TikTok, currently a social media platform made up of viral videos, is reportedly planning a major push into e-commerce, a move viewed as a challenge to Facebook.
The Financial Times reports that the company, owned by China’s ByteDance, has discussed its plans for 2021 with major advertisers. The publication quotes several ad executives as saying TikTok has an ambitious plan to “livestream shopping.”
The Times says TikTok has declined to comment, but its sources describe the plan as a version of TV shopping channels that would stream on mobile devices. TikTok stars would be recruited to pitch products, and viewers could click to buy the products.
One executive said TikTok is well placed to take advantage of "the dissolving distinction between content and commerce." He says it will seem more appealing to younger consumers because of TikTok’s "lack of polish."
Taking on Facebook
Such a move could put TikTok on a collision course with Facebook, which has recently expanded its e-commerce offerings. Instagram recently introduced tools to make it easier for users to buy products directly. It also has a digital shopping channel on its Facebook site.
TikTok’s future in the U.S. appeared in doubt last year after President Trump threatened to force ByteDance to sell its U.S. operations. Trump signed an executive order in August expressing concern that TikTok and other Chinese apps could gather data from users and share it with the Chinese government.
“TikTok automatically gathers vast swaths of information from its users, including internet and other network activity information such as location data and browsing and search history,” the executive order alleged.
Walmart briefly joined an effort to purchase TikTok, apparently planning its own shopping channel.
According to the Financial Times, many advertisers see value in TikTok’s plans since it opens access to a new group of young consumers who are not easily swayed by traditional advertising.