The West is not yet ready for ‘live commerce’, says TikTok. The Chinese app wanted to let consumers in the US and Europe shop during interactive live streams, but the concept is not yet catching on.
Britain fails test
In China, shopping via livestream generates more than 60 billion dollars in sales per year. More than two thirds of the Chinese people occasionally make purchases based on such a live broadcast on social media, in which influencers discuss products that people can order with just a few clicks. People can also ask questions and communicate with the presenting influencers. Teleshoppping 2.0, so to speak.
By 2026, live streaming could account for 10 to 20% of all online sales worldwide, trend agencies predict. It is therefore logical that TikTok, as a Chinese app with a large Western following, feels it is best placed to bring the trend to the West. Since last autumn, TikTok Shopping has been available in the United Kingdom. The country, where consumers are highly digitised, would serve as a pilot for a further roll-out to Europe and the US.
Still in its infancy
However, the hoped-for success is not forthcoming. The predefined goals have not been achieved and many British influencers have already stopped their livestream broadcasts. “The market is just not there yet. Consumers are not yet ready for it, it’s still in its infancy,” a London employee of TikTok told the Financial Times.
Parent company ByteDance is pulling the plug on the whole project for the time being and is scrapping its plans to expand TikTok Shopping to the United States and the rest of Europe. However, the app will continue to experiment with new commercial opportunities, as the company is also struggling with internal struggles. For example, the European head for the project was recently replaced because he dismissed the concept of maternity leave.
Nonetheless, shopping via live streams on TikTok has recently been successfully launched in Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia. More and more Western brands and retailers are also setting up their own live commerce initiatives. The challenge in the coming period will be to find the right formula and gateway to the Western consumer.