Groceryshop 2022: Leveraging TikTok Successfully

Social media experts detailed why authenticity and audience engagement are keys for retailer and CPG success on TikTok at Groceryshop 2022 in Las Vegas, NV.
Zachary Russell
Associate Editor
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With retailers eager to take to TikTok to promote private brands towards a growing Gen Z audience, experts have tips on how to resonate with consumers. 

In a conversation at Groceryshop 2022 moderated by Kate Hardcastle MBE, the broadcaster known as “The Customer Whisperer,” Kristin Patterson, head of retail bigbox, NA global business solutions at TikTok, and Vanessa Pham, co-founder & CEO of Omsom, discussed how TikTok can be best used by retailers and CPG brands to promote products effectively. Much of the approach boils down to authenticity, they said.

“On TikTok, we’ve found that our users can sniff out a brand that’s not being authentic,” said Patterson. “People are really wanting to have content that is showing the brand ethos and going a bit deeper. We know that 80% of the folks who are on TikTok really want to hear deeper stories about brands…”

For Pham, whose Omsom brand sells Asian meal starter products, strong storytelling that showcases values, while being authentic, is a key component for standing out on social media.

Groceryshop 2022 Gen Z/TikTok Panel
Kate Hardcastle MBE, Vanessa Pham and Kristin Patterson

“Our mission is to honor and celebrate the cuisines and communities that we represent, and I think that maybe 5-10 years ago… that would have been enough for consumers to say ‘this is a mission-driven brand,’” Pham said. “In today’s day and age with Gen Z and the way that consumers are so much more savvy, and their ‘BS meter’ is so much higher, we believe and the way that we exist is to live these values every single day in all the ways that we show up. Part of it is in our visual identity… beyond that it’s the stories we tell every single day on all the various platforms we exist on."


Patterson added that the key for using TikTok effectively to market towards Gen Z shoppers, as well as the growing number of 25+ users on the platform, is to engage with users through TikTok’s co-creation features instead of marketing to them.

“One thing that we say all the time at TikTok that really encapsulates everything is ‘think like a marketer but act like a creator.’ When I say ‘act like a creator,’ it’s really about creating content that is natural and native to the TikTok platform,” she said. “We see brands doing that exceptionally well all the time…throwing out those old, antiquated marketing tactics and leaning into participatory, engaging, diverse communities on TikTok.”

Patterson cited successful TikTok campaigns from Ulta Beauty and Kroger, which promoted its Private Selection own brand meats through a hashtag. As the platform continues to grow, she suggested that retailers take the plunge even if they are hesitant.

“We encourage brands of any size, small or large, to just jump right into TikTok and not overthink it,” Patterson said. “When you start to do that, people start to sniff out inauthenticity. Give the reins to a few folks on your team if you’re working at a large brand and let them take over and see what happens."