TikTok app usage behavior: the role of hedonic consumption experiences

Amir Zaib Abbasi (IRC for Finance and Digital Economy, KFUPM Business School, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals Dhahran, Saudi Arabia)
Natasha Ayaz (Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology – Islamabad Campus Islamabad, Pakistan)
Sana Kanwal (Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology – Islamabad Campus Islamabad, Pakistan)
Mousa Albashrawi (IRC for Finance and Digital Economy, ISOM Department, KFUPM Business School, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals Dhahran, Saudi Arabia)
Nadine Khair (American University of Madaba Amman, Jordan)

Data Technologies and Applications

ISSN: 2514-9288

Article publication date: 28 February 2023

Issue publication date: 14 June 2023




TikTok social media app has become one of the most popular forms of leisure and entertainment activities, but how hedonic consumption experiences (comprising fantasy, escapism, enjoyment, role projection, sensory, arousal and emotional involvement) of the TikTok app determine users' intention to use the app and its resulting impact on the actual usage behavior remains limited in the information systems literature, especially featuring the hedonic consumption perspective in entertainment industry.


This study employs uses & gratification theory to answer the “why” via predicting the role of hedonic consumption experiences that serve as gratifications to trigger technology acceptance behavior (especially, in form of users' behavioral intention to use the TikTok app and its further impact on usage behavior). This study utilizes the partial least squares-structural equation modeling approach to perform data analyses on 258 TikTok app users.


Our results provide a strong support such that users' playful consumption experiences (i.e. escapism, role projection, arousal, sensory experience and enjoyment) positively influence their intention to use the TikTok app and its resultant effect on users' actual usage of the app. In contrast, fantasy and emotional involvement fail to influence users' intention to use the TikTok app.


To the best of our knowledge, our investigation is one of the first studies to apply the hedonic consumption experiences as potential gratifications that derive users' intention and its subsequent influence on the actual usage of the TikTok app. Our study results would assist marketing and brand managers to redefine approaches and tactics to create effective strategies that implement essential determinants to increase behavioral intention among entertainment service providers.



Abbasi, A.Z., Ayaz, N., Kanwal, S., Albashrawi, M. and Khair, N. (2023), "TikTok app usage behavior: the role of hedonic consumption experiences", Data Technologies and Applications, Vol. 57 No. 3, pp. 344-365. https://doi.org/10.1108/DTA-03-2022-0107



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

1. Introduction

In the wake of increased usage of social media apps, the fast-growing application with over 1 billion downloads on Google Play Store is TikTok app (Chadee and Evans, 2021). This entertainment app was first launched in China in 2017 (Qiyang and Jung, 2019). Furthermore, the TikTok is the first application focused on content that looks more real, aesthetic and vibrant. Within applications in terms of downloading and installing, the TikTok videos have become one of the most common forms of entertainment in today's world. The digital world has witnessed a noticeable increase in the popularity of the TikTok app usage and paved the way for diversified entertainment for youth (Du et al., 2020). Entertainment services have focused on grasping individuals' attention through music, socialization, dance, sport and theater (Stoian and Epuran, 2017), which all can be seen in the TikTok app. The TikTok app allows its users to make short videos to boost new immersive and collaborative user experiences (Humphry and Chesher, 2021; Zhou, 2019). These videos may also contain certain music, dancing techniques or “trends” that act as forms of entertainment.

After the update in the TikTok algorithm, which forces only country-specified videos, different TikTokers have emerged, especially in Pakistan, who can attract millions of followers. For instance, Jannat Mirza, Kanwal Aftab, Usman Asim, Alishba Anjum and Zulqarnain Sikander are the highest paid TikTokers with a large number of followers in Pakistan. The TikTok app is described as a virtual playing app that is fun and creative, liberating the youth as they can modify their behaviors without adhering to traditional online cultures and past behaviors (Anderson, 2020). In practice, the brilliant video editing features and audiovisual effects of this app may give the user a hedonic consumption experience in the forms of unique variables such as escapism, fantasy, emotional involvement, arousal, role projection, enjoyment and sensory experience. Along with other features, sensory experiences have been crucial in the digital world (Abbasi et al., 2021b).

Hedonic consumption experience is defined as an active, arousing and intrinsic consumer behavior comprising imaginal, emotional and multisensory attributes, which is performed for one's own pleasure, e.g. leisure activities, hobbies, games and sports (Abbasi et al., 2019b; Holbrook et al., 1984). Hedonic consumption experience is derived from hedonic theory of consumption experience, which defines as “hedonic consumption designates those facets of consumer behavior that relate to the multisensory, fantasy, and emotive aspects of one's experience with products or services” (Hirschman and Holbrook, 1982). Recently, the consumption of TikTok app is considered as a valuable leisure activity through which users entertain their selves, pass free time and escape from unpleasant events by watching the content that may give them a good laugh or release their boredom (Vaterlaus and Winter, 2021). Despite the importance of TikTok app as an important leisure activity, little is known how hedonic consumption experiences pertaining to the TikTok app influence users' intention to use the app and its subsequent effect on consumers' usage behavior of TikTok app.

