China’s ByteDance has already seen wild success with TikTok, its social media subsidiary that’s turned into a massive thorn in Facebook’s side. Now, it looks like the company is stepping into Amazon’s turf, too. Insider was first to report on Monday that ByteDance is planning on building an international shopping platform, according to local Chinese outlets and dozens of job openings it recently posted.
Details on the project thus far are relatively scant, and ByteDance hasn’t yet returned our request for comment. A few weeks back, the Chinese-language outlet The Passage reported that the company had plans to release a standalone e-commerce app sometime this month. Sources familiar with the project likened it to AliExpress, the direct-to-consumer marketplace which is owned by the massive commerce company Alibaba.
This planned platform has been in the works for a while. Around the same time TikTok teased shoppable ads on its platform to prospective partners stateside, its Chinese equivalent, Douyin, rolled out in-app commerce and in-app payments to its users across the country. Then in August, reports emerged that this platform would soon be splitting up into its own app with its own e-commerce-focused business unit backing it up.
While it’s unclear whether ByteDance’s current job openings in the e-commerce space are related to this standalone app, we do know that the company’s on a hiring spree right now — and not just in China. One opening, for example, is looking for a “Tech Lead Manager” based out of Seattle to help develop a “global e-commerce” platform.
“Global e-commerce is [a] content e-commerce business with international short video product as the carrier,” the job description reads. “It is committed to becoming the first choice for users to discover and purchase good products with affordable prices.”
The description goes on to describe what such a platform might look like to the rest of us. The company says it hopes to use this global business to focus on “different scenarios” for shopping, like “live e-commerce” and “short video content e-commerce,” which sounds not unlike the kind of short shoppable clips Instagram introduced late last year. Another position based out of Singapore simply refers to the “TikTok Ecommerce Platform,” while another based out of London states that TikTok “is an ideal platform to deliver a brand new and better e-commerce experience to our users.”
TikTok did not immediately reply to a request for comment and we’ll update this post when we
ByteDance is also hustling hard to attract sellers; one opening for a Singapore-based account manager lists responsibilities like “acquire and incubate brands, principals, and big merchants,” and “discover new collaborative opportunities [that] fit into merchants’ short-term and long-term development plans.”
Suffice to say, many of the merchants based in Bytedance’s native China will be chomping at the bit to reach Douyin’s and TikTok’s user base, which each number in the millions internationally every single day. This past summer, Amazon removed over 50,000 China-based merchants over allegations that they’d manipulated Amazon’s review process. A ByteDance-branded shopping platform would make these sellers very happy, even if users aren’t 100% on board with their favourite shitposting service being turned into a digital mall.
Chinese authorities, meanwhile, are extremely on board. The Chinese Ministry of Commerce pledged this past July to open more cross-border commerce zones on top of the 105 already spanning up and down the country’s coast. In these zones, export taxes and other government fees that merchants typically rack up when shipping internationally are much lower — if not completely absent. Some cities have even started offering cash incentives to Amazon-exiled merchants to get them to launch their own independent online shops to ship their wares internationally.
Considering TikTok’s hands-off approach to the clearly scammy ads that are run on its platform, there’s a good chance that this final shopping platform will be, um, a bit more “lax” than its Amazon counterpart.