Will TikTok Shop be able to push through its Europe jitters?

TikTok’s e-commerce wing, TikTok Shop, has been tight-lipped about its expansion plans this year. But its recent recruitment moves indicate it might be quietly preparing for a bigger presence in Europe. At present, TikTok Shop is operating in the UK, the US, and a few Southeast Asian nations.

Listings seen on the Chinese job site Yien.com show that TikTok is recruiting senior logistics and e-commerce personnel in Dublin, Amsterdam, and Brussels. The roles on offer include Senior Fulfilment Solutions Manager, responsible for planning and designing logistics solutions for the UK and across the EU, and E-commerce, ESG and Trade Policy Analyst, responsible for observing political trends that could impact TikTok’s e-commerce business strategy in the EMEA region.

This comes after the launch of a new logistics program in the UK called “Fulfilled by TikTok” in August. This end-to-end logistics service is designed to make it as easy as possible for UK sellers to sell on the app, with TikTok Shop helping to “store, pick, pack and then ship merchants’ products to the TikTok community”. Judging by the above job listings, TikTok may be planning on rolling out its shopping features in a few key European locations, boosted by an end-to-end logistics offer to sweeten the deal.

So far, TikTok Shop has been an Asia-centric enterprise. It was first launched in Indonesia in 2021 and rapidly branched out across Southeast Asia, where the appetite for live shopping is much stronger than in the West. This year, TikTok Shop overtook Alibaba-owned Lazada to become the second-biggest e-commerce platform in Vietnam – quite a feat given that Lazada has been operating in the country since 2012.

However, its launch in Europe and the US has faced significant setbacks. In July 2022, major news outlets reported that TikTok Shop had “abandoned plans” for its Europe expansion after the service was “shunned” by consumers in the UK, its first and only European operation. It has also faced pressure to comply with the EU’s increasingly strict internet safety laws. TikTok was named by the European Commission as one of the big platforms set to face the toughest measures, alongside Facebook YouTube, LinkedIn and others.

Since then, TikTok has kept its cards close to its chest. At the Emerce E-Commerce Live conference in Amsterdam in June, Product Marketing Manager Koen Vanderhoydonck dispelled rumours of an imminent Europe expansion. “If you thought this presentation would announce the arrival of TikTok Shop in the Netherlands, I have to disappoint you”, Vanderhoydonck said. “That is not going to happen.”

Whether TikTok is preparing to roll out shopping features across the EU, or has an alternative business model for the region up its sleeve, it’s clear exciting announcements are on the horizon.


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