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TikTok e-Commerce Tools Put it Head-to-Head with Social Media Rivals

Michael Behr



As advertising revenues surge on the back of more online retail, TikTok will be seeking a greater slice of that pie with its new e-commerce features.

Social media giants will face a new challenger to their sales business as TikTok is set to unveil new e-commerce features.

The move will allow brands to better integrate and market their products in content on the popular micro-video platform.

By adding features similar to its rivals’ Facebook and Instagram, users will be able to create self-service advertising, add affiliate links to help with promoted content, and offer in-app brand catalogues. Content creators will also be able to use the platform to gain commission from sales generated through their videos.

In addition, the app is reported to be launching ‘livestreamed’ shopping, which would allow users to showcase goods and viewers to buy them in-app. This function is already available on the mainland Chinese version of TikTok, Douyin.

The move was cited in a Financial Times report based on people privy to TikTok’s new plan for features this year

The new features are set to roll out in the US at first, though no timeline has been announced.

While much of the content is based around people lip-syncing and dancing to music, or a form of short video blogs, the platform has a hand in setting fashion trends. As such, clothing and cosmetics companies are among those eyeing TikTok’s potential as a marketing channel.

With 2.3 billion downloads worldwide, 100 million in the US and around 3.7 million active users in the UK, the short-form video-sharing app has struck a chord with younger users. Around 26% of people with smartphones aged 18-24-year-olds in the UK have TikTok, making it the app’s largest demographic.

As such, the app has managed to find a large audience among ‘Gen Z’ users.

For TikTok, the UK is its third biggest market, after China and the US, generating revenues of just under £2 million in 2019. It is estimated to be the seventh most active social media app in the world.

With tech giants reporting massive surges in advertising spending in the final quarter of last year, TikTok’s new features are well timed to ride a resurgent wave of ad spending.

According to market research company Kantar, 66% of global marketers are planning to increase their ad spend on the platform.


TikTok’s short existence has not been free of controversy. There have been concerns about links between the apps parent company, ByteDance, and the Chinese Communist Party, with claims that data on TikTok’s users are (is?) being fed to the country’s government.

This led to TikTok becoming a bugbear for ex-US President Donald Trump, who made the social media app a centrepiece in his tough-on-China stance. This led to a tit-for-tat battle between the two, as Trump ordered TikTok to be banned from app stores and its US assets spun off and bought by a US company, which led to countersuits from TikTok.

Now, with Trump’s tenure as president over, it seems as if the controversy is simmering down. A proposed deal that would see US tech giant Oracle and retail giant Walmart taking a stake in the newly formed spinoff TikTok Global has been shelved indefinitely.

The new administration of US President Joe Biden is currently working on its own analysis of the security threat posed by Chinese tech companies and how to protect US citizens’ data. As such, the position of TikTok remains uncertain, but any actions against are likely to take place as part of a broader strategy.

Michael Behr

Senior Staff Writer

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