Considering the importance of hedonic consumption experiences in the existing body of literature, we specifically reviewed prior studies employing playful consumption experiences or hedonic consumption perspective. Our critical analysis of earlier studies revealed that scholars have advanced the theoretical application in two streams. One stream of research focused on few dimensions of hedonic theory. For instance, Trabelsi-Zoghlami and Touzani (2019) conducted a qualitative enquiry and found that escapist, fantasy, self-identification and entertainment are experiences that users perceive in virtual settings (e.g. video games, virtual universe, social networks and experiences perceived over the internet). Few scholars investigated imaginal (e.g. escapism, role projection, fantasy) and emotional experiences (enjoyment, arousal and emotional involvement) in massively multiplayer online roleplaying games (MMORPGs) (Wu and Holsapple, 2014). Jang and Byon (2020) examined hedonic motivation to derive eSports gameplay intention. Few other scholars predicted the role of enjoyment on players' attitude formation toward video game playing (Alzahrani et al., 2017; Lee and Tsai, 2010).

Other stream of research applied the hedonic consumption experiences (including imaginal, emotional and sensory attributes) in predicting children's subjective well-being in smartphone usage context (Abbasi et al., 2021b). Recently, few studies have extended the application of hedonic consumption experiences in multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games to determine user's intention and usage behavior (Abbasi et al., 2021a), and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) game settings to predict gamers' attitude toward PUBG game (Hollebeek et al., 2022). However, such studies did not consider the antecedents, especially utilizing hedonic consumption experiences pertaining to escapism, role projection, fantasy, emotional involvement, enjoyment, arousal and sensory that influence behavioral intention to use the TikTok app, which in turn can determine users' actual usage of TikTok app. The theoretical notion of playful consumption experience/hedonic consumption is deemed important to investigate for the TikTok app as it comes under the most valued leisure activity (i.e. most enjoyable and fun way to spend leisure time) of today's era (Vaterlaus and Winter, 2021).

Given the importance of hedonic consumption experiences for the TikTok app, we aim to empirically examine the role of hedonic consumption experiences involving fantasy, role projection, escapism, enjoyment, arousal, sensory and emotional involvement to predict users' intention to use the TikTok App and its subsequent effect on users' overall usage behavior. To meet the study aim, we intend to contribute to the existing body of literature by incorporating playful consumption experiences/hedonic consumption model with the uses & gratification (U&G) theory to explain “why” and technology acceptance model (TAM) to find out the primary factors influencing users' intention to use the TikTok app and its subsequent effect on overall usage behavior.

2. Underpinning theory (U&G theory)

U&G theory explains the theoretical perspective of “how and why” users choose any specific media and gratify themselves, e.g. TikTok app, as specified in this study. Lim (2015) applied the U&G theory's assumption to explore the factors that affect users' acceptance and usage behavior e-shopping sites. Several other studies applied the U&G theory in diverse settings, e.g. social media, games, internet, binge-watching movies, Vlog viewing and food delivery apps to identify factors that serve as gratifications, which further influence users to use the media (Abbasi et al., 2021a; Bulduklu, 2019; Gregg, 2021; Ray et al., 2019; Steiner and Xu, 2020). However, we mainly limit our discussion to prior studies employing U&G theory in context of TikTok app consumption as a media (Bossen and Kottasz, 2020; Meng and Leung, 2021; Montag et al., 2021; Scherr and Wang, 2021; Vaterlaus and Winter, 2021; Yang and Ha, 2021). Scholars identified several motives that act as gratifications for the TikTok app consumption, e.g. trendiness, escapism, novelty and socially rewarding self-presentation (Scherr and Wang, 2021); escape, fashion, making money, entertainment, information seeking and sociability seeking (Meng and Leung, 2021); passive consumptive comprising cognitive need/information, relaxation, fun, social needs, self-expression, identity creation and recognition needs (Bossen and Kottasz, 2020); and entertainment, socialization, information sharing and information seeking (Yang and Ha, 2021). However, the factors of hedonic consumption experience comprising imaginal aspects (escapism, role projection and fantasy), emotional facets (arousal, enjoyment and emotional involvement) and sensory attributes remain limited in the context of TikTok app to reveal the primary factors influencing users' behavioral intention to use the TikTok app and its further impact on TikTok app usage behavior, which is addressed in this study.

TAM is one of the most influential models of technology acceptance with two primary factors (perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness) influencing behavioral intention to use the technology (Lim, 2018; Nedra et al., 2019). TAM has been studied and extended in many researches. For instance, Nedra et al. (2019) conducted a study in the context of Instagram and added two additional variables (i.e. social identity and perceived enjoyment) within the traditional TAM variables. Many studies employed the hedonic element in the TAM in different settings, e.g. enjoyment in social apps (Akdim et al., 2022), imaginal and emotional experiences in video games like MMORPGs (Wu and Holsapple, 2014), MOBA (Abbasi et al., 2021a), hedonic benefits in location-based applications (Akel and Armağan, 2021), enjoyment in mobile wallets (To and Trinh, 2021) and social network games (Baabdullah, 2018). Despite having the importance of hedonic factors in other settings and TAM, the hedonic consumption model comprising hedonic consumption experiences entail an equally significance for the TikTok app consumption due its consideration as the most valued recreational activity for individuals. Hence, it is vital to study the TikTok usage behavior within the nomological network of U&G theory and TAM, especially predicting users' behavioral intention and its subsequent effect on users' actual use of the TikTok app.

