Case Study: Import Bible, an automative apparel and accessories business based in Edmonton, saw a huge spike in sales thanks to TikTok—without even being on TikTok.
Note: this original story / case study was first written on Jan 9, 2021 as part of my newsletter Lindork’s Lists.
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David Nguyen remembers the moment the notifications started. Someone had purchased a Ressha Melody Box car accessory, a product he makes and sells through his online automative apparel and accessories business Import Bible. Then someone else bought one. And a third person. And a fourth.
And the sales kept coming.
It wasn’t long until the melody box sold out and he realized the reason: a TikTok video from a customer showing off his product had gone viral.
The video was seriously simple. 15 seconds. A man seated in his car, saying “I’m no way a car guy but look, look, look.” He starts the car. Waits. The melody box activates. He cheers. Unbridled joy.
That first TikTok video showcasing Import Bible’s melody box, shared by excited customer @tbngg, went viral in November 2020, quickly amassing nearly 1 million views in just a few days. The impact was clear and immediate.
Before viral TikToks freely advertised his product, Nguyen estimates around 10 sales of the Melody Box in a given day. But in the days following a viral TikTok, he’s selling up to 200 boxes—a 1,900% increase in sales—and seeing a huge jump in mailing list sign-ups from those wanting to be the first to know about a restock.
Since the first video, two more showcasing the Import Bible’s Melody Box in action have taken off. One from @gonzalezx01, posted just before Christmas, received a modest 250,000 views. And a third video from @dangerdadwagon, posted on Jan. 1, 2021, quickly climbed to nearly 1 million views. He didn’t ask the customers to share. They did because they were excited to show off the product.
In all cases, as video views went up, Nguyen also saw sharp spikes in sales and wait list sign-ups.
Since his product became the star of these unexpected, unplanned viral TikToks, he simply can’t keep up with the demand.
“I don’t advertise it anymore until I get enough stock. I can’t make these fast enough. Word of mouth through TikTok is enough right now,” he tells me. “It’s been nutty.”
All of this thanks to TikTok—all without being on TikTok himself.
Nguyen doesn’t use TikTok for his business. He doesn’t have a strategy for it. He says he likely won’t even post his own videos. “It would probably come off as cringey if I posted,” he admits. Better to leave it to his customers and their authentic, excited “unboxing”-style videos effortlessly advertising his product.
Since the Edmonton, Alberta, Canada-based business started in 2006, Import Bible has built a loyal and passionate fan and customer base—but nothing Nguyen has ever posted on social media has gotten the same attention, or driven the same amount of sales, than his customers’ TikTok videos.
There’s a few lessons to be learned from Import Bible’s TikTok Success:
Your business doesn’t need to be on TikTok in order to generate awareness and revenue through it. If a product is featured in a TikTok video that gets widely shared, people will naturally seek you and your product out.
While Nguyen’s TikTok / sales success was entirely organic, you can imagine how a business could strategically plan to work with customers to excitedly showcase products on that platform as a way to drive awareness and sales.
It was the authentic excitement along with quirky and unexpected product that Nguyen believes led to the videos being widely shared. Melody boxes that play nostalgic tunes and phrases when you turn the ignition on your car isn’t something you see or hear often so it is something people would want to share about—and something people would be curious to see.
“I’ve now focused a lot on accessories that are cool and quirky, something that you’d want to show off.”
– David Nguyen, Import Bible
Depending on what your product is, it may not be believable that people would excitedly post a video about it on social media—so business owners should consider: what products or services can you offer that customers would want to show off?
TikTok is a strange and wonderful platform. There’s a lot of funny, smart, inspired, and wholesome content being shared (and then taken and shared off-platform too). Music used and trending on the platform has a huge impact on the charts. Increasingly, brands are inserting themselves into the TikTok discourse. Some are trying to create original content. Some are working with influencers to create content. Others are creating paid ads. All to varying degrees of success (though generally, the more ‘organic’ and ‘TikTok’-like your video ad is, the better the results).
While it’s hard to pin down exactly the type of videos that resonate on the platform, one thing is clear:
Content shared on TikTok has the potential to reach and engage far more users far faster than content shared on other platforms.
There’s a huge opportunity there. If you’ve been wondering whether TikTok makes sense for your business but weren’t sure about resources or the type of content to share from a standalone account, perhaps you can look at Import Bible’s surprising TikTok success for inspiration.
Perhaps your strategy could focus on existing users—current and potential customers—who, if given the right product (or pitched the right ask)—may create a few seconds of content that drives a whole lot of sales.
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