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TikTok Ads Review: A Merchant’s Success Story

November 20, 2023
Written and researched by experts at AvadaLearn more about our methodology

By Sam Nguyen

CEO Avada Commerce

In this article, we take you on a journey through the experience of a real merchant who ventured into TikTok Ads.

Discover how this platform became a game-changer for their business and uncover insights that can help you harness the potential of TikTok Ads for your own success.

My Key Lessons

  • It’s the right time to delve into TikTok selling because this platform is still new and attracting new sellers. If we miss this chance, it might be late. 
  • My key to success on Tiktok is to learn its algorithm and understand your audience.

TikTok Ads Review: Pros & Cons

Pros of TikTok Ads

  • Affordability: Unlike giants like Facebook and Google, TikTok advertising didn’t burn a hole in my wallet. It was refreshing to see my dollars stretch further.
  • Broad Spectrum of Audience: Contrary to popular belief, TikTok isn’t just for teens. Over half of its users are above 30! This meant I could tap into various age groups, making it a perfect fit for my diverse target audience spanning the US, UK, Australia, and Canada.
  • Engagement: Every entrepreneur’s dream is to see their advertisements not just viewed but engaged with. With the right strategies, TikTok promised (and delivered!) high engagement rates for me.
  • Tailored Advertising: As the platform matured, it began to work like a search engine. I could target users based on their in-app searches, giving me a competitive edge in the market.
  • Specificity: I could be laser-focused with my targeting, down to the tiniest demographic details. Whether you’re a café in Toronto or a boutique in Melbourne, this feature ensures you’re reaching your ideal customer.
  • Insightful Analytics: Knowing how my campaigns were performing was a breeze. From click-through rates to cost per click, everything I needed was at my fingertips.
  • Flexibility with Budget: Starting with just a $50 daily budget, I could easily adjust based on my business needs and campaign performance.
  • Easy Campaign Creation: No need for a marketing degree here – setting up a campaign was straightforward.
  • A Peek at the Competition: Using ads tools like Minea and PiPiADS, I could see what my competitors were up to, giving me inspiration (and a bit of healthy rivalry).

Cons of TikTok Ads

  • Quality over Quantity: The ads needed to be top-notch in terms of production. It meant investing a bit more time and potentially some resources.
  • Market Saturation: Over time, as more businesses recognize the potential of TikTok, the platform might get saturated, and costs could rise.
  • Budget Management: While the platform offers great flexibility, if you’re not careful with settings, costs can increase, especially with campaign-level budget optimization.
TikTok Ads Review

Types of Ad Formats You Can Place on Tiktok

In-Feed Ads

Just like when I’m scrolling through Instagram stories, one day, a well-placed ad caught my eye on TikTok’s ‘For You’ page. A light bulb went off! These in-feed ads, which can range from 9 to 15 seconds, became my go-to. 

With the added bonus of allowing users to like, comment, share, and genuinely engage, they offered an interactive element. The challenge? You have about 2-3 seconds to grab someone’s attention before they swipe past. 

And here’s a pro tip: to maximize the efficiency, partner with influencers. Their unique touch transformed my in-feed ads, making them truly memorable.

TikTok Ads Review

Brand Takeover

Imagine opening TikTok and the first thing you see is… your brand. That’s the power of brand takeover ads. When I first tried this, it was like having a massive billboard in the digital age. It pops up immediately, and there’s no way users can miss it. TikTok guarantees that your ad won’t compete with others for the day, but remember, this exclusivity does come at a price. It might be more suitable for those with a bigger marketing budget.

TikTok Ads Review

Top View Ads

After experimenting with brand takeovers, I discovered the magic of top view ads. They’re like the evolved, cooler cousin. Instead of jumping out instantly, they make their appearance after a tiny pause, as the first in-feed post. With up to 60 seconds of full-screen video, they became my canvas to tell compelling stories, with the added charm of autoplay and sound.

Branded Hashtag Challenge

Oh, the fun I had with this one! Branded hashtag challenges are TikTok’s special sauce. I initiated a few, and the results? A surge in user-generated content and skyrocketing brand awareness. These challenges are more than just ads; they’re an invitation to participate in a cultural moment, making them a hit among the digital natives.

