Most would agree that small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) form the economic backbone of Southeast Asia. They employ the bulk of each country’s workforce — 85% in Thailand, for example, and a staggering 97% in Indonesia and Vietnam — and, correspondingly, contribute significantly to gross domestic product (GDP).

However, with the pandemic wreaking havoc on these businesses, it is imperative to come up with initiatives that help sustain them. With lower earnings and smaller economies of scale, SMBs are less able to bear the brunt of lacklustre economic prospects. Before COVID-19, almost 73% of the region’s SMBs expected revenues to either increase or remain constant. During COVID-19, 84% anticipated some form of a decrease in revenue.

These economic consequences are intensified by the region’s overall reliance on tourism. However, with global travel restrictions unlikely to be lifted any time soon, SMBs that rely on tourist traffic continue to suffer.

Thailand, for instance, looked to tourism for about 20% of the country’s GDP before the pandemic. Many of its 3.1 million SMBs are located in the tourism industry and continue to struggle to stay afloat. Despite debt-relief measures in the form of low-interest loans, experts predict that not all SMBs will be approved for these measures. Even if they do successfully obtain a loan, SMBs may not survive or grow amidst the bleak economic outlook.

Hence, to expand their businesses in the post-pandemic world, SMBs need to adopt creative and innovative marketing strategies, and platforms like TikTok offer them an easy-to-use and powerful avenue.

Leveraging TikTok’s wide reach and cultural impact

The video-sharing app has amassed millions of users worldwide and is now a staple of many people’s media consumption. It enables users to connect with diverse communities and express their creativity using a wide array of in-app creative tools.

With lockdowns forcing people across the world to stay at home, people have turned to TikTok for content. It’s even spurred intergenerational bonding, with multiple accounts of parents, grandparents, and children creating and sharing TikTok videos together.

The app boasts a wide diversity of users from different backgrounds. Gen Z, millennials, baby boomers, and even senior citizens have found their creative outlet through TikTok. 82-year-old Charles Mallet, for example, has almost 5 million followers.

Also read: KoinWorks super financial app ecosystem sees growth in Q2 2021 as it helps boost SMEs amidst the pandemic

Furthermore, users come from a variety of different countries and cultures. You can find everyone from the average Joe to celebrities like Gordon Ramsey and BTS on the platform. It’s no overstatement to say that more and more, anyone is finding their way to TikTok,  regardless of background.

This means that the app essentially presents a huge prospective customer base for any company.

With the amount of attention that TikTok puts on digital content, there is massive potential for TikTok to be used as an avenue for advertising. SMBs can leverage TikTok’s vast reach to grow their business, tapping on the diverse customer base and laser-sharp user algorithm to execute targeted marketing campaigns effectively.

Tailored solutions to bolster and uplift Southeast Asia’s SMBs

TikTok has been firmly committed to SMBs since the launch of its self-serve ad platform, TikTok Ads Manager, in June 2020. One tailored SMB solution introduced by TikTok was Shop Local Saturday, which ran in June 2021, and allowed SMBs in Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam to elevate their presence on the platform. SMBs could boost their brand engagement and user discoverability through the initiative, driving results for every business and marketing need.

Throughout June, SMBs that participated in Shop Local Saturday were spotlighted extensively across the app. Over 170 SMBs featured received top perks, including a dedicated main page feature, in-app promotion, and access to creative workshops and creators. TikTok values the local businesses that empower Southeast Asia’s communities and wanted to highlight them as much as any large brand may be visible on TikTok.

TikTok’s support of SMBs, including during Shop Local Saturday, has produced promising results for these businesses.

For Thai game app developer GAMEINDY, they turned to TikTok to help drive their Call Me Master game exposure and reach new audiences. Within just a week of participating in TikTok’s Shop Local Saturday initiative, organic downloads for the game rose by 20%, and they were able to connect with previously untapped audiences from across the country.

Also read: Scaling your startup: A closer look at building your local entity and remote teams

“TikTok has been a great partner for us,” said Chanon Khamchay, GAMEINDY’s Senior Marketing Associate. “We had no other new campaigns or PR launches during that period, so we think that most of the boost was thanks to TikTok’s Shop Local Saturday.”

Vietnam’s polo shirt maker, Poloman, also experienced similar successes on TikTok. With an ambition to become the top-of-mind brand for Polo shirts in Vietnam, they set clear objectives of increasing their number of TikTok followers and doubling the traffic volume to their e-commerce sites. Using ad creatives that leveraged trendy upbeat music, TikTok creators, and exclusive promotions for TikTok users, Poloman also launched an engaging campaign to raise their brand awareness.

Their campaign was a hit, garnering over 12 million impressions and over 149 thousand clicks. But, most importantly, they exceeded their target revenue by 1.3 times, hitting an all-time revenue high of 3.2 billion VND (140,000 USD) during their Shop Local Saturday promotion.

TikTok supports SMBs year-round

Previous TikTok initiatives for SMBs span a holistic suite of tools, resources, and best practices that enable them to reach and connect with new audiences. For example, in February 2021, TikTok kickstarted Grow with TikTok: Starter Lab, a monthly programme where more than 6,600 SMBs received the opportunity to learn from established figures in the marketing industry and TikTok experts.

Having augmented its broad and diverse audience with these targeted solutions, TikTok is, without a doubt, incredibly relevant for SMBs. The tools offered by the platform helps SMBs grow their businesses.

TikTok offers full-funnel ad solutions to meet different business and marketing objectives. From raising brand awareness and consideration to conversions in driving online sales and app installs, TikTok has everything your business needs to supercharge its advertising efforts.

Also read: STPI’s Vision Programme: empowering Taiwan-based startups to tap into Southeast Asia and beyond

Advertising tools and solutions for campaigns of any budget and businesses of any size are also available. For example, the TikTok Ads Manager is an ad creation platform that allows SMBs to launch and monitor their advertising campaigns. SMBs can create new or repurpose existing creative assets, find their target audience, and set their campaign budgets through a simple and easy-to-use interface. They can also measure the effectiveness of their campaigns and obtain data and insights about their ads.

TikTok has driven results across the board. According to a study done by TikTok in Southeast Asia in the first quarter of 2021, 1 in 4 Thai SMBs and 1 in 3 Indonesian and Vietnamese SMBs that have used TikTok choose it as their most preferred ad platform, citing TikTok ads as the most effective for their business goals. TikTok is indeed the rising marketing channel for businesses both big and small.

For more information on TikTok For Business, go to

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This article is produced by the e27 team, sponsored by TikTok

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