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TikTok looks to challenge Amazon and Shein with new e-commerce initiative

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TikTok logo on a building
Image Credits: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP / Getty Images

TikTok has confirmed that it’s testing a new in-app “Trendy Beat” shopping section where it is offering products for sale that are shipped and sold by a subsidiary of its parent company, ByteDance. The feature, which was first reported on by the Financial Times, is currently being tested in the U.K. The shopping section offers popular items that have appeared in trending videos, such as tools to extract ear wax.

The company told TechCrunch on Thursday that the new e-commerce initiative is not being tested in the U.S., where it says it’s currently focused on adding new merchants to its TikTok Shop offering that lets brands sell items on the platform.

Although the new Trendy Beat feature isn’t being testing in the U.S. just yet, it might in the future. TikTok filed a trademark application in the U.S. for Trendy Beat last month, which indicates that the test feature could eventually expand to the U.S. The trademark application lists apparel items such as dresses, scarves, hats, footwear, bathing suits, sleep masks, sweaters, skirts, shirts, suits and more.

The Financial Times reported that ByteDance’s plan to start selling its own products in the video app is internally referred to as “Project S.” The report says Project S leverages TikTok’s knowledge of products that are gaining popularity on the app, which then allows ByteDance to either acquire or manufacture those products. ByteDance reportedly uses a network of suppliers to produce these items.

The new feature sees TikTok looking to challenge retail companies like Amazon and Shein, as it indicates a shift from TikTok’s current e-commerce strategy, which is mainly represented through its TikTok Shop marketplace. With TikTok Shop, the company allows brands to sell their products directly within the app, but with this new feature, TikTok would be selling its own products. The new model sees TikTok operating an e-commerce model that is similar to how Amazon Basics and Shein promote and sell their own bestselling products.

The news comes as TikTok has been onboarding brands like PacSun and Revolve for TikTok Shop, which has been in testing in the U.S. since last November. TikTok Shop has been successful in markets in Asia but has struggled to gain traction in the U.K., according to previous reports from the Financial Times. As a result, it’s not surprising that the company is choosing to test the new e-commerce initiative in the U.K. before possibly bringing it to the U.S.

It’s worth noting that although TikTok continues to work on shopping features, its competitor apps are scaling back on some of their e-commerce efforts after they failed to gain traction. Instagram removed the shop tab in January and later announced that it was dropping its live shopping efforts. Facebook also shut down its live shopping feature in August 2022.

Although TikTok is still in the early phase of its e-commerce initiatives in the U.S., the app already has a notable influence over users’ shopping habits. The phrase “TikTok made me buy it” has become popular for the video app’s ability to drive impulse sales. The term now has 7.4 billion views on TikTok and the hashtag has 59.3 billion. The new in-app shopping feature would drastically drive more of these sales by offering users easy and direct access to a discovery and purchasing experience.

TikTok’s COO is leaving their role at the company

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