2.1 Research model and hypothesis development

We have developed a research model to depict our main seven hypotheses that show the relationships between playful consumption experiences and behavioral intention to use the TikTok app as well as the relationship between the behavioral intention and actual use as represented in Figure 1. In the following section, the hypothesized relationships are justified with rationales from previous research.

2.2 Escapism

Escapism is a mental activity that helps individuals to distance themselves from unpleasant events (Kosa and Uysal, 2020). According to Francisco and Ruhela (2021), escapism has helped mitigate the stress caused by COVID-19-induced quarantine measures. Due to digital innovation, the increase in the number of smartphone users subsequently increases the demand for entertainment applications. The TikTok app has benefitted a significant number of users who want to relieve mental anxiety via escapism (Situmorang, 2021), which can help users experience behavioral intention. Similarly, researchers suggest that escapism is a crucial motivator to influence users to use the TikTok app (Rach and Peter, 2021). Therefore, we hypothesize that:


Escapism positively determines behavioral intention to use TikTok.

2.3 Role projection

Role projection refers to the mental activities that enable individuals to project themselves into specific roles or characters (Abbasi et al., 2019b). Individuals indulge in entertainment media (e.g. MOBA games) that make users learn different characters and project themselves while competing with the opponents. Such a role projection experience in gaming impacts gamers to continue playing a video game (Abbasi et al., 2021a). TikTok app is another entertainment technology that allows users to watch short clips depending on their preferences. Later, those short videos help users project their selves into the same theme and act accordingly, which in turn develops users' intention to use the TikTok app. This also leads to develop acting skills as users make a copy (projecting their own acting skills) of the original video and share among friends (Zulli and Zulli, 2020). Due to users' role projection experience in the TikTok app, users are more inclined to use it. Hence, we hypothesize that:


Role projection positively impacts behavioral intention to use TikTok.

2.4 Fantasy

Glynos (2021) defines fantasy as a conception that consists of feelings, myths, metaphors and illuminating insights. Fantasy holds a significant importance in tourism, especially promoting through video logs (Fakfare et al., 2020) and video games (Abbasi et al., 2021a). In particular, the TikTok app gives consumers a unique experience to fantasize the virtual world that is better than reality. So, it has been identified that the fantasy achieved in consuming videos has an influence upon the behavioral intention to use this app (Li et al., 2015). Kang et al. (2021) studied the impact of virtual reality on behavioral intention that measures the role of social media apps from fantasy to reality. Subsequently, this fantasizing process of imitating their favorite characters stimulates individuals' intention to use the TikTok app. Hence, we hypothesize that:


Fantasy positively impacts behavioral intention to use TikTok.

2.5 Enjoyment

Enjoyment refers as an emotional state of joy experienced by individuals during the consumption process of a product/service. If consumers enjoy playfulness, they will likely engage further to achieve enjoyment, thus resulting in behavioral intention (Abbasi et al., 2021a; Ungar et al., 2016). Recently, it has been witnessed that enjoyment in TikTok, particularly perceived through watching videos that match their interests, influences users to consume the TikTok app (Scherr and Wang, 2021). Hence, we hypothesize that:


Enjoyment positively determines behavioral intention to use TikTok.

2.6 Arousal

Arousal refers to the state of emotional activation, excitement or alertness described by external sensory stimulation (Abbasi et al., 2019a). The TikTok app allows its users to watch short videos that keep changing after few seconds and cover a variety of contents (e.g. informative videos carrying information on tourist places or healthy nutrients, magic tricks, funny and dance videos, popular poetry and dialogue-based videos and Islamic speeches), which help users stay awake and alert to keep watching a series of videos (Bossen and Kottasz, 2020; Shang et al., 2021). It invokes the TikTok users to develop a perfect emotional state, thereby enhancing the behavioral intention (Hsiao et al., 2018). Henceforth, we hypothesize that:


Arousal positively impacts behavioral intention to use TikTok.

2.7 Emotional involvement

Emotional involvement refers to the emotional state, where users get deeply involved in the consumption of a product or service (Abbasi et al., 2021a). The continuous participation in an activity gives rise to emotional involvement (Stanković and Nešić, 2020). The TikTok app is so trendy that users get the short videos of their followers based on personalization, which in turn stimulates its users to emotionally attach to the app and carry forward the experience of watched videos (Scherr and Wang, 2021). This results in more emotional involvement in the TikTok app that users may consider engaging in the TikTok app for much longer hours and exhibiting behavioral intention to use the TikTok app (Wang, 2020). Hence, we hypothesize that:


Emotional involvement positively impacts behavioral intention to use TikTok.

