Retailer saves itself at the buzzer with TikTok
Early in the novel coronavirus pandemic, U.S. and global retailers found themselves needing to pivot in order to survive in a socially-distanced business landscape. San Diego-based candy retailer Candy Me Up was one of those businesses, and its pivot point was the app, TikTok.
In early March, Candy Me Up retail head Nema Causey saw a shutdown coming as the store’s primarily retail client-focused business had already begun to taper off, MarketWatch reported. Ms. Causey started a TikTok account as a way to try to draw a more contemporary audience and with her brother (who handles distribution for the business) began making short videos of themselves goofing around in the store. They also made a video for the viral “Jelly Fruit challenge,” in which TikTok users bite into the wrapper of the now hard-to-find type of jelly candy.
The amount of viral traffic the videos drew justified the first-time launch of an online presence for Candy Me Up. Ms. Causey quickly sold a pallet of 1,200 Jelly Fruits she had stocked up on. While Ms. Causey had been slowly building an Instagram following over a decade, the store’s viral TikTok videos brought 40,000 young followers — and many paying customers — saving the business.
TikTok made headlines in August when President Donald Trump asserted the app was a national security threat due to it being based in China. Mr. Trump signed an executive order banning its use in the U.S., leading to a suit from TikTok. Meanwhile, Walmart and Microsoft partnered in a bid to acquire the U.S. as well as the Canadian, Australian and New Zealand wings of TikTok.
Microsoft’s acquisition attempt failed in mid-September, as Oracle won a bid to manage TikTok’s U.S. cloud operations, The Verge reports.
TikTok is not the first short-form video app to become popular in the U.S.
Vine, which was acquired by Twitter in 2012, exploded in popularity in the U.S. in 2013 and helped launch the career of a few big social media celebrities, The Verge reports. In 2014, Vine began to be outshined by services like Instagram and Snapchat. The company shut down due to lack of profitability in 2016.
- TikTok saved my business: Candy retailer finds internet fame as COVID-19 forces a pivot – MarketWatch
- What would Walmart do with TikTok if its bid with Microsoft succeeds – RetailWire
- Oracle reportedly wins deal for TikTok’s US operations as ‘trusted tech partner – The Verge
- Why Vine died – The Verge
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think Candy Me Up’s experience with TikTok was unique or can other retailers use the app to attract new customers and drive sales? Will TikTok emerge as one of the most important social media apps for retailers?