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TikTok is determined to make live shopping mainstream, while Amazon leans into shoppable TV

The news: TikTok hasn’t given up on its live-shopping ambitions. The platform plans to open several studios, starting with one in Los Angeles, where creators can host livestreams and sell products, per The Information.

  • The aim is to replicate a model that has worked well for live shopping pioneers QVC and HSN, as well as for TikTok’s sister company Douyin in China.
  • The company is also testing an AI feature that could make all TikTok posts shoppable by identifying products for sale on TikTok Shop that are similar to items shown in the video.

TikTok sticks to the plan: TikTok is devoting a lot of resources and effort to bring what’s working in China to the US market. But while livestream ecommerce in China is expected to grow 25.0% to $703.27 billion this year, US consumers are proving to be a tougher sell, despite TikTok’s faithful adherence to the Douyin playbook.

  • Nearly three in five US adults (57%) are either uninterested in or unaware of livestream shopping, according to “The Insider Intelligence Ecommerce Survey” conducted in December by Bizrate Insights. Just one in five (21%) have purchased an item from a livestream, and less than half of those shoppers (9%) use live commerce regularly.
  • TikTok’s efforts to boost livestreams and other shoppable content may be degrading the user experience. Creators and users alike are complaining that TikTok’s ecommerce push is substantially increasing the ad load in their personal feeds, diminishing the app’s value as a source of entertainment.
  • Monthly active user growth began to slow around the time TikTok began adding ecommerce capabilities, per Sensor Tower data reported in TechCrunch. Meanwhile, our forecast shows time spent on the platform growing more slowly than expected, possibly due to the company’s decision to inundate users with shoppable content in a bid to boost sales.

Shoppable TV gains momentum: While TikTok tries to change user behavior, Amazon is setting its sights on shoppable TV in a bid to reach shoppers where they’re already engaged, and shorten the path between inspiration and purchase.

  • The retailer’s coverage of the first-ever Black Friday NFL game featured shoppable ads from TCL, Dyson, and other brands, a blueprint that it could expand on as it looks to boost interest in its new ad-supported Prime Video tier.
  • While Amazon has a definite advantage over competitors given the strength of its marketplace and Prime offering, it’s facing competition from the likes of Roku, Disney, and Walmart—the latter having quietly paused its live commerce experiments in favor of testing interactive shoppable ads on Peacock.

The big takeaway: If any platform could make live commerce go mainstream, it would be TikTok, mainly due to its ability to push shopping livestreams into users’ feeds regardless of whether they’ve shown interest in the format.

  • But it’s becoming increasingly clear that live commerce is unlikely to reach the same heights in the US as it has in Asia.

Go further: For more on TikTok’s livestreaming ambitions, check out our Retail Trends to Watch in 2024.