The Marketplace Boom   //   May 7, 2024

NuFace is betting TikTok Shop can be a destination for luxury shopping

Since high-end microcurrent tool brand NuFace burst onto the beauty scene in 2005, the skin care company has generated sales through premium retailers like Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Bergdorf Goodman. Now, NuFace is hoping to surf the “TikTok Made Me Buy It” wave at a time when luxury brands have largely avoided the platform. 

On Tuesday, NuFace said it’s testing consumer demand with an exclusive bundle. The bundle, dubbed NuFace’s Supersized Sculpting Kit, includes a mini-sized version of the company’s classic microcurrent device, a nine-month supply of NuFace’s “activator gel,” an applicator brush and a free bag. It’s the company’s first time running a discounted bundle on the video-sharing app, and it could serve as a blueprint for how other luxury brands can test out TikTok Shop, a marketplace that high-end retailers have largely avoided so far.

The bundle is valued at $350, the company says, but will only cost TikTok shoppers $200 at checkout — a 40% discount. The bundle also makes NuFace the first microcurrent device available on TikTok Shop. It’s all part of the company’s strategy to win business from Gen Z shoppers and crack luxury shopping on TikTok Shop. 

NuFace has already found popularity on the popular app. The hashtag #nuface has generated more than 46,000 videos. The beauty company also boasts nearly 64,000 followers and more than half a million likes on the platform. TikTok aside, NuFace’s sales have been strong. The brand saw a 135% spike in units sold from the third quarter to the fourth quarter, Glossy reported.

NuFace’s vice president of communications & brand Melissa Sgaglione-Seganti told Modern Retail that the brand got the idea for a TikTok Shop exclusive when it saw hundreds of videos on social media from shoppers who said they stopped using the device after they ran out of the activator gel. “You need the activator gel to use the device properly, otherwise the microcurrent will be uncomfortable,” Sgaglione-Seganti said. As a result, the brand decided to bundle the 90-day supply of its activator gel with the microcurrent device. “You’re getting 40% off, but we’re not selling our device for five dollars.”

Indeed, it’s the hefty sort of discount that could be attractive to TikTok’s fanbase of price-conscious Gen Z users, which are 3.2 times more likely to buy something on the app than the general adult population, according to a recent Earnest Analytics report that analyzed credit card transaction data. Still, $200, even at a discount, may present some sticker shock to Gen Z. 

“In the most recent week of data, the average transaction size has come down to $34 a transaction, which is the lowest it’s been since TikTok’s Black Friday promotions,” said Michael Maloof, Earnest Analytics head of marketing and strategy. “We’re not really seeing people making $100 or more transactions en masse yet. Those transactions exist, but the average transaction is under $40.”

If NuFace is able to convince Gen Z to drop $200 on a skin-care device, it could be an early sign that more luxury brands will dip their toes into the TikTok Shop waters, while also legitimizing TikTok as an e-commerce contender. As a skin-care brand, NuFace has a competitive edge on TikTok that other high-end retailers do not. Eighty-five percent of TikTok Shop sales are beauty and personal care products, according to Similarweb. 

TikTok Shop, which debuted in the U.S. in September, has been trying to shed its reputation as the internet’s glorified open-air market, where poor-quality products and counterfeits run amok. Last month, TikTok Shop raised the fees it charges sellers as it tries to boost profitability while competing with the likes of Amazon. The social media company also launched a luxury resale category in April.

TikTok’s efforts seemed to have paid off to some extent. The video-sharing app reported more than 500,000 merchants were selling products on the U.S. version of its online marketplace at the end of 2023, according to its first TikTok Shop Safety Report released last week. Last year, TikTok had fewer than 100 U.S. merchants selling products on the app, The Information previously reported.

TikTok’s race to solidify its status as an e-commerce player has taken on renewed urgency after Congress passed a law requiring TikTok’s Chinese parent company ByteDance to sell its stake in the app or face a U.S. ban. TikTok has said it will pursue legal action to fight the ban. 

Still, TikTok will need to attract more luxury brands like NuFace to truly make an impact in the U.S.

“For long-term success, TikTok will inevitably need those higher priced items,” said Juozas Kaziukėnas, founder and CEO of Marketplace Pulse. “The market is so much bigger than selling cheap knockoffs.”

NuFace, on the other hand, isn’t dependent on TikTok for success. Asked about how a U.S. TikTok ban would impact operations, Sgaglione-Seganti acknowledged that the app — and its influencer affiliate network — is valuable in terms of raising brand awareness. But TikTok isn’t the end all be all of the company’s marketing strategy, either. 

“If TikTok goes away, we will go where the consumer goes, and I have no doubt that we’ll be able to adjust and pivot quickly,” said Sgaglione-Seganti. 

In the meantime, NuFace is betting it can harness the buying power of Gen Z on TikTok Shop. If all goes well, the brand may release more exclusives on the platform in the future. 

“If there is that momentum happening and the units are sold through, I really think we’ll probably do more activations later this year for sure,” said Sgaglione-Seganti.