Will TikTok bring its Chinese e-commerce game to the West?

It’s been a year since TikTok piloted its ‘TikTok Shopping programs’ in Indonesia and the UK, and already the two markets have totalled a gross merchandise value of about 6 billion RMB ($951 million), according to Chinese tech media sources. Although only 30% of the GMV came from the UK ­– the rest was from the mature Indonesian e-commerce market, TikTok sees huge potential in European and American markets.

Its reported GMV target for 2022 is 12 billion RMB (1.9 billion), emphasising the Western-European markets and continuous build-up for the US. This Internet giant is planning to gain, a-hundred-billion-dollar share in global e-commerce in 5 years, including the major Western markets.

TikTok was officially launched in August 2017; it took only three years to overtake Facebook and become the world’s most downloaded app. Following its enormous success in the West, TikTok started introducing its live e-commerce game that is run successfully by its counterpart, Douyin in China – generating a GMV of over 500 billion RMB ($79.23 billion) in its first year.

However, e-commerce is bred in a rather different environment between the East and the West, from policy, logistical infrastructure to consumers’ preferences and behaviours.

To tackle the obstacles as the first Chinese e-commerce program in many Western markets, for example, the UK, TikTok has been putting in great effort to adapting its strategies. For instance, in the UK, each iPhone sold through live streaming e-commerce is subsidised by the platform that equals 20% off the cost.

This year, TikTok is to launch live e-commerce programs in Western Europe and the US, focusing on products from international and local brands to cater to the markets. With over 1 billion monthly active users, TikTok has enormous potential. Meanwhile, as a Chinese platform with a global ambition, its expansion will bring many European and American enterprises unprecedented business opportunities.


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