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Is TikTok building an ecommerce platform?

What's next for TikTok?

Accelerated by the pandemic, the video-based social media platform has grown exponentially throughout 2020 into 2021. Users tripled between Q1 2020 and Q2 2021 and in a poll from WARC, 45% of marketers have said they plan to allocate more budget to the app throughout the rest of 2021. And, as Apple’s “opt-in” IOS updates challenge the success of Facebook’s ads management platform, the demand from brands for creators to make organic feeling content on the app is set to grow further.

After the emergence of TikTok, Instagram quickly released its own feature, Reels, which works in a very similar way.

And now, Millennials who didn’t join TikTok because they felt it was for teenagers, are now watching the same content, just a few weeks later, re-packaged for Instagram.

At the same time, TikTok launched its in-app advertising options, offering lead generation ads and brands are starting to allocate serious budgets to advertising on the app. With this in mind, the key differences between the two apps are starting to melt away.

Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, made an announcement earlier this month, where he states that Instagram is no longer a square photo-sharing app, and goes on to outline the plan for the second half of 2021 is to “build new experiences primarily in four areas — creators, videos, shopping and messaging.”

So, if Instagram is following in the footsteps of TikTok, with the added feature of Instagram Shopping, will TikTok do the same, and build TikTok shops?

Is TikTok building a shopping feature?

Well, yes. After seeing an influx of roles at TikTok being filled in their E-commerce department, we did some research and found our suspicions were right. In an article in the Financial Times, TikTok outlined three new e-Commerce integrations that are coming to the app:

  • A tool that lets its most popular users share links to products and automatically earn commission on any sales

  • The ability for brands to showcase catalogs of their products on the platform

  • “Livestreamed” shopping, a mobile phone version of television shopping channels, where users can buy goods with a few taps after seeing them showcased by TikTok stars

It seems all of these features have been in testing for some time, and the Chinese version of TikTok - Douyin - already generates the majority of its income from in-app commerce, as opposed to branded ads. So as TikTok heavily invests in the shopping space, soon you'll be able to click from your favourite dupe shop, directly to checkout.

What does TikTok shopping mean for creators?

For creators, this is good news. Partnerships on TikTok historically achieve less of a fee, because the access to buy isn’t as streamlined as it is on competitor Instagram. The introduction of TikTok shopping means that brands will be able to better measure the impact, and when they see it’s successful, will continue to invest in partnerships in the space. For users, the journey to purchase will be much easier, as they will be able to shop from the TikTok ecosystem, without having to follow a string of links. The monetization of videos will certainly change the content we see on the app.

But, will shopping work for TikTok?

For many, in its early stages, the appeal of TikTok was the lack of brands in the space and light-hearted content in a time when Instagram had become a place saturated with brands and more educational, serious content. But now, as we see more and more brands try to crack TikTok with organic content as well as ads, and with this news of e-commerce on the horizon, will users move again, to a new app that brands haven’t infiltrated yet? That being said, TikTok is full of hacks, product recommendations and reviews, a path-to-purchase for consumers, and extra income for creators could be a welcome change.


  • TikTok
  • Instagram


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