TikTok’s Mobile Path to Purchase Behavior: The Infinite Loop

TikTok is the world’s most popular social media app, with more than 1 billion users globally. Are you using TikTok to engage with your audience?

Why this matters:

Everyone uses TikTok. It’s not just an app for Gen Z.

Their growth and momentum continue to rise as the app appeals to more than just the Gen Z audience. While 50% of TikTok users are under 29, older millennials and Gen X audiences also find value in using the platform (21% of TikTok users are between 30-39, and 20% are between 40-49).

TikTok has also become the number one app for influencers and creators to gain exposure and build their following. The app’s popularity is growing as users spend more time on this platform than any other video-sharing app, including YouTube and Instagram. In addition, brands that have used TikTok and aligned with influencers and creators have seen great results in providing consumers with a path to purchase analysis.

TikTok is where social media stars are born, and entertainment, technology, and commerce intersect. It’s transforming how consumer and B2B brands partner with creators, connect with new audiences and deliver a purchase path that converts.

TikTok Delivers on the Path to Purchase Journey

According to a study by the mobile performance marketing company Tune, TikTok’s influence on purchase decisions is significantly more potent than other social media channels. The company’s report revealed that 15% of their surveyed users would take action after viewing an ad on TikTok. This puts it well above Instagram (5%), Snapchat (7%), and Facebook (8%) in terms of impact on the mobile path to purchase journey. The recent TikTok Brand Study also sheds some light on Gen Z purchase behavior.

TikTok’s high purchase intent is likely due to the app’s successful use as a direct-response marketing channel. Many influencers and creators use messaging apps like Kik, WhatsApp, and Line to drive traffic back to their social media channels and build their audiences to convert followers. This tactic works well on TikTok, where video views are measured in seconds, and users have the opportunity for immediate feedback from others when they respond to a friend’s comment or “duet” with another user.

TikTok also has less stringent restrictions around branded content than other social media channels. This seamlessly lets influencers and creators weave their sponsors’ messages into their content. This increases brand awareness and engagement, ultimately driving intent within the path to purchase analysis.

Another factor for TikTok’s impact on purchase decisions is its integration with other apps like Instagram and Facebook. Users can take a video from their camera roll, add a filter or makeup effect, and post it to Instagram. They can also go directly from TikTok to Instagram Stories, where they can add text, stickers, memes, polls, music, and filters. This path is shorter for users participating in meme culture or showcasing their creativity through short 15-second videos often shared on multiple platforms.

TikTok is also used for influencer marketing in the B2B space, specifically in the e-commerce industry, for lead generation, awareness building, and increasing customer loyalty. With this approach, retailers that have seen success use micro-influencers to create compelling content that connects with their target audience. They then monitor content performance and determine which influencers are best suited for future campaigns.

TikTok continues to evolve its platform and add new features that make it easier for marketers to be successful with their marketing efforts. Recently, they released a software development kit (SDK), enabling brands to integrate influencers into their apps, collect data on user behavior, and even create augmented reality experiences, which will help drive innovation for metaverse marketing.

TikTok’s Infinite Loop = Path to Purchase Journey

In February 2022, TikTok and Material launched a global research study to try and understand what role TikTok plays in the consumer purchase funnel. According to the findings, TikTok found that its users don’t go down any linear path when purchasing products. Instead, it’s an infinite loop with no beginning of the journey that ends in a sale or conversion.

They enter, exit, re-enter, exit, and re-enter as often as needed before purchasing. Their purchase behavior is dedicated to their values, wants, desires, and needs. It reminds me of the matrix.

An image of TikTok's Path to Purchase Journey–Discovery, Consideration, Review and Participation.

One benefit of TikTok over other platforms is the entertainment factor. By providing users with relevant and personalized content, they re-enter the Infinite Loop with entertainment value commerce. As a result, retail brands can create engaging customer experiences that make shopping exciting, entertaining, and participatory.

The Cone of Learning was a model created by Edgar Dale in the 1960s. He researched the education sector and tried to understand how students retained information. He theorized that people retain more information by what they “do” instead of hearing, reading, or observing other senses. The model states that after two weeks, people will only remember:

  • 10% of what they read
  • 20% of what they hear
  • 30% of what they see
  • 50% of what they see and hear
  • 70% of what they do
  • 90% of what they participate in

While the model was developed contextually around learning styles, there is an application here to the consumer path to purchase model, especially for TikTok users and their willingness to participate. According to TikTok’s research, 44% of daily users crave fun branded content. The infinite loop facilitates that movement and integration into a brand’s purchase path.

TikTok Insights: Users Discover and Research Products

The infinite loop also fuels TikTok’s users and their desire to learn and discover new products.

An image of a TikTok statistic: 49% of TikTok users use TikTok to discover something new.

The infinite loop spreads through TikTok’s users’ willingness to purchase a product immediately after it’s been discovered. According to the research, TikTok users are 1.5x more likely to enter into the purchase path immediately after discovery than users on other social media platforms.

Additionally, when consumers discover and participate with brands with similar values, they become loyal brand advocates and share their experiences on TikTok and other platforms. As a result, the reports also uncovered that users spend more money when TikTok is a part of the purchase journey.

