TikTok may seem like an unstoppable global entertainment machine, but at least one part of the company’s offering isn’t quite taking over: TikTok is scaling back its live commerce plans in Europe and the US, the Financial Times reported, after early launches simply haven’t been successful.
TikTok has been testing live shopping in the UK since late last year, starting with a multi-brand event called “On Trend” last December. But the FT reported that those shopping livestreams haven’t drawn big audiences and haven’t sparked many sales, and some of the creators involved in early TikTok Shop projects have dropped out altogether. TikTok had been planning to roll out Shop in Germany, France, Italy, and Spain by now, and was hoping to launch in the US later this year, but now told the FT that it is currently focused solely on making the product a success in the UK. It’s also live in several countries in Asia, where the concept is more mature.
Live online shopping, led by creators and influencers, is an enormous business for TikTok’s owner, ByteDance. Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok that is also owned by ByteDance, has seen those live sales turn into huge cultural events that bring big business for retailers, creators, and platforms alike.
But so far, there’s not much evidence to suggest that the live e-commerce model will work everywhere. Sure, QVC and the Home Shopping Network were once huge successes in the US, and more and more users are buying products through Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube, but many platforms have tried to make live shopping work and none have succeeded so far. Plus, as social shopping continues to grow, the competition to be the home for that shopping is going to be fierce. Even Amazon is investing heavily in shopping streams!
Still, you shouldn’t rule TikTok out. The app continues to be a hub of culture, and where a huge number of people spend their time and increasingly their money. There’s no questioning TikTok’s commitment to the idea, either: the company has been building and testing dedicated shopping experiences for more than a year, and is currently testing a TikTok Shop tab in the app in Indonesia. If any company can make live social shopping work outside of Asia, it’s probably TikTok. But that’s a big if.