Could TikTok still become an eCommerce powerhouse?
Thus far, TikTok hasn’t been able to get its in-stream commerce elements off the ground, which, in some ways, has stymied its broader plans, as in-stream product sales have become the main earner in the Chinese version of the app. But it’s interesting to note that TikTok users are increasingly spending in-stream, not on physical products, but on people, with some TikTok creators generating real incomes from their content in the app.
According to a new report from The Information, TikTok users sent over $250 million in digital gifts to live-streamers in the app in Q3 alone, underlining a growing trend that could still lead to TikTok generating more income from in-app sales.
Trends like NPC streamers, via popular creators like Pinkydoll, have sparked broader interest in the practice, in which viewers can donate virtual gifts to trigger a reaction from the streamer.
That seems like a novelty, like it won’t be a lasting trend. But it doesn’t have to, because what TikTok really needs is to get users more comfortable in spending in the app, which will then ideally make them more open to spending on other in-stream elements, like products offered through in-stream Shops.
TikTok’s still trying to find a way to make this a thing.
In the UK, TikTok has been showcasing trending items in a new “Trendy Beat” eCommerce store activation, while it’s also now looking to fulfill orders itself, through partnerships with retailers, in order to streamline the in-stream sales process.
The idea is that by giving users a better shopping experience, including fast delivery, that will see more of them looking to buy more often, which will eventually enable TikTok to expand its shopping push into new areas, and allow more individual brands to operate in-stream stores, without its intervention.
Users in Asian countries, especially China, have been more open to this all-encompassing approach, where you can find products in-stream, and purchase then and there. But Western audiences have remained wary of social platforms as retail outlets, which has been a key impediment to broader take-up.
Meta’s been trying for years, in various nations, while X, under Elon Musk, is now mapping out its push into the same. But the fact remains that Western audiences are less enthused about integrated shopping within social apps, preferring instead to shop with trusted retailers and sites, as opposed to sharing their credit card info via social apps.
Could that shift, and eventually see more people buying direct in-stream from their feeds?
It could, but it still seems unlikely, given the rate of online scams, and the habitual mental division that most user maintain when they’re using certain apps.
But simplified, one-click buying could be a lure, and clearly, based on these stats from TikTok, there is a willingness to spend in-stream for certain elements.
The next move for TikTok, then, could be food delivery and services, which are also available in Douyin.
That seems like it could be an area of opportunity, catching users in-stream with the latest deals. And the more that TikTok can get people spending money via the app, the more likely it’ll be able to convert those behaviors to more products and offerings.
Basically, I wouldn’t be writing off TikTok’s broader eCommerce plans as yet, which are likely to remain a big focus for the app over the next year.