2.8 Sensory experience

The concept of sensory experience has captured attention over time as it includes a sense of feelings, sense of taste, touch, sight and sound (Abbasi et al., 2019a). The videos on TikTok app extensively carry the multisensory attributes (e.g. a nice background sound, beautiful scenery/landscape, food recipe that one wants to follow to make a meal and enjoy the taste of it, make a copy of the watched video to express acting or self-presentation skills; Du et al., 2020; Scherr and Wang, 2021). Once users experience the multisensory attributes of the TikTok, they will be more inclined to keep using the TikTok app for amusement and entertainment. Hence, we hypothesize that:


Sensory experience positively explains behavioral intention to use the TikTok.

2.9 Behavioral intention and actual use

Behavioral intention is an occurrence of performing a specific behavior (Abbasi et al., 2021a). It has been adopted in the TAM to identify behavioral intention to accept a particular technology (Lee et al., 2013). The behavior intention of consumers in the IT sector keeps on changing over time as the consumers are introduced to a new technology, regularly. For this reason, the individual's intention can shift over time to new applications (e.g. TikTok app; Meng and Leung, 2021). The TikTok app provides playful experiences to users that not only derive their intention to use the app but also enforce their actual usage behavior. Hence, we posit that:


Behavioral intention positively determines actual use of the TikTok.

3. Research methodology

The study employed primary data gathered from survey questionnaires filled physically by the respondents of TikTok users. A cross-sectional design had been used to gather data from the targeted population as this approach is most suitable to acquire information about one's beliefs, attitudes and behaviors (Gay et al., 2011). In this study, we focused on one of the most downloaded entertainment app (i.e. Tiktok; Wang, 2020) and its users. For data collection, we first determined the sample size using G-power tool (at power value of 0.95, effect size f2 = 0.15, α err prob = 0.05 and no. of predictors = 7) and found 153 as a minimum required sample size for partial least squares-structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM). However, we intended to collect more to generalize the study findings on a larger segment.

Before starting the data collection, we adapted the study instruments from well-established measures in the literature. The questionnaire consists of two sections. Section 1 comprised age, gender, education and average time spent on TikTok app. Section 2 incorporated the playful consumption/hedonic consumption experience model adapted from Abbasi et al. (2017, 2019a), which captures three main experiences (imaginal, emotional and sensory). Imaginal experience was assessed through three first-order factors (escapism, role projection and fantasy), and emotional experience was measured through three lower-order dimensions (enjoyment, arousal and emotional involvement). The sample item of escapism, fantasy, enjoyment, sensory, arousal, emotional involvement and role projection in the TikTok consumption experience includes the following: escapism-1: Using the TikTok app gets me away from reality; fantasy-1: Using the TikTok app helps me construct fantasies; enjoyment-1: Using the TikTok app is not really fun; sensory experience-1: Using the TikTok app influences my physical movement; arousal-1: Using the TikTok app makes me stimulated; emotional involvement-1: When I am using the TikTok app, I feel deeply about the app; and role projection-1: Using the TikTok app enables me to project myself into a particular role. Recently, the hedonic consumption experience model has gained popularity and applied in several contexts such as video games (Abbasi et al., 2019a), children's smartphone usage (Abbasi et al., 2021b), MOBA games (Abbasi et al., 2021a) and battle royale game (e.g. PUBG; Hollebeek et al., 2022). However, it lacks the applicability in the TikTok context to derive users' intention to consume the app and its resultant effect on the overall usage behavior of TikTok app. The scales to examine user's intention and usage behavior were adapted from Abbasi et al. (2021a) and Wu and Holsapple (2014).

The target population for the study included all users of the TikTok app in the twin sites of Pakistan, i.e. Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Respondents between the age of 16 and 25 years (Z-generation) were selected for the study as youngsters tend to be innovative in adopting new technologies (Prensky, 2001) as well as the tech-savvy generation, i.e. Z-generation is dominating this area (Persada et al., 2021); they spend an average of 79 min a day using social networking sites (Pacheco et al., 2017). Purposive sampling had been utilized to collect the data as we had a certain criteria (he/she should be a user of TikTok app, must fall under Generation Z cohort and should be using for 10 min on a daily basis) to follow for the data collection (Etikan et al., 2016; Guarte and Barrios, 2006).

In total, we distributed around 300 questionnaires (using online and offline mode), but only managed to get 276 responses (combining the total of 63 per cent from offline and 37 per cent from online). During the coding process, we deleted 18 cases due to missing values and suspicious response patterns (e.g. having a diagonal or zigzag response pattern; Abbasi et al., 2021a). We left with 258 valid responses as tabulated in Table I that we further utilized for data analysis.

Since the study's data were collected using the cross-sectional technique (i.e. data collection at one given point in time), there might be some chances of having common method bias (CMB) issue. To examine the CMB concern, we employed the Harman's single-factor test (Podsakoff et al., 2003) and resulted that the total variance explicated by the single factor is 33.9 per cent, which is lower than the critical value of 50 per cent. We conclude that our study's modeled variables do not suffer from any CMB issues.

