TikTok May Become Your Next Shopping Destination

The app will reportedly launch its own e-commerce platform in 2021.

Watch out, Instagram: there may be a new shopping platform on the block, and it’s none other than TikTok. The short-video app is planning to expand new e-commerce tools in the U.S., going head-to-head with Facebook, according to a report by the Financial Times

The outlet cited people who had access to the platform’s briefings of new features set to launch in 2021, including a tool that would allow popular users to share links to products and earn commission on sales – basically a form of “old-school affiliate marketing,” as one source puts it. The tool would also let users link any products they liked, whether they were sponsored by the brand or not. 

According to the report, TikTok would also be planning a feature that lets brands display their catalogs of products on the app. Another tool would allow users to “livestream shop,” basically letting them buy products they saw showcased on other users’ content. It is still unclear whether these tools would be available to all users or only to select profiles. 

The news broke just after SoundCloud announced they are also introducing a new way for content creators to make some money – through a system where fans will be able to support artists directly. On Monday, Bloomberg reported Twitter is also considering a “tipping” tool that would allow users to pay creators for exclusive content (a model made very popular by OnlyFans). 

Revenue potential is becoming a strong device in the battle between platforms: what does one app offer that the other doesn’t? This can be a big incentive especially for creators, something websites like YouTube and Twitch have caught up early on. Shopping tools are also helpful to keep users online – if they see something they like, it’s easier if they don’t have to leave the app to shop for something similar.  

Instagram, one of TikTok’s biggest competitors, introduced a built-in shopping feature in 2020, while its parent company Facebook launched a digital shopping channel on its main website. What TikTok seems to be doing is offering the best of both worlds: users can shop while still browsing the app and content creators can get paid for their influence without even having a direct, formal contract with a brand. 

TikTok, which is owned by China-based company ByteDance, experienced tremendous growth in the U.S. in 2020, especially during quarantine, reaching over 100 million American users in August. The launch of new shopping tools would mean a huge business opportunity for users and potential sponsors and advertisers alike.

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