TikTok Live Shopping Shows Signs of Life

A few months ago, TikTok looked ready to nix live shopping, as it was reportedly scaling back plans in Europe and the U.S. But there may be signs of life yet, according to a report from the Financial Times, which claims that the social video platform is shopping for partners to bring livestream commerce to the U.S.

Apparently TikTok is in conversation with TalkShopLive, a Los Angeles-based social shopping startup that’s raised $11 million in funding to date. The latter would focus on operations, providing the infrastructure for a broader rollout of TikTok live shopping at some future date.

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Details are scant, as the negotiations are ongoing, the FT reported.

If they hatch a deal, it would represent a significant step forward for the short video app’s commerce strategy. TikTok’s shopping bid started in earnest last year with a Shopify partnership that allowed brands to tie their product catalogues to their profile pages, followed by a redesign that brought a new Shop feed to the app in June. Meanwhile, the company has been testing live shopping with key retailers such as Walmart, and in regions like the U.K., extending this form of real-time video commerce beyond Asia, where it’s extremely popular.

According to eMarketer, live shopping drove sales of $300 billion in China last year, and it projects $480 billion this year and more than $600 billion in 2023, when it will account for nearly 20 percent of retail sales. Livestream shopping in the U.S. market can’t touch those figures. Foresight Research pegs it at just $11 billion this year, and although it will more than double next year, that’s still only $25 billion by 2023.

Big-tech firms like Amazon and Google believe in the potential, however, with major investments in live video commerce via Amazon Live and YouTube, while others like Pinterest and Twitter build their own approaches. Meta seemed enthusiastic about livestream commerce as well, at least until early this month when the company cut the feature from its Facebook platform so it can focus on Reels. But it still remains on Instagram.

Whether western consumers will flock to this form of commerce remains an open question. TikTok’s U.K. test, its first outside of Asia, reportedly didn’t meet expectations, spurring another Financial Times report this summer that the platform was reconsidering its plans for the U.S. and markets like Germany.

Apparently TikTok’s live shopping ambitions are alive and well after all. But whether it — or any platform — can hold appeal outside of Asia remains to be seen.

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