In the United States, TikTok has entered the next phase of its shopping rollout. According to Bloomberg, some U.S.-based TikTok users can now access a Shop tab where they can buy low-priced goods from China.
The tab has been characterized as an attempt to compete with Chinese ecommerce companies like Shein and Temu, which have amassed international user bases despite drawing criticism for their labor practices and copyright infringements. The basic idea of TikTok’s Shop tab is similar to those services. In Bloomberg‘s review of the shopping hub, it found a $2.99 Nike sweatshirt that appeared to be counterfeited.
TikTok pushes sales on the tab by showing consumers how many times individual items have been sold. A running clock counts down to the end of sales periods.
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ByteDance, the Beijing-based parent company of TikTok, has made several attempts to bring its multi-billion dollar social shopping empire to the West. TikTok Shop’s U.K. rollout was initially plagued with numerous issues, including tepid interest from vendors and reported cultural clashes between U.K.-based employees and TikTok leadership. Despite those setbacks, TikTok Shop eventually arrived in the U.S. and started to catch on with certain vendors, such as indie authors.
TikTok decision to ship and sell goods — a la Amazon
— is another part of its approach to Western ecommerce. The new Shop tab resembles Trendy Beat, a hub that arrived in the U.K. earlier this year. Through that feed, users can buy items from China that have appeared in TikTok videos.
The creator-sold goods on TikTok Shop complement the low-cost items imported from China. “Even in testing, there are over 200,000 verified US merchants on TikTok Shop selling legitimate products – including over 150,000 beauty products that have been validated through our process and represent some of the biggest names in the beauty business,” a TikTok spokesperson told Bloomberg.
Even if TikTok’s creators lend it credibility, TikTok’s decision to mimic Shein and Temu could cause trouble for it in the U.S. Lawmakers in Washington have classified those companies as “data risks” for U.S. buyers. The Senate is already eager to regulate TikTok, and if the Shop tab causes more user data to flow to China, calls for a U.S. TikTok ban could intensify.
The threat of a TikTok ban has been linked to the stunted U.S. rollout of TikTok Shop. The popular short-form app will surely tread carefully as it brings its cost-effective goods to American consumers.