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Why travel retail needs to embrace TikTok

Updated: Jan 27, 2023

TikTok is known to be a force to be reckoned with when it comes to promoting online sales and data shows that a successful TikTok campaign produces record breaking sales when content is done correctly. It is however being increasingly shown that the sales offline – traditional bricks & mortar - are being postively influenced to levels that travel retailers can only dream of by a TikTok successful presence.

A recent report showed that a US soft drinks company realised by viewing their TikTok content comments section that approximately 85% mentioned that they bought the brand’s product offline, proof that the content was having a traditional retail purchasing influence. This sales figure is impressive in itself but that people are, after making a purchase, going online to view videos multiple times and then making comments about where they purchased the product so they can encourage others is surely pure retail gold dust – how many travel retail consumers would do the same, and if they would, where ? Similarily, a cosmetic brand, who’s video went viral within 14 days of being posted on TikTok, sold 70% of their stock in Walmart U.S. on the back of TikTok content … a nice re-supply logistical problem to have for our global travel retail sector. Of course this is all based on „random“ content going viral and the content being put in front of users by the alogrithm so that they can interact with the product placement however research also finds that paid promotions on the platform are producing similar results with results up to a 100% increase in offline sales following a successful TikTok campaign being reported.

A properly executed digital marketing campaign on the platform will drive sales and here TikTok is estimated to account for a third of this. Why ? simply because of numbers, not a celebrity or a global TikTok influencer account - although here figures sky rocket - but the smaller users, e.g. a private user account was reported that with 700 followers they registered 400.000 views in 14 days ... compare this to 1 of the largest global travel retailers on another social media platform for the past 12 years, and still active, having a total of 4.000 followers. To put this 400.000 views in 14 days into perspective a brand would require, and have to pay for, approximately 100 airport terminal demonstrators working 9 hour shifts constantly for 14 days to equal this penetration ! The TikTok platform is simply put where people are, OK not the older demographic (only 11% are aged over 50) that are the retailers comfort zone for the classic GTR categories but the younger demographic that will be interested in fashion, accessories, technology and helthy/innovative snacking – or put another way your comfort zone consumer in a few years.

TikTok in numbers :

(Source : The Social Shepherd)

The target of 1 billion users was reached in 2021.

The iOS App has 30.8 million active users per day with the android App 14.3 million per day.

The U.K: is projected to have 25 million active users by 2025. China currently has 600 million active users.

The average user opens TikTok 19 times each day.

44% of TikTok users are aged 20 – 39 year olds.

Naturally timing is everything and the brands in this blog needed to understand the TikTok viewers level of „concentration“ which was found to be 2 – 3 days from watching the video to making the purchase in the bricks and mortar store. But where timing is considered the numbers game again comes into play as the TikTok target is huge – „New York City“ has been searched on TikTok 216 billion time - surely any brand or retailer can hit such a large target a few times. If travel retailers and the brands can crack the timing code then expect a wave of ripped jeans (at half mast) and beanie hats in an airport store soon.

So in summary travel retail has a new consumer demographic who is purchasing from bricks and mortar then telling everyone else on a free platform that reaches 10s of thousands of people in a matter of a few days and where the platform is used literally billions of times to search for travel … surely the best case scenario for us.

But before you rush to Marketing to create content and download Lauren Spencer Smith's latest music you are about to realise a small problem … there will be no FYP by viewers if you are cheugy when you are aiming to be Heather, be the CEO and soon they will be writing OOMF.

So no ripped jeans and walking around with open sneakers just yet as you have to remember that TikTok creation is a skillset that needs a professional and experienced/young approach. The videos that are corporate trying to be „down with the kids“ or patronising to the younger generation will stand out a mile for all the wrong reasons. The younger generation know their territory, taste and wishes and whilst they are more than happy to allow us into their world they expect us „slightly“ older generation to adapt to their style otherwise we simply become a social media version of the embarassing uncle dancing at the family wedding.

JES Travel Retail have a specific „TikTok in travel retail“ coaching and editing service from our partner office „eezly“ in Canada (available in English and French) , we can make you Heather !

Contact us at to learn more about this service and how we can promote your store and brand on the TikTok platform.

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