The PLS-SEM approach was applied for data analysis using the two main steps comprising measurement and structural model assessment. PLS-SEM is a viable approach for our study's model as it is more explanatory in nature (Hair et al., 2019), where we aim to predict users' behavioral intention to use the TikTok app via hedonic consumption experiences and its subsequent effect on the overall usage behavior of TikTok app. Unlike first-generation tools like SPSS, PLS-SEM helps in testing the hypotheses in the structural model in one go (Hair Jr et al., 2016).

4. Results

We utilized the PLS method for data analysis. The SmartPLS 3.0 tool was used; PLS is a component-based estimation approach that attempts to maximize the variance described in the latent dependent variables and has been widely employed in various fields. We used PLS for three reasons. First, it is suitable for testing models of theory building (Hair et al., 2011). Second, previous studies have shown a piece of evidence that PLS is the best statistical tool for testing complex models (Kim and Benbasat, 2006). Lastly, it has the advantage of dealing with a relatively small sample size (Chin et al., 2003). Using SmartPLS, we examined the measurement model and structural model.

4.1 Measurement model

Using the PLS-SEM approach, we first examined the measurement model of the study's framework for reliability and validity. For reliability and validity checks, we followed the guidelines of Hair et al. (2019), who advised to assess the indicator's reliability through items' outer loading that should be minimum 0.40 or greater. The constructs' reliability should be examined using Cronbach's alpha, composite reliability and Dijkstra–Henseler's rho (ρA) and meet the threshold value of 0.70. The constructs should also meet the validity checks using the criteria of discriminant validity (heterotrait–monotrait [HTMT] values should be lower than 0.90) and convergent validity that is measured via average variance extracted (AVE) value, which should surpass the value of 0.50 (Hair et al., 2017; Hair Jr et al., 2020).

The findings reported in Table II explicated that all constructs meet the threshold values for indicators' reliability (i.e. values greater than 0.40), constructs' reliabilities (i.e. values higher than 0.70), convergent validity (i.e. AVE values exceeding 0.50) and discriminant validity (i.e. HTMT values lower than 0.90, see Table III for detailed information).

4.2 Structural model

Once we had satisfactory results from the measurement model, we proceeded to testing the structural model. Using the SmartPLS software, we performed the bootstrapping with 5,000 samples. The study results as postulated in Table IV (showing path-coefficients, effect size, p-values and t-values) revealed that consumers' playful experiences such as role projection (H3), emotional involvement (H6) and fantasy (H2) in TikTok app failed to have a positive significant influence on determining consumers' behavioral intention to use the TikTok app. In contrast, consumers perceived escapism, arousal, enjoyment and sensory experiences are the true antecedents to drive consumers' intention to consume the TikTok, which in turn positively predicted consumers' overall usage behavior of TikTok app. Hence, the structural model provided support for five hypotheses; H1, H4, H5, H7 and H8 (see Table IV and Figure 2). The model performed well as it accounted for 55.4 per cent of the explained variance in behavioral intention and 19.7 per cent in actual use. Besides, the study's model possessed the predictive relevance (i.e. denoted with Q2) as it exceeded the value of zero.

5. Discussion

The study has applied the U&G theory to study behavioral intention and its subsequent effect on usage behavior within the context of the TikTok app. The study results demonstrated that escapism has a significant positive effect on individuals' intention to use the TikTok app. Our study findings are aligned with prior research that also found a significant association between gamers' escapism and behavioral intention to play a video game (Abbasi et al., 2021a). For example, taking an example of an interesting story on eye-catching and innovative 3D and 4D graphics, and the trending fast-track sounds, an animated video game paves the way for creating a virtual world full of animations in which the users tend to involve themselves in getting through problems (Wu and Holsapple, 2014). In short, consuming the TikTok app helps a person escape from past worries and engage themselves with behavior intention (Kırcaburun and Griffiths, 2019). This finding is in line with the U&G theory as it establishes escaping, or the dissociation from the physical environment, as a use for the user. TikTok serves as a platform that enables gratification by performing the function of escapism. Existing studies reported that TikTok had been preferred over other social media applications as the user-generated content served as an entertaining platform for escapism through enjoyment (Omar and Dequan, 2020).

Furthermore, the study indicated that arousal has a positive significant effect on behavioral intention, in line with Wu and Holsapple (2014). This study argues that the relationship between arousal and behavioral intention intersects with the context of the TikTok app. Cheah et al. (2020) found a positive relationship between arousal and behavioral intention. In fact, in the field of sports, arousal has a positive and direct effect on behavioral intention (Jang et al., 2020), thus creating emotional states such as arousal, enjoyment and emotional involvement. This indicates that arousal builds usage intention (Zhao et al., 2020). Existing studies found that users often relate TikTok with feelings of fun, enjoyment and entertainment (Vaterlaus and Winter, 2021). It is often used as a way to replace boredom with these feelings of positive arousal, which led to continued behavioral intention for usage of the app, providing gratification through its entertainment value.