Branded Effects

Being part of the tech-savvy generation, I was thrilled to play around with TikTok’s branded effects. From custom stickers to augmented reality filters, these effects became big brands’ playgrounds. They not only offer a fresh, interactive way to engage with the audience but also allowed brands to tap into the latest trends and keep their brand feeling fresh.

How much do TikTok Ads Cost?

First off, TikTok’s main metric is the CPM (cost per mile).

In simpler terms, for every 1,000 pairs of eyes that saw my ad, I paid around $10. 

I’ll admit, as someone just starting out, the thought of shelling out a minimum of $500 for my initial campaign felt daunting. I also came across these flashy branded hashtag challenges, which, while super engaging, had a steeper price tag of up to $150,000.

But here’s where it gets interesting. 

TikTok Ads Review

I realized that the cost range for TikTok Ads varies a lot. For instance, while there are ads that can cost anywhere between $50,000 to $120,000, there are also shorter native video ads tailored for folks like us on tighter budgets.

The best part? 

Over time, I found that even though TikTok’s popularity is skyrocketing (I mean, who isn’t on TikTok these days?), their ad costs are surprisingly competitive. The CPM rates were notably lower than what I would’ve paid on other platforms like Facebook and Google. To put it into perspective, my ad costs were less than half of Google’s and a third of Facebook’s. A huge win for a small business like mine!

So, here’s a quick rundown for my fellow young entrepreneurs and digital natives out there:

  • TikTok’s CPM starts at $10.
  • You’d be looking at a minimum campaign budget of $500.
  • Depending on how extensive you want your ad to be, budgets could vary from $500, going up to $50,000, or even $120,000.

Whether you’re running a trendy cafe in the US, a boutique in the UK, or offering services in Australia or Canada, leveraging TikTok could be your ticket to reaching a wider audience without breaking the bank.

Why I used TikTok Ads (Rather than Other Platforms)?

Driving Direct Sales

At the heart of my venture, like many small businesses, was the need to generate sales. I decided to try out TikTok Ads to see if they could bolster sales for my business. Guess what? The results were promising! With the right strategy, I managed to translate the traffic from the ads into tangible sales.

Quick Product Testing

On the 7th day of my TikTok ad campaign, I introduced a new product. The platform allowed me to rapidly gauge the market’s response, helping me decide whether to invest further in that product or pivot.

Reaching My Ideal Customers

TikTok’s precise targeting options were a game-changer. I could tailor my ads to reach my desired age group, ensuring my content resonated with those most likely to be interested.

Flexible Budgeting

I started with a modest daily budget of $50. What I appreciated about TikTok Ads was the freedom to adjust my spending according to the campaign’s performance. So, are TikTok ads worth it? Absolutely, as they provided a cost-effective way to reach and convert my target audience, boosting my sales and business growth.

TikTok Ads Review


As a budding entrepreneur, every penny counted. TikTok Ads, at that time, offered more competitive rates than giants like Facebook and Google. This meant I could get more bang for my buck.

Tapping into a Diverse Audience

TikTok isn’t just for teens. With over half of its users above 30, it offered me a chance to connect with a wide demographic range.

High Engagement

Following expert strategies, I crafted ads that not only grabbed attention but also drove high engagement.

Harnessing the Search Engine Potential

With TikTok’s evolution into a search-centric platform, especially among Gen Z, I could target ads based on user searches, creating a more personalized ad experience.

My Steps into TikTok Ads

Getting Started with the Perfect Product

Discovering the Perfect Product

One of the pivotal moments of my journey was identifying that ‘perfect’ product. On TikTok, where the attention span is minimal, your product doesn’t just need to be good; it needs a “wow” factor.

With the platform’s preference for short-form content, I realized that the ideal product should be priced around $20-$30, ensuring it’s affordable yet enticing. More importantly, it should weave into a story because, let’s face it, we’re all suckers for a good tale. Stories engage, resonate, and, most importantly, persuade.

TikTok Ads Review

This brings me to my next revelation: PiPiADS. This amazing tool offered by TikTok was instrumental in my product research. Not only could I search for ads and products, but it also displayed trending products, making it easier for me to gauge what the audience was currently resonating with.

