TikTok Wants To Be Its Own Economy

TikTok Wants To Be Its Own Economy
Photo: Drew Angerer, Getty Images

TikTok is apparently the latest platform to make the shift from social media site to a glorified digital mall. On Tuesday, Bloomberg reported that TikTok has started floating the idea of in-app shopping to brands over in Europe, hoping to hook young EU shoppers — and their wallets — in the process.

According to the report, this e-shopping feature is still in the early stages, and there isn’t a set deadline when TikTokers across the globe will start seeing it crop up into their feeds. One of the brands with access to this prototype — Hype, a streetwear label that’s right at home with TikTok’s Gen-Z audience — confirmed to Bloomberg that these tests are ongoing, but wouldn’t go into details.

Bloomberg was able to see a screenshot of what Hype’s initial TikTok Shop might look like and from its description, it sounds pretty similar to the so-called “product catalogues” you’ve probably seen on your Instagram feed. These storefronts — at least at this early stage — are under a brand’s main account page, and they show off a range of merch with product pictures and prices.

These features are TikTok’s latest attempt to get a slice of the “social commerce” pie, which is the insider term for shopping that gets squeezed into a given social media platform. By the end of 2020, some analysts estimate that folks across the country spent close to $US475 ($606) billion, and that number’s expected to shoot towards $US585 ($746) billion by the end of this year.

TikTok has spent the better part of three years trying to make headway among the e-commerce crowd. In 2019, Levi’s became one of the first retailers to use a specific TikTok product that would slap a “shop now” button onto its ads, which would then direct those that click on it to Levi’s store. Then in 2020, TikTok began testing a similar button that would let individual creators direct their own audiences to the store of their choice. In that case, the ad revenue would be split between the creator featured in the ad, and TikTok itself. Meanwhile, the company is continuing to score deals with major names like Walmart and Elf Cosmetics, both equally ready to drop their ad dollars on the platform if it can promise some sales.

The big difference between what these brands were offered before versus what Bloomberg’s report is describing is where this shopping happens — within TikTok’s app, rather than on some brand’s (or creator’s) site.

In a statement to Bloomberg, the company said that it had been “testing and learning with e-commerce offerings and partnerships,” and that it’s “constantly exploring” new ways to add value to its users. The company added that it will “provide updates as we explore these important avenues for our community of users, creators and brands.”

Apparently, one of those avenues is focused on earning money instead of spending it. The same day that Bloomberg’s report came out, sources familiar with the company told Axios about a pilot program designed to help brands use TikTok to scout for potential job candidates to hire. Users can present their resume in the form of a TikTok (naturally), and Axios reports that TikTok will ask these candidates to share these video resume’s on their public profiles.