Third, enjoyment has a significant positive effect on behavioral intention to use the TikTok app. Whiting and Williams (2013) identified 10 reasons that motivate individuals to use social media, in which enjoyment is one of them. Enjoyment reduces the cognitive burden as individuals experience pleasure from using this app, and subsequently, they commit more time to its usage (Mun and Hwang, 2003). Thus, results indicate that enjoyment significantly predicts behavioral intention, and it is aligned with the study (Wu and Holsapple, 2014). As discussed above, enjoyment is a significant factor involved in arousal and escapism. This finding links with the first two wherein the nature of TikTok as a fun and enjoyable application leads to increase usage. In addition to viewing content, studies have found that TikTok users derive enjoyment from creating content as well (Vaterlaus and Winter, 2021). This fits into the U&G theory model as users are deriving gratification from the use of the application.

Additionally, role projection could be easily connected to behaviors that emanate into a role an individual aspires to project (Wu and Holsapple, 2014). Wang et al. (2020) also focused on the relationship between role projection and behavioral intention. Role projection is a crucial factor when investigating smartphone usage apps and the subjective well-being of children (Abbasi et al., 2021b). As suggested by Abbasi et al. (2019b), role projection produces an association with particular TikTok characters. However, results include that role projection does not significantly contribute to expounding behavioral intention to use the TikTok app. This may be understood in relation to the nature of the application. Users have reported that the application allows them to create, express and archive content that is suited to their preference (Omar and Dequan, 2020). These different types of use do not involve the emergence of roles that can be adopted by the users, limiting the utility of role projection in this context.

Moreover, extensive studies reveal that emotional involvement impacts the extent to which a consumer engages in the shopping decision-making process (Wu and Holsapple, 2014). Jang et al. (2020) predicted a relationship between emotional involvement and behavioral intention. Another piece of evidence gives us a significant relationship between emotional satisfaction and behavioral intention (Hussain et al., 2020). However, this study contradicts previous studies in how emotional involvement does not positively explain the behavioral intention of TikTok app users. This may be explained by viewing TikTok as an application that encourages emotional expression, not emotional involvement. This may be understood under the “emotional architecture” framework developed by Wahl-Jorgensen (2018) who distinguished different social media applications in terms of how they supported certain aspects of emotional involvement and expression. TikTok is a tool conducive to self-expression; however, it does not boast the features that may engage users emotionally. Therefore, in terms of the U&G theory, TikTok is not intended for emotional involvement, and so it does not have a significant effect on continued usage of an application.

The study results indicate that sensory experience has a significant positive impact on usage intention. Significantly, a positive sensory experience always leads to a greater sense of joy and engagement, which ultimately results in behavioral intention (Csikszentmihalyi and Csikszentmihalyi, 1992; Dalmoro et al., 2019; Kim et al., 2016). Sensory experience has also been influenced by technology, and new technologies impact the future of entertainment services (Petit et al., 2015). This is also linked to behavioral intention since entertainment and leisure services are associated with emotions and sensory experiences. Given the primary purpose of TikTok is to share user-generated content which holds entertainment value, it is imperative that the content produces a positive sensory experience. The users seek play/fun gratification from the platform which has been related to positive sensory experiences (Vaterlaus and Winter, 2021).

On the other hand, the study validates that fantasy has an irrelevant negative influence on behavior intention to use TikTok app, which agrees with the findings of Wu and Holsapple (2014). A hedonic consumption perspective implies that fantasy results in determining usage intention (Wu and Holsapple, 2014). Moreover, previous researchers have identified fantasy as a vibrant force in digital media that arouses a TikTok app user to imitate certain playful characters to gain behavior intention. However, fantasy may not be as vivid or encompassing in the context of TikTok as adoption of characters is not the major use of the application (Vaterlaus and Winter, 2021). Instead, the imitation of playful characters may be related to the use of TikTok as a platform for self-expression and entertainment (Omar and Dequan, 2020). Therefore, it is concluded that fantasy has not contributed positively to the behavioral intention to use the TikTok app.

Finally yet importantly, the study demonstrates that behavioral intention has a positive effect on the usage of the TikTok app by incorporating the U&G theory. Such theory is well known in the domain of information systems as it assists in explaining gratifications of individual behavior in various fields. Additionally, the positive relationship between behavioral intention and TikTok usage app initiates playful consumption experiences to affect behavioral intention so that TikTok users enjoy the app more and more. The nature of TikTok as an entertainment application meets the needs wanted by its audience. In comparison with other applications, it performs better on users' perceived playful experiences (e.g. sensory, enjoyment, arousal, escapism and role projection), which leads to have better suitability for users.

5.1 Theoretical implications

It is crucial to understand the theoretical implications of the given research. The study has chosen U&G theory to investigate the factors affecting behavioral intention to use the TikTok app. U&G theory has been used to better extract the impact of social media on its users. Further, Omar and Dequan (2020) implemented the U&G theory to understand the TikTok usage behavior. Similarly, a study by Shao and Lee (2020) illustrated the TikTok usage intention and applied U&G theory. For instance, Wu and Holsapple (2014) identified the vitality of investigating the hedonic consumption theory to uncover behavioral intention. In contrast, they overlook the sensory experience as a primary predictor of behavioral intention. Hence, the current study has investigated the phenomenon of sensory experience in detail, which recently studied in the context of MOBA games (Abbasi et al., 2021a) and PUBG game (Rehman et al., 2022). However, we extend this perspective to the TikTok app as it has gained significant importance in the current situation of coronavirus outbreak (Oketunmbi et al., 2021).

