Known for its short-form videos, TikTok launched TikTok Shop, an in-app commerce experience. The company is now building its own North American fulfillment service from scratch after opening similar operations in the U.K. and Southeast Asia. Experienced eCommerce sellers know that’s no easy task.
Social platforms like TikTok, Facebook and Instagram have enabled brands to sell directly to consumers in many markets. While only a small segment now, this channel will grab a larger share of the eCommerce marketplace as consumers gain confidence in engaging with brands in this way. Insider Intelligence estimates social selling will account for 5.9% of U.S. eCommerce in 2023, growing to 7.8% in 2026.
As consumers become more comfortable making in-app purchases on social media, social media platforms they buy on will expect brands to deliver on promises. All the funny cat videos in the world won’t overcome a legion of dissatisfied customers outraged by late or missing orders. Experts estimate that by 2024, TikTok will eclipse Facebook and Instagram in the percentage of users who are buyers.
A critical part of that social selling success will be the reliable and accurate fulfillment of consumer orders. Online native brands may be killing it with marketing, but the nuts and bolts of fulfillment can be overwhelming — especially if your content goes viral. Traditional sellers may find themselves unprepared to manage massive surges in demand.
Partnering with an experienced third-party logistics (3PL) provider with extensive direct-to-consumer experience and infrastructure helps to ensure online shoppers will click the like button on your social selling efforts.
How a 3PL can help your social selling program
A 3PL manages a brand’s logistics operations, helping a company to free up internal resources. For an eCommerce brand, a 3PL manages daily operations for fulfillment so the company can focus on its core operations like marketing, product development and sales.
When stacked against traditional eCommerce, social selling offers some unique challenges that a 3PL can help to address, such as:
Going viral is typically good in social selling but can be bad news for an unprepared fulfillment house. A livestream from the right influencer can send demand for a product unexpectedly soaring within a few hours. However, that demand becomes problematic if the seller can’t capitalize on the trend.
For example, a pickle jar sweatshirt inexplicably went white hot on TikTok, and social users quickly placed orders to get in on the trend. Existing inventory sold out, and the small seller lost thousands of potential sales. A product can ignite as the flavor of the minute and just as quickly disappear from the timeline. Creators typically don’t have the infrastructure or experience to manage virality — but a 3PL does.
A small creator may make a big impression with handcrafted artwork or meme-worthy apparel. Thousands of orders flood in. What happens next? The capability to ramp up to meet that demand surge feels beyond all but the biggest companies.
A social seller may rapidly change inventory based on trends and feedback, needing to move last week’s inventory to make way for today’s trending topic. The brand may require double the inventory space briefly while making the switch. That kind of flexibility requires expert-level management and infrastructure.
In a fast-paced warehouse with mostly manual or siloed systems, losing track of inventory status and velocity in the fulfillment process happens fast. How many products have been sold? How many did the business start with? Are the right orders going to the right place via the right transportation mode?
It’s tough to track all this through a spreadsheet. A 3PL offers its partners access to sophisticated logistics technology, including warehouse management systems (WMS) and order management systems (OMS), that help brands level up their order and inventory management.
Although many social selling platforms have or may add their own fulfillment offering, partnering with your own 3PL will likely be a better long-term strategy. Considering most brands will sell across more than one social channel as well as other channels, a 3PL can be a great partner to support your fulfillment across all channels you sell through.
Rely on a 3PL to Influence Social Selling Success
If you’re considering social channel eCommerce or looking for a way to be more successful, consider partnering with a 3PL with direct-to-consumer experience. Your 3PL partner can help your brand streamline fulfillment to make social selling channels successful.