‘TikTok Famous’ CPG Brands? How Social Influencers Impact Retail Sales
By Keiry Echeverria
A Marketing Research student in the Sam M. Walton College of Business, University of Arkansas
It's safe to say, many marketers today are looking to social media platforms to promote their products. Within the last three years, one platform in particular has caught the attention of many, including marketers and users of consumer packaged goods (CPG).
I'm, of course, talking about TikTok.
The video-sharing platform has been on an explosive growth trajectory ever since 2018, when Chinese company ByteDance created TikTok by merging two apps into one.
As your kids (and maybe even some trend-setting parents and grandparents may know), TikTok has almost single-handedly ushered in a new age of video content and social interaction, earning it the title of the most downloaded app the past two years.
In that same time, the number of TikTok influencers—or individuals who use their knowledge and/or reputation to endorse, showcase, or promote products on TikTok—has also exploded. Indeed, influencer marketing on TikTok has become a popular, viable, high-profile means for marketing to today's younger generations, particularly the prized Gen Z shopper.
However, precious little is known about the impact of TikTok influencers on shopping behavior, particularly purchases of CPG products. Right or wrong, this may leave many brands wary of investing their limited media dollars in TikTok influencers.
- So, what exactly is the impact of TikTok-influencer content on common CPG purchases?
- How much power do influencers on the platform have over CPG shoppers?
- What CPG-influencer traits and content characteristics resonate with platform users?
One Marketing Research class in the Walton College at the University of Arkansas conducted a survey to shed light on these questions and to collect some insights that could aid later research on TikTok influencers and CPG purchases.
Gen Z & Millennial Survey: Do TikTok Influencers Impact CPG Purchases?
To obtain a basic appreciation for the impact of TikTok influencers on CPG shoppers and their purchases, the students of MKTG 3833-03 at the University of Arkansas surveyed 1,114 U.S. adults* ages 20-42-years-old, April 21-25, 2022. The project was conducted in partnership with Field Agent, a retail-solutions marketplace specializing in retail auditing, shopper insights, product reviews, and other retail-success solutions.
*All survey respondents were U.S. adults at least 20 years of age and smartphone owners. The survey was executed through the Field Agent platform, April 21-25, 2022, with a non-random sample of shoppers. Demos: Gender - Female (52%), Male (48%), Age - 18-25 (11%), 26-35 (47%), 36-42 (42%); Race/Ethnicity - Caucasian/White (58%), Latino/Hispanic (19%), African American/Black (11%), Other (11%).
Students chose the research problem, developed research questions, and assisted in the design of the questionnaire. They also contributed to the data analysis. Ultimately, the aim of the project, which used a non-probability, quota sampling method, was to give students firsthand experience with surveying techniques, while getting an early indication of how TikTok influencers are impacting the purchase of CPG products.
The results are presented below as answers to five questions:
- What social platforms are most popular with young CPG shoppers?
- What's the general impact of social media on CPG purchases?
- How common are CPG purchases as a result of TikTok influencers?
- What are the most common CPG purchases because of TikTok influencers?
- What makes a good TikTok influencer (for promoting CPG products)?
Let's explore the results...
1. What social platforms are most popular with young CPG shoppers?
Before asking Millennials and Gen Zers about TikTok influencers and CPG purchases specifically, we first attempted to understand their usage of social media and how it impacts their CPG purchases generally.
For our survey's purposes, social media was defined as social networking sites (e.g., Facebook, Twitter) and image/video-sharing platforms (e.g., Instagram, TikTok), and not video-hosting platforms (e.g., YouTube) or discussion sites (e.g., Reddit).
Of the full sample, fully 98% indicated they use social media to some degree.
But which platforms specifically? We asked respondents, all between 20 and 42 years old, to identify the platforms on which they're active at least every month.
The top five were as follows:
- Facebook - 74%
- Instagram - 64%
- TikTok - 39%
- Twitter - 39%
- Snapchat - 38%
It is not hard to believe that Facebook came out on top. But it's important to note TikTok’s position at 39%. Rather impressive considering the platform remains relatively new.
And, among the small subset of Gen Zers in the survey (20-25-year-olds; n = 118), just under half (47%) said they're on TikTok at least every month on average.
Moreover, when asked what one platform they use the most, Gen Zers cited TikTok and Instagram (tied at 33%) more than any other platform.
So, TikTok appears to be trending with the younger crowd.
But why use TikTok?
Among TikTok users (n = 421), the top reasons for using the video-sharing platform were, not surprisingly, "to find interesting and/or funny content" (82%) and "to fill up my spare time" (65%).
But brands and retailers should take note of this: 36% of TikTok users surveyed said they use it "to research, learn about, or find new products to buy."
2. What's the general impact of social media on CPG purchases?
We asked social-media users (n = 1,089) to rate the importance of social media, in general, on their CPG purchases. We defined CPG products as "fast-moving" goods, including packaged groceries and household consumables, that are regularly repurchased.
In answering, respondents were asked to “consider ALL the ways social media might impact [their] purchase of CPG products/categories — for example, through ads, influencers, suggestions, reviews, or simply comments/images shared by [their] network of friends.”
