TikTok may seem like an unstoppable global entertainment machine, but at least one part of the company’s offerings aren’t quite taking over: TikTok is scaling back its live-commerce plans in Europe and the US, the Financial Times reportedafter early launches were simply unsuccessful.
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 theft reported that those shopping livestreams failed to attract large audiences and didn’t lead to many sales, and some creators involved in early TikTok Shop projects have stopped altogether. TikTok had planned to roll out Shop in Germany, France, Italy and Spain by now and hoped to launch in the US later this year, but has now been told theft that it is currently solely focused on making the product a success in the UK. It is also live in several countries in Asia where the concept is more mature.
Live online shopping, led by creators and influencers, is a huge job for TikTok’s owner, ByteDance. Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok also owned by ByteDance, has seen those live sales turn into massive cultural events that bring big business to retailers, makers and platforms alike.
But so far, there isn’t much evidence to suggest that the live ecommerce 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 so far none of them have succeeded. And as social shopping continues to grow, the competition to be the home for that shopping will be fierce. Even Amazon is investing heavily in retail flows†
Still, you shouldn’t rule out TikTok. The app continues to be a hub of culture, and where a large number of people spend their time and increasingly their money. There’s also no doubt about TikTok’s dedication to the idea: the company has been building and testing special shopping experiences for over a year and is currently testing a TikTok Shop tab in the app in Indonesia. If there’s one company that can make live social shopping work outside of Asia, it’s probably TikTok. But that’s a big if.