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What the TikTok Shop Means for Fashion
FSW considers the impact of the Chinese social media giant's forthcoming e-commerce functionality on fashion and luxury
Is the future of social shopping here?
Recently, TikTok announced that it is introducing the TikTok Shop, an e-commerce marketplace with a platform initially focused on made-in-China goods, though it apparently will not be limited to China alone. This new functionality, which is supposed to launch in the U.S. in August according to The Wall Street Journal, is designed to build a new revenue stream for the Chinese social media platform to take on e-commerce giants Shein and Temu. This comes amid continuing pressures from the U.S. government to crack down on the popular short-form video app owned by Chinese firm ByteDance due to security reasons.
From a business perspective, this is a smart move for TikTok. According to Statista, Shein was the most talked-about brand on TikTok in 2022, cited by over 13.4 thousand influencers. As of 27 July, the hashtag #shein had over 67.4 billion views and #temu had over 2.8 billion views, which is a sure sign these shopping sites are taking away money from the social app itself every day. Enabling an e-commerce functionality within the TikTok platform itself gives influencers and consumers direct access to Chinese-made goods without having to switch sites to a Shein or Temu.
From a content perspective, the TikTok Shop is money waiting to be made. On TikTok, content is the product. So, adding end-to-end e-commerce to the social platform arguably benefits brands, creators, and consumers, especially those interested in a specific brand or product. Having a potential audience of over one billion monthly active users means endless opportunities for connecting with the right consumers—especially those in the much-coveted GenZ and GenAlpha bracket—and working with influencers more organically due to the platform-specific functionality like Instagram’s built-in shop function. TikTok’s timed roll-out of new functionalities suggests a deliberate, well-crafted roadmap designed to test user interest and tap into new markets. The new e-commerce platform follows in the footsteps of other new functionalities, including the introduction of Instagram-like posts last week in the U.S. and building out its native music streaming service into new markets like Indonesia, Brazil, Australia, Singapore, and Mexico.
Of course, from a sustainability perspective, the TikTok Shop is an inevitable disaster, as it means potentially more low-cost, cheaply-made garments flooding into the U.S. market from Asia. Time will tell whether U.S. consumers trust TikTok as an e-commerce platform and will hand over their money voluntarily as they do for Shein and Temu. As it is, the U.S. government has already banned TikTok from government devices and is actively working to further limit its reach.
The question is: What does the TikTok Shop mean for fashion and luxury? Will it prove a profitable new marketplace for brands, retailers, and content creators to sell products and reach a wider audience? Will it be a digital commerce game-changer or will it be just more noise in the already saturated social-driven commerce market?
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