As you can see in the chart, 63% responded that social media is at least slightly important to their CPG purchases, though only 17% said it was "very" or "quite" important.
3. How common are CPG purchases as a result of TikTok influencers?
We then asked the 421 TikTok users how many times in the past 12 months they had made a CPG purchase because of a TikTok influencer and their recommendation and/or usage of a product. All in all, more than half (54%) said they made at least one CPG purchase because of a TikTok influencer.
Among TikTok users who made an influencer-initiated purchase in the past year (n = 228), 43% said they purchased at least three different CPG products as a result of TikTok influencers.
But what CPG products did they buy?
4. What are the most common CPG purchases because of TikTok influencers?
As you can see below, in our survey, the most popular CPG purchase resulting from a TikTok influencer was skincare (46%), with home cleaning products in second.
The most common packaged-food purchase was “packaged health foods.”
But here's a related—and important—question: Are these customers loyal?
That is, did any of the n = 228 (i.e., TikTok users who have made a CPG purchase in the past year because of a TikTok influencer) buy a CPG product more than once?
In fact, 56% said they’ve purchased more than once a particular CPG product they originally purchased because of a TikTok influencer.
Yet, the sample was split over whether TikTok influencers lead to greater loyalty in their CPG-buying patterns. We asked the subset of N = 228 whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement: "I am more loyal to CPG products I try because of a TikTok influencer.”
- 39% - Agreed (but only 5% "strongly" agreed)
- 28% - Disagreed
Yet, as a starting point in this discussion, it does appear TikTok influencers not only have some bearing on what their followers purchase, but maybe even how often.
5. What makes a good TikTok influencer (for promoting CPG products)?
So, if TikTok influencers can generate CPG sales, what influencer traits and content characteristics do TikTok users find most impactful to their purchase decisions?
First, influencer traits. For this, we turn to the qualitative data.
We asked n = 421 TikTok users to "suggest (3) personality traits of a TikTok influencer who is (or would be) especially likely to convince you to buy and try a new CPG product."
Our class ultimately analyzed about 1,200 adjectives, bucketing the responses into recurring themes and producing this list of influencer traits (in no particular order):
- Honest and trustworthy
- Genuine and relatable
- Smart and knowledgeable
- Happy and friendly
- Charismatic and energetic
These results coincide with the traits and content of top TikTokers like Charli D'Amelio and Hyram Yarbro (pictured above). Both influencers display humor and charisma.
Hyram’s content, for instance, consists primarily of reviewing different skincare products, one of the top categories for influencer marketing on TikTok.
But if these are the traits of an effective CPG TikTok-influencer, what are the characteristics of good influencer content, that is, influencer content that promotes a CPG product?
We took a different route for this question.
As the chart below suggests, we asked all TikTok users to rank four common types of CPG-influencer content used on TikTok. The four types are as follows:
- Product review - An influencer discusses a CPG product they purchased and its pros and/or cons
- "Day in the life" - An influencer depicts a day in their life, making reference to one or more CPG products as they summarize the full day of activities
- Unboxing - An influencer "unboxes" a CPG product from its original packaging, presents it, and discusses their first impressions
- Tutorial - An influencer demonstrates for the audience how they use or apply a CPG product like cosmetics, skincare, or cleaning products
The survey asked respondents, "Where 4 is most effective and 1 is least effective, rank [these] types of TikTok-influencer content by how effective they are (or would be) at getting you to buy and try a CPG product.
And while product reviews enjoyed the largest share of #1 responses, "day in the life" had the largest number of #1 and #2 responses, combined.
Ultimately, from our perspective, the ranking did not reveal a clear winner.
Should CPG brands invest in TikTok Influencers?
It’s always difficult to determine what type of advertising or promotion will boost your brand and take it to the next level.
As a Gen Z class of marketing majors, we encourage brands to ask at least two questions:
1. Who is my target audience?
Though inconclusive due to sampling methods, the results above suggest young people—a key demo for many brands—tend to use TikTok the most.
We expect this trend to continue.
If your target is Gen Z, then our experiences and these results indicate it might be wise to consider TikTok influencers as a way of marketing your brand.
2. What category am I selling?
While this may be a simple question, it's also an important question when considering a TikTok-influencer program. For example, if you are selling skincare products to Gen Zers, then influencer marketing may be a good fit.
Other categories may be less appropriate for TikTok generally and TikTok influencers specifically.
Overall, we believe marketing and advertising methods are heading towards an altogether digital format. And these digital formats will continue to evolve.
Today, it's TikTok influencers. Tomorrow, it's something else.
The real takeaway for CPG brands is this: Be willing to adapt.
The research above was the collective effort of the MKTG 3833-03 Marketing Research class of Walton College at the University of Arkansas. Students who worked on the project included Camila Bejar, Quinn Cummisky, Maci Dow, Katie Echeverria, Jayton Hollis, Dylan Hougland, Zachary Jones, JD Lee, Mary Lindsey, Isaac Martin, Phillip McCutcheon, Evan Meza, Jack Mont, Emmanuel Muyia, Madi Pickin, Trey Reiner, Madelyn Sanchez, John Shuffield, Jordan Sugg, Ariel Trimble, Olivia Vinton, Leah West, Sebastian Wiley, Dylan Williams