Setting the Stage with Shopify Ads

🚀 1. Setting Up A TikTok Business Account

When I started on TikTok, the first thing I did was to switch to a business account. It was a breeze! 

How to create tiktok ads account? I simply navigated to Settings and Privacy, chose Manage Account, and tapped on Switch to Business Account. Voilà! Not only was it free, but it also opened doors to insightful analytics and the ability to link directly from my bio.

Ready to elevate your TikTok presence? Get started by setting up your own TikTok Business Account here.

🛍️ 2. Bridging the Gap: TikTok Meets Shopify

Being the owner of a Shopify store, I swiftly integrated it with TikTok. This move enabled automated ad creation and even gave me the opportunity to set up a shopping tab on my TikTok profile.

💼 3. Entering the Control Room: TikTok Ads Manager

Though I loved scrolling through TikTok on my phone, I realized that for business, the desktop version of TikTok Ads Manager was where the magic happened. By logging in at ads.tiktok.com, I accessed a goldmine of advertising options.

🎯 4. Pinpointing My Goals

Within the TikTok Ads Manager, I was presented with clear objectives for my campaign:

  • Increase Traffic: Ideal when I aim to bring potential customers to my website.
  • Drive Community Interaction: Perfect for those times when I focused on growing my TikTok presence.
  • Generate Customer Leads: This was about capturing information for future engagement.
  • Get Website Conversions: The go-to when sales were the endgame.

🌍 5. Crafting the Perfect Audience

One of the most exciting parts was tailoring my ads to reach my ideal audience. TikTok offered an “Automatic audience” option, but being the control enthusiast I am, I opted for the “custom audience” route. I could select users based on gender, age, language, location, and even their specific interests and interactions on TikTok. The customization was mind-blowing!

💸 6. Budgeting and Timing: Every Penny Counts

With a starting budget as low as $5 per day, I was able to dictate how much I wanted to spend and for how long. The flexibility was empowering, allowing me to choose campaigns with no end date or those running for a specific duration.

🎥 7. Bringing Ideas to Life: Creating the Tiktok Ads

Ah, the fun part! I either chose one of my existing TikTok videos or uploaded a brand-new one exclusively for the ad. To complement the video, I added a catchy caption and a clear call-to-action, like “Shop Now”. The key to success on TikTok was authenticity. The more I understood the TikTok culture and trends, the better my ads resonated with the audience.

✅ 8. The Final Countdown: Submitting the Tiktok Ads

Upon hitting the submit button, the anticipation built up! My ad underwent a review process before making its debut. And once it was live, I closely monitored its performance, learning and refining for future campaigns.

What I Have Achieved Thanks to TikTok Ads?

Before TikTok Ads:

My business, just like many start-ups and local businesses in the US, UK, Australia, and Canada, faced a huge challenge – low visibility.

Every day I’d look at my Shopify stats and feel disheartened. The click-through rates on my previous ad campaigns hovered around a meager 0.5% to 0.6%. Sales were dismal, and I hadn’t seen any significant profit. The footfall in my virtual store was dwindling, with days passing by without any remarkable traffic.

TikTok Ads Review

The Turning Point After TikTok Ads

When I decided to give TikTok Ads a shot, it was as if I had stumbled upon a gold mine. The results? Phenomenal!

  • Skyrocketing Click-Through Rates: From a mere 0.5%, my ads started registering an impressive 5% click-through rate.
  • Fantastic ROI: Every dollar I spent on TikTok Ads brought me five times in return.
  • Breaking Age Barriers: A surprising revelation was that a significant portion of my clientele was over 40! So much for the belief that TikTok was just for the teens.
  • Surge in Traffic and Sales: Not only did the overall ad performance improve, but my Shopify store started witnessing a flood of sessions – numbers like 61, 80, and 107 on different days. The ‘add to cart’ and ‘reach checkout’ metrics soared, proving the heightened interest in my offerings. And yes, I celebrated each of the 5 sales that collectively brought in $202.

However, everything wasn’t all rosy. While the traffic and sales picked up, I also noticed that advertising costs were high, and the profit margins were not as substantial as I had hoped. But, every experience has its learning. I soon realized one of my ad groups was exceptionally profitable, drawing in consistent sales. It gave me a clear blueprint for my next steps.

