An oversized inspirational water bottle that costs $1.29 is being sold all over TikTok. Insiders explain why it's gone so viral.
- A 2-liter water bottle is flooding UK
TikTokas multiple retailers advertise it for £0.99 ($1.29).
- The bottle's aesthetic is perfect for the app, but retailers are unlikely to make a profit from it.
British TikTok users browsing their feeds in the past few months will have struggled to avoid videos promoting an inordinately low-priced plastic drinking bottle.
In the UK, TikTok has been flooded with advertisements for the 2-liter rainbow-colored water bottles. They are sold by multiple sellers on the app and feature inspirational messages encouraging users to drink more water, as the bottle is the US equivalent of just over eight cups per day.
Watch any of the videos for a few seconds, and a small box appears in the bottom left of the screen. Clicking it takes users to a checkout page, where they can buy the water bottle — with free shipping — for the low price of £0.99 (or around $1.29).
@whatdoyoumean1425 #ad supersize water cup 0.99 free shipping #tiktok #goodthing #share #help #uk #foryou #ad ♬ Beg For You (feat. Rina Sawayama) - Charli XCX
It's not just adverts for the bottles that have dominated the app. Everyday users who have bought them are posting videos showing off their new purchase.
Other similar items that have become commonly advertised include £0.99 sunset lamps, and £0.99 air diffusers, but it's the giant water bottles that have captured the zeitgeist.
One video posted in January and credited in part with popularizing the item has been viewed over 16 million times, and videos including the hashtag #99pwaterbottle have received over 40 million views to date. YouTube users have uploaded unboxing and review videos, and news outlets have published explainers on how to get one.
TikTok users may assume the bottle's explosion in popularity is a coincidence, but
@katiehopkinsx I didn’t order this for a video but it’s the best 99p I’ve spent so I’ve linked it for you #tiktokshop #waterbottle #99pwaterbottle ♬ Flowers (Say My Name) - ArrDee
TikTok Shop could be incentivizing sellers to make a loss on the bottle
It's not clear how so many different retailers have access to the same product, but it has become an extremely popular item.
Yumeng Zou, one of two employees who work at TikTok Shop amazingfriday_UK, told Insider they're selling "almost 2,000 or 3,000 bottles every day."
Despite the business name, amazingfriday_UK has nothing to do with the United Kingdom — the three people who make up the e-commerce business are all based in Shenzhen, China, a former fishing village that is now the world's manufacturing hub, exporting $224 billion worth of items around the globe in 2019, according to a report by the United Nations.
The company, which Zou described as a startup, began selling products in late February 2022 on TikTok.
Zou declined to answer questions about whether amazingfriday_UK is making any profit on the TikTok-famous water bottles, but said that the company can sell it at a low price "because we can ship our products directly to customers, and don't have a middleman, and don't need a warehouse abroad."
@amazingfriday_uk Everyone must have this#waterbottle #99p #tiktokshoppartner #shopontiktok #fyp ♬ Give it to me like - Official Sound Studio
E-commerce expert Dan Barker told Insider that there could be more at play, suggesting it's linked to the latest push by the short-form video sharing app to promote TikTok Shop.
Insider has previously reported that TikTok is offering users huge cash prizes to launch a shop through its app. "This allows those sellers to bump up tiers earning incentives, and achieve the chance to win cash prizes up to five figures having hit particular targets," Barker explained. "It may be that some of these sellers are therefore using a very low-cost product with an offer to ratchet up orders for a scheme like that."
A number of comments on videos advertising the bottle say that for users who have bought from TikTok shop before, the price of the bottle increased to £4.99 ($6.50), suggesting the goal is to onboard new customers.
Barker said many e-commerce sites make a minimal profit — and sometimes even a loss — on customers' first orders.
"It's fairly common for companies to calculate a 'cost per newly acquired customer,' assuming they'll make the actual profit on later orders from those same customers," he said.
The bottle itself was the perfect product for TikTok sellers to get behind
Barker believes that for new retailers on the platform, the product is a deliberate choice, as a plastic bottle of that size could be hard to sell under other circumstances. He speculated that the stock could be "hanging around in warehouses," making it worth selling for such a low price.
The pastel colors and inspirational messaging to drink more water throughout the day also feed into an aesthetic that has dominated TikTok for the past years. Florence Adepoju, founder of cosmetics brand MDMflow and head of retail partnerships at Gen Z marketing agency Fanbytes, told product reviews publication Thingtesting in 2020 that some of the most popular products on the platform include "holographics, bright, bold shimmers, and glitters," in contrast to Instagram's more "clean" esthetic.
@athome_withdevon Water bottle for 99p!! @tiktokshop_uk @tiktok_uk #tiktokshop#foryou#fypシ#CloseYourRings#trending ♬ Flowers (Say My Name) - ArrDee
Patrick Nommensen, part of TikTok's e-commerce operations in the UK, told Insider that the £0.99 water bottle has been sold on the platform for some time, but it came onto the app's radar in November 2021. "We noticed quite quickly that TikTok videos of the £0.99 water bottle were attracting a great deal of attention," Nommensen said.
He said that TikTok is "all about discovery and new trends," adding that it's "not unusual" for popular products to go viral on the platform in this way.
Though TikTok declined to share sales figures, the bottle had become one of the top sellers on the platform by February 2022, according to Nommensen, with "impressive" sales for the merchants on the platform. He confirmed that TikTok is taking "a small commission in line with industry standards from each sale made through the platform."
The strategy appears to be working, as the bottles continue to drive users to TikTok Shop
Two of the biggest TikTok Shops that stock the water bottle have sold over 500,000 units between them, with other smaller retailers selling thousands, according to the figures shown on their product pages.
One of the users who bought the water bottle was 25-year-old Eve from the UK, who declined to give her surname. Her friend, co-worker, and fellow TikTok user Mimi Horne had bought a bottle for herself, posting about it on TikTok.
@mimihorne01 Get yours now! #water #trending #fyp #tiktok #shopping #tiktokshop #getyours #linkbelow ♬ Heat Waves - Glass Animals
"I asked her where she got it," Eve told Insider. "She then said she had the affiliate code where I can get it for £0.99 with free shipping, and it's such a cute bottle that I had to get it."
Eve ordered it in late February, and it arrived on March 11.
"It's great," said Eve. "I think what makes it great is the size of it with the price, compared to others that are 'professional' sports bottles for a lot more money."
She said she'd also be tempted to buy other £0.99 products from TikTok, such as the sunset lamps and air diffusers — but only if they have free shipping, too.
For more stories like this, check out coverage from Insider's Digital Culture team here.
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