TikTok Confirms It’s Testing Social, Shoppable Videos

TikTok has featured shoppable ads for some time and now, it looks like the teen-favorite platform is bringing the option to shop in-app.

Unlike the paid-for video ads from major brands, this offering could theoretically allow any TikToker to turn the platform into a one-stop shop for his or her own online store. A TikTok engineer initially broke the new feature development on a popular Chinese forum. Fabian Bern, founder of the Chinese influencer agency Uplab, then shared a Twitter post Thursday showing off one of the shoppable short-form videos featuring a pint-sized puppy influencer on TikTok in a handmade panda costume. If a TikToker hypothetically wanted to buy one of those costumes for themselves, they can click on the video, and be taken to the creator’s store—all without leaving the TikTok app.

Per Bern, the feature was initially live for TikTok’s Chinese counterpart, Douyin, since early 2018. Today’s news marks an initial test of a similar feature for TikTok, and for influencers outside of East Asia.

“The company is known to launch things quietly,” he said. He added that this rollout could mark a shift in the relationship between the brands on TikTok and the creators they sponsor. 

A spokesperson for the company confirmed they are testing the new but declined to say whether—or when—it could roll out to the more than 26 million TikTokers in the US, but noted that “we’re always experimenting with new ways to improve the app experience for our users.”

The test marks TikTok’s first foray into what’s known as “social commerce,” or buying from the people we follow on social media rather than turning more traditionally to big brands. While the idea is already big in East Asia—thanks to apps like Little Red Book and WeChat’s Good Product Circle—it’s only just starting to gain traction here in the U.S. Earlier this year, for example, Instagram rolled out its own beta-test of shoppable posts, giving a handful of the platform’s top creators the power to tag branded content in their photos, videos, or stories. From the initial click on the handbag or dress to checkout, the offering allows every part of a customer’s shopping journey to happen within the Instagram app rather than being redirected to an external ecommerce platform.

This isn’t the first time that TikTok has taken a page from Instagram’s playbook. This past summer, for example, saw the platform quietly test a gridded Instagram-esque layout, along with a replication of Instagram’s “discover” tab.


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