Hu (2020) also conducted a study on the TikTok app and WeChat to analyze the U&G theory in practice. Subsequently, prior studies embedded U&G theory to study social media and the importance of stickers to achieve gratification (Lee and Lin, 2020). Further, the authors studied engagement behaviors of TikTokers in China from the perspective of Big Five personality, narcissism and gratification needs (Meng and Leung, 2021). Feldkamp (2021) tried to understand the rise of TikTok during the pandemic COVID-19 from the perspective of the U&G theory. However, this study pays a closer attention to not only on the U&G theory but also to study why users engage in the entertainment application (e.g. TikTok App) through playful consumption experience during a crisis such as COVID-19.

Our study contributes to the U&G theory to relate playful consumption experiences (comprising emotional involvement, enjoyment, arousal, fantasy, escapism, role projection and sensory experience) as possible gratifications for users to develop their behavioral intention to use the TikTok app and its further impact on users' actual usage of the app. Besides, we advance the perspective of TAM via studying hedonic consumption experiences as predictors of behavioral intention and examining its subsequent effect on TikTok app usage behavior. This study also adds the contextual contribution because it is conducted on Pakistani users, which would benefit other academicians and practitioners in other parts of the developing economies. In the context of Pakistan, our study's model posits that TikTok app users are encouraged to engage in the TikTok app due to escapism, arousal, enjoyment and sensory experiences.

5.2 Practical implications

Social media app designers, marketing managers, brand managers of the entertainment industry and scholars can use the playful consumption experience model to examine individuals' behavior by applying questionnaires before and after the study and comparing the results with other studies. Furthermore, understanding the reasons behind engaging in the TikTok app would help practitioners understand usage intentions and create new apps that focus on assisting consumers in experiencing escapism, playful consumption, enjoyment and arousal. Current apps and video games could also adjust their content and strategy to provide a successful entertainment service experience to allow customers to better experience a desired state. In fact, social media, video games and the internet have been considered a coping mechanism that helps individuals escape the reality (Fernandes et al., 2020). Nonetheless, service providers should consider the strategies extracted from this research and during a worldwide pandemic as individuals are experiencing escapism to relocate themselves in a COVID-19-free world.

Specifically, for the TikTok app, the current research will help application developers articulate which details and features they should center their attention on. As escapism is a primary determinant of the intention to use the TikTok app, entertainment application developers should introduce elements that influence the user's feeling of the ability to drift away from reality. However, incorporating fantasy elements is not recommended, as the insignificant negative influence will help developers enhance user behavior for the TikTok app usage. Additionally, developers would find that introducing more characters for increased role projection would assist consumers in becoming more emotionally involved. Hence, the future research avenues would be focusing on predicting the significant impact of these variables to indicate behavioral intention. In contrast, research should consider other entertainment applications like Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn. Moreover, entertainment service providers should consider the variables extracted from this research to enhance the quality and overall experience of engaging in such apps.

TikTok app provides a platform to all businesses to promote their products and services to a wide range of community. Creating and posting the user-/firm-generated content on their official account on TikTok app will allow the users to instantly get the information on trendy products and services. More importantly, businesses can generate a wide pool of online community through the followers of their account, which in turn help them understanding the users' preferences and needs to send them a personalized content to boost the sale of any businesses.

5.3 Conclusion

This study offers several notable contributions. First, it applies the assumption of U&G theory, especially answering the “why” question via incorporating hedonic consumption experiences (escapism, fantasy, enjoyment, role projection, arousal, emotional involvement and sensory) to find out the factors influencing behavioral intention to use the TikTok app. Second, we employ hedonic consumption experiences to assess users' acceptance of TikTok app usage behavior. Third, we study the TikTok app consumption in a developing economy (i.e. Pakistan) to examine users' experiences pertaining to the TikTok app to instigate their intention and usage behavior.