The highlight? 

In one campaign, within 24 hours, I saw three orders pouring in, netting me $74.85 in revenue. On multiple occasions, I even touched the $5,000 mark in daily revenue. Does TikTok Ads Work? The undeniable success I experienced leaves no doubt in my mind about the effectiveness of TikTok Ads

TikTok Ads Review

Lessons from My TikTok Ads Journey

Ad Content and Presentation

I delved deep into insights from the previous days, fine-tuned my messaging, and amped up the visuals. The result? A piece of content that not only looked appealing but had a call to action so compelling people couldn’t resist!

Target Audience

Adjusting my target audience made all the difference. By narrowing down to those truly interested in my unique and trendy “skull slides” sandals, engagement soared. Remember, it’s not about reaching everyone but the right ones.

target audience

Timing and Seasonality

I found that sweet spot when my audience was most active. It’s all about understanding their habits. If they’re most receptive during a certain time, that’s when you strike.

Testing and Optimization

I religiously monitored my ads’ performance. Every tweak, every change, was all geared towards making sure that Day 8 performance wasn’t just a fluke. This constant optimization made all the difference.

Platform Algorithm

Ah, the mysterious TikTok algorithm. By aligning my ads with what the platform loved, my content got the visibility it deserved. It’s a game, and you’ve got to learn to play it right.

platform algorithm

A Unique Product Offering

Having a trendy product can be a game-changer. My “skull slides” were a hit, especially in summer. Know what makes your product stand out and highlight it.

Focused Ad Placement

I made strategic choices about where my ads would appear. This helped me keep the focus on potential customers and minimize any distractions or negativity.

Harnessing Automation

TikTok’s Automated Creative Optimization was a lifesaver. With multiple text options at my disposal, I could identify which messages resonated most with my audience.

Targeting Done Right 

I kept my ad targeting precise. Concentrating on areas like the US, UK, and age groups like 18+ meant that my ads always found their way to the right eyes.

Data-Driven Decisions

Every single day, I’d dissect my ad performance. By distinguishing profitable groups from the less effective ones, I could allocate my budget more effectively.

data driven decisions

Captivating Video Content

Video is king on platforms like TikTok. By sourcing high-quality content, I ensured my audience always had something fresh and engaging to view.

My Challenges & How to Overcome Them

1. Quality Video Content: My First Challenge

How I Tackled It: I scoured TikTok for videos related to my product, extracting inspiration from successful ones. Tools like Minea and PiPiADS were goldmines, helping me understand what my competitors were doing.

2. The Threat of Negativity

There’s always a fear of negative comments impacting ad performance.

My Solution: I simply disabled comments, downloads, and sharing options for my ads. This kept the narrative on the product, shielding it from potential distractions.

3. Optimizing Performance

Determining which ads were gold and which were duds became essential.

The Strategy That Worked: I employed Automated Creative Optimization (ACO) for text creatives and assessed each ad group’s performance daily. The results? I knew exactly which ads to boost and which ones to stop.

4. Spending Wisely

Every penny counts, especially when you’re a start-up or a local business.

My Approach: I segmented each ad into distinct groups, allowing TikTok’s algorithm to discern the winners. This gave me clarity on top-performing content, enabling me to allocate funds efficiently.

5. Holding the Viewer’s Gaze

In a world of dwindling attention spans, my secret sauce was “pattern interrupts.” Regular cuts, varied shots, quirky sound effects – all combined to ensure my audience stayed hooked.

Thrive with TikTok Ads: My Tips for Newcomers

When considering TikTok advertising, it is essential to understand the demographics of your intended customer base. TikTok initially targeted users under 18, and while many users have aged with the app, a majority of its users are still young, with 41% aged between 16 to 24. 

Additionally, TikTok has a strong female user base. Hence, if your business targets young women, TikTok is the perfect platform for advertising. Conversely, if your target audience includes baby boomers or Generation X, you might want to consider other platforms where they spend their time.

Sam Nguyen is the CEO and founder of Avada Commerce, an e-commerce solution provider headquartered in Singapore. He is an expert on the Shopify e-commerce platform for online stores and retail point-of-sale systems. Sam loves talking about e-commerce and he aims to help over a million online businesses grow and thrive.