TikTok is working with brands including streetwear label Hype to test in-app sales in Europe, a move that will intensify its competition with Facebook Inc. and further blur the line between social media and online shopping.
TikTok wants to replicate the success of its Chinese-only sister app Douyin, which took in $26 billion from in-app sales in the first year of its e-commerce program. Sources say TikTok is working with brands that include the streetwear label Hype to find ways it can sell products to the app’s millions of European users. The company has been seen promotional shopping campaigns before in the past, but this work in Europe is setting the pilot stage for a global e-commerce launch. The prototype so far is only visible to select participants and it remains unknown when the company will kick off the formal launch. A Hype representative confirmed the test without commenting further. The label’s storefront under its TikTok account displays a range of merchandise with product images and prices.
TikTok’s parent ByteDance is moving aggressively into a $1.7 trillion Chinese e-commerce arena in hopes of adding another mega-growth story to its stable ahead of a much-anticipated initial public offering. It is anticipating more than $185 billion of e-commerce annually by 2022, building on the reach of social media wunderkinds TikTok and Douyin. Unlike Chinese rivals Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. or Tencent Holdings Ltd., ByteDance’s apps also enjoy a broad global fan base and co-founder Zhang Yiming wants to use that as a springboard into the game of online commerce.
“Chinese internet companies will go and incentivize behaviors they think they need for the next stage of ecosystem behavior,” said Rui Ma, a partner with Synaptic Ventures. “TikTok has a lot of learnings from China and Douyin, but the dynamics and infrastructure in the international market are different so they need to make sure they” adapt.
“TikTok has been testing and learning with e-commerce offerings and partnerships, and we are constantly exploring new ways” to add value, the company said in an emailed statement. “We will provide updates as we explore these important avenues for our community of users, creators, and brands.”