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Move over QVC, TikTok is getting into the live shopping game

TikTok is uniquely well-placed to replicate this feature.

tiktok logo with blurred smartphone in the background
Image: KnowTechie

TikTok is seeking to launch a live shopping channel in the US, a report from the Financial Times newspaper claims. 

According to the outlet, the embattled viral video platform has engaged in preliminary discussions with a third-party provider for technical back-end support.

The paper suggests TalkShopLive, a California-based live shopping platform, as the most likely candidate. TikTok and TalkShopLive are yet to finalize the terms. It’s unclear when — or, if — this feature will launch. 

Why live shopping?

For Western audiences, live shopping feels like a dated relic of pre-internet times. We associate it with broadcast dinosaurs like QVC.

And, for younger audiences, live shopping is an alien concept. Something their parents and grandparents do. Not them. 

In fairness, the data bears this out. The average QVC viewer is a 50-year-old.  By contrast, two-thirds of TikTok’s users are younger than 30.

But weirdly, live shopping has enjoyed a renaissance in the digital age. Its audience increasingly skews younger. They’re hyper-online, and they’re big spenders. 

In China, 10 percent of all e-commerce sales happen through online live-streamed shopping channels. According to eMarketer, revenues for this segment will hit $480bn this year alone

Over the past few years, US-based tech giants have sought to replicate this phenomenon, culminating in the launch of Instagram Live Shopping in 2020.

READ MORE: eBay is launching a new ‘live’ platform that’s basically QVC

TikTok is uniquely well-placed to replicate this feature. Its many controversies have failed to dent its popularity, particularly with younger audiences.

In the US alone, it boasts almost 45m daily active users (DAUs) as of last September. 

More importantly, TikTok is precision-engineered for virality. It’s an influencer factory, helping ordinary people build fanbases and clout. These newly-minted internet celebrities are ideal salespeople. 

A logical move

tiktok on iphone
Image: Unsplash

Over the past few years, TikTok has aggressively pursued e-commerce sales, hoping to capitalize on the incredible reach of its biggest stars. 

In 2020, it partnered with Canadian online retail giant Shopify, allowing businesses to integrate their profiles with their online stores.

It is also testing a dedicated in-app shopping portfolio, allowing creators to highlight specific products to their viewers. 

If TikTok can pivot to a retail platform, it stands to make a lot of money. It could conceivably take a cut of each sale. It could charge merchants for prime advertising space or for increased visibility within their algorithm. 

In short, it could replicate the Amazon playbook for the viral video era.

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Matthew Hughes is a journalist from Liverpool, England. His interests include security, startups, food, and storytelling. Past work can be found on The Register, Reason, The Next Web, and Wired.

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