TikTok has plans to dive headfirst into eCommerce, taking aim at Facebook’s social shopping tools, the Financial Times reported, citing advertisers who have seen the video app’s plans.
The ByteDance-owned app plans to launch livestream shopping capability, with which users can order products directly on the app after watching TikTok stars showcase them.
“Culturally, TikTok is well placed for livestreamed commerce to capture the dissolving distinction between content and commerce because it doesn’t feel as polished as other platforms,” Jack Smyth, creative technology officer at WPP’s Mindshare, told the news outlet.
TikTok has already forayed into the livestream shopping area, teaming up with Walmart in December for a one-hour shoppable variety show. TikTok creators tried on clothes found at Walmart, and their viewers were able to tap on products during the event, adding them to their cart.
News this summer of a potential acquisition of TikTok by Walmart — and Microsoft — led to talk of Walmart using TikTok as a path to opening up the channels of social shopping.
“If you’re watching a TikTok video and somebody’s got a piece of apparel or an item on it that you really like, what if you could just quickly purchase that item?” Walmart CEO Doug McMillion told CNBC in October. “That’s what we’re seeing happen in countries around the world. And it’s intriguing to us, and we would like to be part of it.”
The new tools TikTok is looking to introduce also include an option for TikTok creators to share links to products and earn commission on any sales that come through their links, and the ability for brands to present their product catalogues on the app.
“It’s old-school affiliate marketing,” one senior advertising executive told the Financial Times, noting that TikTok creators would be able to link to any product they like, not just ones they were sponsored to advertise.
In October, TikTok partnered with Shopify to allow its merchants to sell their products on TikTok by way of shoppable video ads, even if they didn’t have a strong presence on TikTok yet.
“With TikTok you are looking at campaigns in the billions [of views]. Most of the time on other platforms… the campaigns are in the millions,” Karyn Spencer, chief marketing officer at Whalar, told FT.
TikTok wants to develop out its “self-service ad platform,” with which companies can place ads online themselves, rather than by using a sales representative. It is also aiming to improve its ad targeting tools, such as user tracking technology.
But some advertisers say TikTok is still a work in progress, FT reported.
“The product and the content has not matured into a place where sophisticated advertisers really want to commit,” one ad agency executive told the news outlet.
Tiktok declined FT’s request for comment.