TikTok is planning an aggressive expansion into e-commerce in the US, the Financial Times reported, citing people who have seen the social media app’s plans for new features it will introduce this year.
Among those features is a tool that allows TikTok’s most popular users to share links to products and automatically earn commissions on sales. TikTok is also rolling out “live-streamed” shopping, a mobile phone version of television shopping channels, where users can buy goods with a few taps. It’s also seeking to let brands show their catalogues, according to the report.
TikTok, which is owned by China’s Bytedance, unveiled a partnership with WPP Plc last week that offers access and marketing capabilities on the viral-video platform to the London-based advertising agency’s network and clients.
TikTok appears to be about to skip a desktop experience “and go straight into commerce,” Jack Smyth, creative technology officer at Mindshare, which is part of WPP, told the newspaper. TikTok is well placed for live-streamed commerce “to capture the dissolving distinction between content and commerce,” Smyth was quoted as saying.
The tools will step up TikTok’s competition with Facebook Inc. for e-commerce spending, according to the FT. TikTok also is said to have plans this year to build out the capability of brands to place their own ads online rather than through a sales representative, the FT said. TikTok declined to comment to the Financial Times.
The tools will bring TikTok, which has already announced a partnership with ecommerce platform Shopify, further into competition with Facebook. Last year, Facebook introduced tools on its photo-sharing app Instagram in some countries to make it easier for people to buy goods, and a digital shopping channel on its main Facebook site. Instagram has, meanwhile, made a copy of TikTok’s scrollable video feed called Reels.
Some advertisers have been cautious about TikTok, suggesting that its current advertising system remains a work in progress. “The product and the content has not matured into a place where sophisticated advertisers really want to commit,” one ad agency executive said. Two people said the platform had plans this year to further develop its self-service ad platform, which allows brands to place their own ads easily online rather than manually with a sales representative, bringing it in line with larger rivals. It was also aiming to improve its tools for ad targeting, including user tracking, the people said.
With inputs from Financial Times