5.4 Future research and limitations

It is essential to mention that behavior can be influenced by the five sensory experiences, and this has not been tested in a multisensory environment. As well, another research gap can be identified as the literature handles sensory experience as either a positive or a negative unilateral construct. However, TikTok consumers may have various mixed feelings toward the same experience. Another research gap is related to a methodological approach incorporated in measuring an individual's sensory experience (Mehraliyev et al., 2020). This research paper has covered the seven variables, which ignite behavioral intention to use TikTok app. A cross-sectional study is a limitation, so future research is encouraged to focus on either a longitudinal or an experimental design. However, future research can expand the current findings by investigating the mediating role of customer engagement in TikTok app to elevate and enrich users' behavioral intention to consume TikTok app (Lim and Rasul, 2022; Lim et al., 2021). Not to mention that researchers could also change the dependent variable of behavioral intention to another variable (e.g. users' satisfaction and subjective well-being). Likewise, problem projection could be added as an independent variable. Presently, this study employed the symmetrical approach (e.g. PLS-SEM) to investigate the factors influencing users' intention to use the TikTok app, which in turn determines the overall usage behavior of TikTok app. This approach is valid but it does not cover the complexity of human behavior (i.e. usage intention and behavior of TikTok app). Therefore, we encourage the future study to explore asymmetrical technique (e.g. fsQCA; Abbasi et al., 2022; Kumar et al., 2022) as a complimentary approach to provide finer-grained insights on the combination of U&G factors (e.g. hedonic consumption experiences) that would impact users' actual usage of TikTok app. It is important to quote that our study did not address the intention–behavior gap. Therefore, the future research is much needed to explore potential covert and overt behavioral controls driven by the theory of behavioral control (Lim and Weissmann, 2021) to develop the exploratory insights within the present study.


Our study's conceptual model

Figure 1.

Our study's conceptual model

Empirical validation of our study's model

Figure 2.

Empirical validation of our study's model

Detailed information of respondents

Age16–17 years2.30%
18–19 years9.30%
20–21 years11.20%
22–23 years22.10%
24–25 years55.00
EducationSSC or O'Level0.80%
HSSC or A'Level3.10%
Average daily usage10–30 min67.10%
31–45 min18.60%
46–60 min5.40%
Above 1 h8.90%

Measurement model

Scale itemsItems loadingCronbach's alphaRhoρAComposite reliabilityAverage variance extracted

Discriminant validity heterotrait–monotrait

Behavioral intention (BI)0.782
Emotional involvement (EI)0.7530.592
Enjoyment (Enjoy)0.6160.7440.603
Escapism (Escap)0.7020.6510.5640.563
Fantasy (Fant)0.3440.3000.3110.2170.300
Role projection (Rp)0.5920.2660.4830.3870.4350.195
Sensory experience (SE)0.8940.7680.7960.7090.6950.3880.495
Usage behavior (UB)0.2950.5390.3120.3860.3880.0560.0810.318

Structural model

Path-coefficientStandard-deviation (SD)t-statistics (|O/SD|)Effect sizep-valuesR2Q2
H1: Escape → BI0.1700.0592.8130.0340.002**
H2: Fantasy → BI0.0290.0470.5910.0010.277 ns
H3: Role projection → BI−0.1300.0572.5490.0340.005**
H4: Enjoyment → BI0.3010.0734.1530.1150.000***
H5: Arousal → BI0.2500.0803.2020.0560.001***
H6: Emotional involvement → BI−0.0300.0670.4220.0010.337 ns
H7: Sensory experience → BI0.2450.0952.5430.0420.006**0.5540.364
H8: Behavioral intention → Usage behavior0.4480.04110.8040.2450.000***0.1970.132

Notes: ***p-value < 0.001, **p-value < 0.01, *p-value < 0.05, p-value  ≥ 0.0; ns, not significant


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Corresponding author

Amir Zaib Abbasi can be contacted at: aamir.zaib.abbasi@gmail.com

About the authors

Amir Zaib Abbasi is working as an academic researcher in IRC for Finance and Digital Economy, KFUPM Business School, King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. His areas of research are based on Human–Computer Interaction, Marketing and Consumer Behaviour. Dr Abbasi has published his work in Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, Telematics and Informatics, Data Technologies and Applications, Journal of Services Marketing, JMIR Serious Games, Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics, Current Psychology, Journal of Product & Brand Management, Frontiers in Psychology, Entertainment Computing, IEEE Access and in top–tier conferences published by Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Springer such as International Conference on Entertainment Computing Series and Joint Conference on Serious Games. Dr Abbasi is currently working on projects relating to consumer video game engagement, learning, personality traits, hedonic theory and consumption behaviors in entertainment industry.

Natasha Ayaz has completed her MS in Management Sciences from Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology, Islamabad, Pakistan. Her research interests include social media, personality traits, engagement and digital technologies.

Sana Kanwal has completed her MBA with thesis from Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology, Islamabad, Pakistan. Her research interests involve social media, consumer behavior and digital marketing.

Mousa Albashrawi is an Assistant Professor of Information Systems and Director of IRC for Finance and Digital Economy at KFUPM Business School, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, KSA. Dr. Albashrawi earned his PhD degree from the University of Massachusetts Lowell in 2017. His research interests include, but not limited to, acceptance of mobile technologies, entrepreneurial intention, data analytics and machine learning. He has presented his research in good IS conferences such as, AMICS, Eastern Academy of Management, Pre-ICIS, ACM and HICSS. As well, his works have been accepted and published in Journal of Data Science, Information Systems Management, Information Systems Frontiers and International Journal of Information Management.

Nadine Khair, PhD, is an assistant professor in marketing and is currently the department head at the American University of Madaba. She completed her PhD in the UK and specialized in international marketing, consumer behaviour and fashion marketing. Her research interests articulate around international marketing, consumer behavior, fashion marketing, gender-related studies, ethnography and auto-ethnography.

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