Time’s up for TikTok’s U.S. livestream shopping plans
TikTok might be the most downloaded social app both in the U.S. and globally, but American consumers will not be using it to shop anytime soon.
TikTok is abandoning its plans to expand livestream shopping capabilities into U.S. and European markets after the Chinese-owned company’s attempt at offering it in the UK resulted in a catastrophic flop, according to a Financial Times article quoted in 9 to 5 Mac.
Lack of consumer enthusiasm for, and awareness of, the TikTok Shop service was one big problem, with most livestreams performing poorly despite subsidies and cash incentives to get influencers and brands selling through the service.
Operational and labor issues surrounding the UK office also played a significant role. Around half of the staff who began working at TikTok Shop at its launch quit by mid-June. The London e-commerce team alleged a “toxic” culture based on fear, which demanded and celebrated the working of 12-hour shifts, and where upper management expressed a lack of belief in labor rights legally assured in the U.K., like maternity leave.
Livestream platforms emerged as a popular shopping medium in China in 2016 with the launch of Alibaba’s Taobao Live and caught on throughout Asia.
Adoption of livestream shopping lagged in the U.S. for some time, but social distancing restrictions imposed nationwide at the beginning of the pandemic led to broader trial of the technology. In the last few years, major tech players like Amazon and Facebook-owned Instagram have launched livestream shopping platforms.
Individual retailers, too, have gotten in on the act, such as luxury retailer Nordstrom which launched its own Livestream Shopping channel in 2021, CNBC reported.
And grocer Albertsons has even been trying to find a place for the technology in the produce aisle. The chain made shoppable short-form videos available on its websites late last year, with the promise of implementing livestream shopping to host events at some point in the future.
A BeautyMatter article from earlier this year, however, argues that the lack of full integration of livestream shopping into online social life still prevents U.S. consumers from adopting the technology at the rate seen in China.
- TikTok shopping plans for US abandoned after disastrous UK experiment – 9 to 5 Mac
- Most Popular Apps (2022) – Business of Apps
- Nordstrom debuts platform for shoppable shows as more retailers experiment with livestreaming – CNBC
- Will U.S. livestreaming soon take off like it did in China? – RetailWire
- Is livestream grocery shopping on the way in the U.S.? – RetailWire
- FLIP-ing the Script on Beauty Retail and Social Selling – BeautyMatter
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What will TikTok’s change in plans mean for the future of livestreaming in the U.S.? Do you see other platforms having a better shot at a successful livestream shopping business?