TikTok Influences Every Stage of the Path to Purchase Journey

Unlike the traditional marketing funnel still taught in business school today, TikTok associates the infinite loop with three different journey stages–discovery, consideration, and purchase. This is their path to purchase, and the data is compelling:

  • Discovery: TikTok users are 1.7x more likely to discover new products and services than on other social media platforms
  • Consideration: TikTok users are 1.4x more likely to research new products they discover on TikTok than on other social media platforms
  • Purchase: TikTok users are 1.4x more likely to buy new products they discover on TikTok than on other social media platforms

TikTok’s Role in Building Brand Advocacy

TikTok users are loyal to TikTok. They are also loyal to the brands, products, and services they purchase from the platform.

Sadly, many marketers don’t prioritize the post-purchase stages of the funnel. Doing so on TikTok would be a huge miss. On the other hand, TikTok users and their willingness to participate in digital experiences present enormous opportunities for brands to re-engage consumers differently.

Like other platforms, users are not shy about reviewing products they’ve purchased because of TikTok by creating unboxing videos, how-to’s, and tutorials. This post-purchase path sparks ongoing conversations and word-of-mouth marketing and re-engages the infinite loop. Again, the TikTok data is compelling:

  • Word of Mouth: TikTok users are 1.5X more likely to convince a friend, family member, colleague, or peer to buy a product they’ve discovered in the app than users of other social media channels
  • Brand Engagement: TikTok users are 2.4X more likely to engage with a brand (post or tag) after the purchase than users of other social media channels
  • Brand Engagement: TikTok users are 2X more likely to engage with a brand (comment or DM) after the purchase than users of other social media channels

Joy powers TikTok’s Path to Purchase

Every day, almost a billion consumers use TikTok for different reasons: to find entertaining content, be inspired, build community and participate in the latest video/dance/singing challenge. But, according to the research, the common denominator is the emotion that unites all users. Joy.

According to the TikTok research:

  • 39% of users say “lifting spirits” is a critical factor before they move through the path to purchase and buy products
  • TikTok users are 1.3X more likely than users on other social media platforms to feel excited about buying products

TikTok’s path to purchase is powered by joy, an uplifting, contagious emotion that can spread quickly. Since TikTok users are 1.3X more likely than users on other social media platforms to feel excited about purchasing products, brands need to build on this emotion and create campaigns that can bring joy to people.

Additionally, when consumers discover and participate with brands with similar values, they become loyal brand advocates and share their experiences on TikTok and other platforms. As a result, consumers spend more time and money when TikTok is a part of the purchase journey. Therefore, marketers should prioritize the post-purchase stages of the funnel to re-engage consumers in different ways. TikTok users are loyal to TikTok and the brands, products, and services they discover and then purchase.


What is the path to purchase?

The path to purchase is a marketing funnel that consumers follow when they’re looking at buying a product. It includes the awareness stage, the consideration stage, the decision stage, and the purchase stage. Therefore, the path to purchase is also synonymous with the sales funnel, purchase funnel, and buyer’s journey.

What role does TikTok play in the path to purchase?

TikTok provides marketers access to an audience of influencers and creators who are already creating and sharing content about a brand, product, or service. It also enables brands to reach out to users who have shown interest in a specific topic or post with sponsored messaging that encourages them to visit the website where an item is being sold. Additionally, TikTok influencers are already on Instagram and Facebook, so it’s easier for marketers to spread a message across platforms.

How can brands use TikTok as part of their path to purchase?

TikTok can be used as a platform where influencers showcase products fun, relatable way. TikTok influencers also have extensive Instagram followings, meaning brands can create challenges on TikTok to engage users likely to buy featured items and re-market them through Instagram. Brands should prioritize user engagement after purchase since these consumers are more likely to become brand advocates.

How is TikTok different from other social media platforms?

With more than 1 billion users on TikTok, the app’s path to purchase is unique since influencers and special interest accounts already have extensive followings. Additionally, brands can reach users in several ways after they’ve bought the product, encouraging existing influencers to post about their products or hosting short-term challenges that enable consumers to share content on TikTok and Instagram.

TikTok users are also more likely to get excited about a product, so they’re more likely to advocate for it. As a result, TikTok engagement is deeper and longer-lasting compared to other social media platforms. TikTok’s ethos is different from other social media platforms since TikTok encourages people to be themselves and doesn’t require a person’s username or profile picture to be public. TikTok is easy for marketers to scale because TikTok creators are already on Instagram and Facebook, where they share their TikTok content, which makes TikTok’s path to purchase shorter compared with other social media platforms.

How can brands use TikTok insights?

TikTok insights tell marketers a lot about TikTok’s users and the content they consume. TikTok insights give marketers a better understanding of TikTok users’ tastes, preferences, and interests. TikTok provides consumer insights on user behavior, such as which posts perform well and how long engaged audiences watch videos. Additionally, TikTok insights tell marketers about influencers’ follower demographics. These types of insights are helpful for marketers to understand TikTok’s users more in-depth, which can help brands create better content that TikTok users are likely to engage with on the platform.

For example, TikTok insights tell marketers that users are likelier to follow influencers who play a character or poke fun at themselves, meaning brands should be creative while TikTok users are watching videos. TikTok insights also show marketers the sentiment influencers convey when creating content and what audiences these influencers have. TikTok insights can also provide demographic data on users’ interests and their watching content. And lastly, TikTok insights allow marketers to get a 360-degree view of the entire ecosystem, which can help brands create better content and digital experiences.

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Michael Brito

Michael Brito is a Digital OG. He’s been building brands online since Al Gore invented the Internet. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.