After failing to launch in the UK, TikTok has abandoned its plans to bring shopping to the U.S. The company had also planned on expanding to mainland Europe, but those plans have been abandoned, too.
Last year, TikTok launched its first international market outside Asia with its “TikTok Shop” venture. How it works is that brands and influencers can broadcast live and sell products via a clickable orange basket on the app’s screen.
Social media platforms see livestream commerce as the future of shopping because they take commissions on sales. This model proved beneficial for TikTok. ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, has seen sales of its Chinese sister app Douyin nearly triple year over year.
The feature was recently launched in Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam, and has been available in Indonesia since last year.
After experiencing a successful market in Asia, TikTok planned to launch its video feature in Germany, France, Italy and Spain in the first half of this year, followed by an expansion into the US in 2022. Supposedly, the expansion plans were dropped after the UK project failed to meet targets.
“The market just isn’t there yet,” a TikTok employee said. “General consumer awareness and adoption are still low and nascent.”
Why Hasn’t TikTok Shop Launched in the UK?
What happened in the UK? According to the Financial Times, a ‘mass staff exodus’ happened, among other things.
Allegedly, some of the TikTok team members working on the launch were either demoted after taking a leave, were so stressed they got sick or were removed from client projects altogether. Apparently, London has also been a victim of an aggressive working culture, according to some employees.
Just last month there were reports on some cultural differences getting in the way of getting the job done. For example, a senior ByteDance executive doesn’t believe in maternity leave. He was replaced after such comments to the London staff.
Furthermore, employees were expected to work more than 12 hours a day, to start early to accommodate calls with China and to end late as live streams were performing better in the evening.
As for the app’s feature – it just didn’t work there. Despite TikTok Shop’s subsidies and cash incentives to encourage brands and influencers to sell through the app, many live streams have experienced poor sales.
The company said its focus remains on making the UK proposition successful and that it has no plans to launch shopping features in Europe.
Just a week ago, some leaks revealed TikToks accessing US user data. In response, the FCC in the US asked Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores.
Nicole Farley from Search Engine Land raised a good question: are privacy and data concerns at least partially behind the decision to abandon bringing shopping to the US?