For the launch of its new mascara, Fan Fest, Benefit is betting big on TikTok Shopping.
The makeup brand onboarded with the social app’s shopping platform five months ago, as one of its earliest testers. The mascara will be available solely on TikTok for 48 hours beginning July 26, before it is available at Benefit’s other retailers and even its own retail and e-commerce channels. To make as big of a splash as possible, Benefit will go live on TikTok Shop for 24 hours, at the start of that 48-hour period, making it the first beauty brand to do so. During the two days, the brand will also offer a TikTok-exclusive product bundle pairing the new mascara with its Get Unblocked Makeup-Removing Cleansing Oil for $30, compared to $67 if sold separately.
“In the last year on TikTok, we have seen wild success — not just in terms of products going viral, but also in products going viral and that leading [viewers] to purchase,” said Maggie Ford Danielson, Benefit’s director of brand outreach and brand ambassadors.
“Time and time again, we’ve heard, anecdotally, that [people go into our stores or our retailers] and ask, “Where do I find this? I saw it on TikTok,” said Rena Gillen, Benefit’s senior director of U.S. marketing communications.
Both execs noted that TikTok is fully aware of its own power when it comes to all things “TikTok Made Me Buy It” — which is why it’s creating a closed-loop system where users can see a product, want it and buy it, without leaving the app. TikTok is making a big investment in this system, Ford Danielson said. “They really want to monetize ‘TikTok Made Me Buy It’ — to push people to not just discover products on TikTok, but also shop them within the app.”
“We’re a really good partner for a lot of our social platforms to trial new [features] like Shopping and Lives, because we have such an appetite to be first,” she said.
TikTok Shopping will come to life in three main ways: via live shopping, short videos (what TikTok is known for) and a new affiliate program called the Affiliate Center. Through the program, brands can partner with creators — again, without ever leaving the app. To get the most bang for its buck with Fan Fest, Benefit will activate on all three. For example, while it usually posts two TikToks a day, during the first 72 hours of Fan Fest’s launch, it will post five. “We’re trying to flood the algorithm a little bit,” Gillen said.
While brands can use the Affiliate Center to forge new relationships with creators, Benefit will be using it, initially, to work with 50 qualifying members of Club Pink, its existing program of 1,000 micro-influencers. To use the Affiliate Center, a creator must meet a certain threshold. TikTok declined to comment for this story but shared that the threshold to participate is 5,000 followers. Creators participating must also be over 18 years old. At launch, Benefit will expand the offer to creators outside of its Club Pink program. The way the Affiliate Center works is that brands can confirm or deny a creator’s request to opt-in to a program. Programs will provide creators with free product in exchange for content creation and creators will be able to earn commission on products tagged and sold through the program.
The 24-hour Live will, of course, be some of the heaviest lifting for Benefit’s team. Most of its marketing division will be involved in bringing it to life. Gillen said the investment is mostly in human capital. The Live will be hosted by various members of its team across both coasts. Overnight, a few members of its social media team will have a Fan Fest “slumber party” in a hotel suite, where they’ll “order room service, talk about the mascara, do makeup and stay up all night,” Ford Danielson said.
Ford Danielson has represented Benefit on QVC and HSN before. However, she noted some of the differences in selling on TikTok, where the shopper is younger — than herself and also TV shopping customers. She’s found that one key to success is engaging with the comments. “Using the comments helps drive a purchasing mindset,” she said. “People that are on TikTok watching me or someone else in a Live aren’t necessarily going purchase because I’m telling them to — they’re getting influenced by their peers in the comments.” As such, she engages with the comments, speaking to commenters in real time. “If I tell them that 10 people who are also in the Live put it in their cart, in a way that doesn’t sound too salesy, that makes them feel like they should probably do it, too.”
Social shopping is still not the run-of-the-mill thing in the U.S. that it is in China, for example, but Gillen said she is optimistic about its potential to ultimately compete with any other point of sale. “I’m optimistic that [the revenue from TikTok Shopping] will become a [significant] percentage of our e-commerce sales for the year. Until then, though, we’re doing what we can to chip away at understanding the platform. We did it with Meta; we’ve done it across Facebook and Instagram. We’re not new to social commerce by any means. We just need people to feel really confident and safe purchasing [on TikTok],” she said.