How TikTok’s e-commerce push in Southeast Asia helps Filipinos earn as creators

Jul 27, 2023 |5 min read
TikTok Asia

Millions of Filipinos, especially the youth, can’t get enough of TikTok, the short video app that lets users create catchy videos of themselves lip-syncing, dancing, and performing comedy skits. No wonder, the social media giant's impact is being felt by local creators and influencers on this side of Southeast Asia.

Latest DataReportal stats show that there are about 41.4 million Filipinos who are active on the social media app, whereas some regard it as their most-used social media platform. Considered one of the short video app’s biggest markets in terms of user numbers, Southeast Asia generates more than 325 million monthly visitors to the platform and most of them are in Indonesia.

Launched by ByteDance in 2016, the short video app is more than just an entertainment platform. TikTok’s monetary incentives draw Filipino creators to the app, where they can turn their passion and talent into a career.

According to a TikTok report published in June this year, 94% of content creators on the platform agreed that the app’s phenomenal growth offers huge potential to grow their audience and earn beyond traditional media.  More incredibly, Filipino content creators are now earning as much as or more than what regular employees in other traditional fields earn. The report further revealed that 40% of Filipino creators surveyed claimed to earn more than the minimum wage, which is Php590 (US$11) daily in Metro Manila.

To date, more than 80% of TikTok creators in the region were reported to have maximised their earnings through the platform by growing their audience. For businesses, they saw their revenues rise by almost 50 percent after using TikTok to market their brands.

In a commissioned survey by TikTok, it was found that 91% of Filipinos use the social media app to learn new things, ranging from funny and entertaining bite-sized content to the latest trends. The survey also revealed that 73% of Filipinos visit TikTok for brand discovery and to create all sorts of video around them.


Filipino creators who are making a difference

The story of Jeckang Miho, a Filipina creator who struggled with depression and shared how her life was changed by TikTok, was a testament to the social media app’s impact.  She found her breakthrough with the hashtag #TIkTokMomsPH, where she gave advice on motherhood and parenting. After brands took notice, she landed brand deals that paid her P100,000 to P150,000 a month, enough to quit her day job and focus on her love for baking and content creation.

Another example is Filipina creator, and Chief Executive of Filipino beauty brand Colourette, Nina Ellaine Dizon-Cabrera, who was one of TikTok’s entrepreneurial success stories. Her inspirational videos, that empower women to embrace their unique beauty and confidence, have amassed 1.9 million followers.

Dizon-Cabrera shares how TikTok boosted her business and increased her sales. She thanked the platform for enabling more brand awareness for her products, which translated to 26,700 orders in just four hours during a sale in March.

Their stories were among those of other Filipino creators featured during the TikTok Southeast Asia Impact Forum on June 15 in Indonesia.


TikTok’s social commerce ambitions

With social commerce’s meteoric rise and success in Southeast Asia, TikTok is now setting its sights on e-commerce. In fact, TikTok is investing billions of dollars in Indonesia and Southeast Asia over the next few years to make this a reality.

While no specifics have been revealed as to how it plans to spend its investment in the region, the social media giant revealed it would support SMEs who are keen to use TikTok’s e-commerce platform by investing in skills training, distributing cash grants, and allotting advertising credits.

In a report by Singapore-based consultancy firm Momentum Works, it was found that the region saw transactions on digital platforms soar to nearly US$100 billion in 2022. While TikTok facilitated US$4.4 billion in e-commerce transactions in Southeast Asia last year, it still faces stiff competition from major players in the region like Shopee and Lazada. Momentum Works notes: “While TikTok offers users a differentiated experience as compared to traditional e-commerce platforms in the region, whether the platform can build such an experience into a mainstay of e-commerce in Southeast Asia, with a mature e-commerce content ecosystem, remains to be seen.”


How should marketers respond?

Clearly, TikTok is a game-changer and a good platform to consider if brands want to reach, interact with, convert, and engage their social media users. Here’s what marketers can do:

  1. With content on the platform becoming more diverse as its users grow and its foray into e-commerce becoming a reality, there are more reasons for consumers to purchase on the app. Rethink your content strategy to highlight your products’ benefits and values
  2. Get involved with hyper-localised influencers within your own community. Brands (that have storefronts) should work with influencers to drive business within a specific geographic area. The app’s location-based targeting, which is already being beta-tested in Indonesia, is something worth exploring.
  3. Collaborate with influencers and creators whose content resonates with your brand’s target audience. While creating helpful and relevant content is important: give creators the freedom to embellish with their own style and ways of making content captivating or entertaining to the audience.