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The past year has seen an acceleration of shoppable videos and livestreams as retailers rush to meet home-based consumers — and as brands continue to explore the technology, it’s likely that the trend is here to stay.

TikTok parent company ByteDance is reportedly testing an international eCommerce platform independent of its social media apps, with Chinese-language outlet The Passage citing people close to the company. ByteDance did not return a request for comment from PYMNTS, but The Passage reported that the platform would be similar to Alibaba’s direct-to-consumer (D2C) marketplace AliExpress.

Earlier this year, TikTok launched livestream shopping capabilities, allowing consumers to order products directly through the app. It has also quickly been ramping up its social commerce offerings in other ways, including partnerships with Shopify and Square to allow in-app shopping.

ByteDance’s new eCommerce effort seems to be separate from shopping opportunities through TikTok or its Chinese counterpart, Douyin. ByteDance currently has over 1,200 job openings across the world, including nearly 40 related to eCommerce. While some are tied to TikTok, others, such as a Seattle-based tech lead manager position, don’t reference a specific platform.

PYMNTS reported in May that ByteDance is adding thousands of employees as part of a plan to challenge Alibaba, with Zhang Yiming, who built the company, noting that eCommerce is his next “major breakthrough.”

All-in on Video

One potential tailwind for ByteDance is the recent news that TikTok has passed the one billion monthly user milestone, joining Facebook’s suite of apps, including Instagram and WhatsApp. As of June 30, Facebook had 2.9 billion monthly active users.

Not every TikTok user makes a purchase on the platform, and the company did not disclose demographic information about its users or how they use the site. But Shopify has said that it saw a 76% increase in its social commerce channels between February 2020 and February 2021, with TikTok as the fastest-growing platform. Additionally, Shopify says that 54% of consumers ages 18 to 34 found brands on social media, and 28% made purchases there.

Earlier this year, Alibaba launched a new cloud-based product for online shopping, allowing merchants to design and launch livestream shopping experiences for their websites or apps. And several retailers over the past several months, including digital electronics merchant Newegg, have begun testing livestreaming sales.

Amazon's streaming platform has also expanded from its original offering at the 2018 launch to streaming daily shows on fitness, makeup and cooking, while Walmart started collaborating with TikTok to host live-streamed shopping events, as well as a recent Facebook Live show with Rachael Ray.

Adam Levene, founder of social commerce platform HERO, told PYMNTS in an interview earlier this year that the rise of livestreaming commerce is the next big evolution of eCommerce, with store associates likely to be increasingly tasked with becoming creators in addition to salespeople.

Consumers are “used to watching and consuming video content that’s incredibly authentic; it’s very short and snappy,” Levene said. “And that’s how today’s consumer wants to shop. So bringing video to eCommerce and bringing videos to the actual online stores really helps the merchant level up.”


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