TikTok’s retail ambitions took a big leap forward on Tuesday when social video platform and partner Shopify unveiled a significant expansion to pilot TikTok Shopping in the US, UK and Canada.
The social and e-commerce companies merged in October 2020 in an agreement that allowed merchants to start and run TikTok marketing within Shopify. But that relationship turned out to be a springboard to the more direct shopping functionality that was just announced.
The test, already launched in the US and UK and coming to Canada in the coming weeks, allows selected Shopify resellers with a TikTok for Business account to open a “Shopping” tab on their TikTok profile, which is linked to their product catalogs, effectively creating a store destination. These retailers will also be able to label items in organic TikTok posts and videos that link to their storefronts so consumers can buy them. Transactions are handled by Shopify.
The retail tech company is no stranger to social commerce as it already works with Pinterest product pins, Facebook stores and Instagram stores. But with TikTok – a growing social heavyweight, especially among Gen Z consumers – there seems to be a different level of tension.
“By enabling new in-app shopping experiences and product discovery on TikTok for the first time, Shopify is driving the creative economy on one of the fastest growing social and entertainment platforms in the world,” said Harley Finkelstein, President of Shopify. “We are excited to help this next generation of entrepreneurs connect with their audiences in more ways – and with TikTok as a visionary partner.”
Shopify stores interested in participating in the pilot can make the request on Shopify’s TikTok channel, the company said.
The proposal has immediately generated interest, at least among high-profile TikTokers such as Kylie Jenner, who revealed that Kylie Cosmetics will be among the first to sell directly via the video sharing network.
“I built my business on social media; this is where my fans go first to look for what’s new from Kylie Cosmetics, ”Jenner was quoted as saying in the Shopify announcement. “I have so much fun making TikTok videos and I love sharing posts from my fans using the products. That’s why I’m looking forward to Kylie Cosmetics being one of the first to let customers shop directly on our TikTok! ”
According to the company, there is a growing demand for TikTok among its merchants, with installations across Shopify’s social trading channels jumping 76 percent between February 2020 and 2021.
Meanwhile, at TikTok, its interest in shopping has steadily progressed across a number of retail-related traits, including a hashtag challenge that can be purchased in 2019, and trading partnerships with brands and retailers like Levi Strauss & Co. and Walmart Inc. The latter worked with TikTok on livestream shopping for the holidays and returned to a live shopping campaign last spring.
So in May, TikTok confirmed that it was testing in-app shopping in Europe. It looked like the most concrete evidence of the technology company’s social trade ambitions, at least before Tuesday’s announcement.
It is worth noting that the Shopify-powered pilot in TikTok redirects to in-store e-commerce sites where users will actually make their purchases. However, TikTok’s shopping test in the app can signal its desire to include the entire experience within its own walls.
For TikTok, whose test will cover hundreds of stores – a small slice of a massive platform that boasts more than 2 billion downloads and more than 1 billion active monthly users – this distinction may matter. This suggests that the Shopify event, while a major step forward, is still only a step on the journey, not the destination.
The continued development against competitors such as Facebook and Instagram racing to increase video services, shopping features and advertising products marks momentum in today’s social trade.
Although the madness in 2020 reached maximum foam thanks to a pandemic that has kept many consumers out of physical stores, sales in the US in social trade in 2021 are still growing by 35.8 percent, according to eMarketer, which sets 36.62 billion dollars at risk.