikTok social platforms. A similar partnership with Amazon and TikTok could be even more effective. This kind of integration might be the future of ecommerce and social–a flywheel that supports fast purchasing from social media users feeling tempted by their feeds.
For brands, the advantages of the synergy between Amazon and TikTok are clear. Businesses with Amazon stores could efficiently and organically drive purchases with integrated ads and content when TikTok users discover new products. Right now, they can take advantage of new search ads on TikTok to promote their Amazon stores. On Amazon, companies can benefit from integration via social media content, especially video (read: TikToks) on store pages and elsewhere.
What Amazon and TikTok can do to make the dream a reality
To make a symbiotic strategy a reality, Amazon and TikTok will need to make some big changes in how they work together.
The platforms will need to address a big sticking point for brands looking to create a shared strategy: a lack of data sharing. Right now, marketers hit a wall when it comes to measurement on social media beyond vanity metrics like shares and likes. If Amazon and TikTok allowed shared conversion data that made attribution clear, marketers could get the robust measurement they need to understand performance.
The two have the opportunity to present a powerful alternative to the dominant “walled garden” model of digital marketing.
The breakdown of silos between platforms would be a win-win for brands and platforms, since these divides have long been an issue for marketers looking to prove performance. Some retail media networks (RMNs) are already experimenting with making their data more accessible. Kroger, for example, has recently given brands the ability to purchase access to their valuable data.
Once these walls come down, Amazon and TikTok could introduce an irresistible, full-funnel alternative to compete with the traditional digital duopoly.
How can your brand make the most of Amazon and TikTok’s synergy today?
Since none of these changes have happened yet, what can marketers do to take advantage of the synergy we’re seeing right now?
A good place to start is by taking a look within. While Amazon and TikTok have their walls up, many companies have the same separation in their internal teams. When groups working on Amazon and social media are siloed, it de-incentivizes teams from working together and supporting each other’s platforms. After all, if you’re on the social media team, why would you give up credit for your wins by suggesting a lift on Amazon? It also makes it harder for dollars to move between categories since different teams often have individual budgets that can’t easily shift.
To overcome this hurdle, you need to break down siloes between teams and consider places where crossover could be beneficial.
Bring teams together with brainstorming sessions where experts on both sides can exchange ideas, and be sure to recognize shared wins for both Amazon and social.
Brands can also take steps to integrate Amazon and TikTok even without an official partnership between the platforms. Start small with tests to see if a combined strategy is more effective for your marketing.
A brand that has been testing this successfully is OQQ, which originally focused on Amazon as its ecommerce platform, but has now added its products to TikTok Shop. Creators are now effectively pushing traffic there (even unsponsored, as they can earn commission). While OQQ still has a strong presence on Amazon, they’re now pairing it with a TikTok Shop presence to offer multiple ways customers can convert on the platforms they’re already on.
No matter where your team falls when it comes to combining these two platforms, keep the convergence in mind when planning future Amazon and TikTok campaigns. While we haven’t yet seen its full potential, the relationship between the two is changing fast. You can anticipate more big developments over the next six months, so watch this space: new opportunities might be right around the corner.