The Infinite Loop: TikTok’s Answer To The Marketing Funnel

I can still remember my first day on the job. A colleague took out a scrap piece of paper and drew a slightly wonky funnel on it. “This,” he stressed, “this is the map. Right here. Follow it.” 

The path to purchase. The marketing funnel. The customer journey. Whatever you want to call it, ‘the funnel’ is as ubiquitous in marketing strategy as the four Ps.

And yet, despite its omnipresence, the funnel definitely has some haters. Many have criticised it for being outdated, ineffective and oversimplified. Others have attempted to reinvent the funnel, reworking and tweaking it to solve some of these long-held gripes. 

However, the traditional structure (awareness, interest, decision, action) has managed to withstand the test of time, at least in the minds of marketers.  

But now, there seems to be a new player attempting to reinvent the wheel, or rather, funnel.


The Infinite Loop 

This week, TikTok debuted a new group of Shopping Ads. As part of this launch, debate surrounding the traditional marketing funnel has reignited. TikTok has chosen to replace it with what they call ‘The Infinite Loop’. 


TikTok's Infinite Loop


In classic TikTok fashion, they’ve set out to be as disruptive as possible. But have they really reinvented the wheel here? Or have they simply pushed it on its side, pointed, and said, “Hey! This looks new!”   

No shade to TikTok, they’re clearly doing something right. But taking a deeper look at their one-of-a-kind-never-been-done-before interpretation of the customer’s path to purchase reveals some flaws.

Is the first half not just a very condensed funnel? It might be argued that Review sits better within the Consideration phase. And when it comes to Participation, this is a feature relatively unique to TikTok and a few other select social platforms. 

This Infinite Loop has been clearly developed with TikTok’s business interests in mind. But does that mean we shouldn’t be listening? 


Does New Mean Better? 

Instagram has recently come under fire for becoming more like TikTok with every passing update. The same can be said for Youtube and its Shorts offerings. If the internet is clearly leaning towards a certain platform style, isn’t it time that our marketing models catch up?

Taking an eComm marketing perspective, it’s intriguing that this Infinite Loop model doesn’t focus on a hard retention sell. Instead, once a purchasing decision has been made it pushes the customer back towards discovery. There’s more focus on getting customers to jump straight back into the loop, never trapping them at the bottom of a funnel for 180 days until eternity.

In turn, this raises concerns surrounding the power of the algorithms and their role in pushing ‘discoverable’ content, but that’s a whole other kettle of fish we can’t get into today.

Marketing models are always over-simplified. We know that the customer journey often doesn’t fit into neat diagrams. They’re often complicated and bounce back and forth before any concrete decisions are made.  

Depending on your objectives as a brand, looking at the infinite loop with a flexible mindset might provide a fresh take on your customers’ awareness to purchase journey in our cluttered and ever-evolving digital marketplace.


Content To Cart

To better understand the ins and outs of the Infinite Loop, we first need to understand TikTok’s new Shopping Ads offerings. 

TikTok has announced three new ad formats, revamping the face of commerce on TikTok.

The new offerings will consist of: 

  • Video shopping ads 
  • Catalogue listing ads
  • Live shopping ads 


It seems Video Shopping Ads will be presented as shoppable TikToks on the For You page where users can shop featured products. This feature is currently available globally for testing. 

Catalogue Listing Ads will give merchants the opportunity to optimise their product catalogues at scale, allowing users to browse connected stores in-app. The best part of this is that no extra creatives are required, content will simply be synced with your current product catalogue.  

Lastly, Live Shopping Ads will focus on driving traffic from the FYP to LIVE moments, showing products to more purchase-minded shoppers. 


Funnels, Loops and Other Funny Shapes 

With such a focus on conversion, it’s going to be interesting to watch the results of these initial tests, especially during the holiday season. 

This suite of reimagined shoppable ads, powered by TikTok’s Infinite Loop model, puts customers firmly in the driver’s seat. Shoppers will have more agency to make informed purchase decisions. Rather than feeling stuffed into some funnel, the goal is clearly for them to become part of the process and continue to enjoy their user experience while shopping. 

Entertaining content is being put at the heart of these campaigns to drive purchases. Product discovery is becoming more genuine and organic when appearing on one’s FYP. Communities are driving engagement and transforming shopping experiences.

Maybe brands really do just need to join in on the fun.


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