Want to know why TikTok is so intent on pushing in-stream shopping, even though it hasn’t taken off as yet?

This provides some content – via The Information:

Consumers in China last year spent 1.41 trillion yuan, or $US208 billion, buying things on ByteDance’s Douyin video app, the Chinese equivalent of TikTok, an increase of 76% from 2021, according to two people with knowledge of the internal data. Meanwhile, shoppers on TikTok in Southeast Asia more than quadrupled their spending, a metric known as gross merchandise volume, to $US4.4 billion, the people said.

As has been the case for some time, in-app shopping is huge in Asian markets, and growing fast. And within that, TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, logically sees expanded opportunity, especially with TikTok continuing its meteoric rise in western markets, and live-stream shopping, while not firming into a transformative trend in the US, steadily growing in some sectors.

The opportunity, if TikTok can get it right, is huge – which is also why Meta, Pinterest and YouTube have all also explored the potential of in-stream shopping as a means to maximize their own respective revenue intake.

Twitter, too, is exploring its options on this front. New Twitter chief Elon Musk has repeatedly stated that he wants to convert Twitter into an ‘everything app’, similar to China’s WeChat, through which consumers can do everything from connecting with friends, to buying movie tickets, to paying bills, to registering their details on public transport, ordering groceries, etc.

Indeed, the adoption of social and messaging apps for expanded purpose has been a transformative shift in China – yet, despite various pushes, western consumers just haven’t warmed to such behaviors in the same way.

Meta tried to make Messenger into WeChat back in 2016, by adding a heap of new functionalities into the app, including chatbots, which it seemed sure would hasten this kind of expanded adoption.

But it didn’t, and in the end, Meta had to concede that, really, the only thing that people want to do in Messenger is send messages to friends.

But still, tap-to-pay processes have increasingly become the norm, and new shifts like scanning your mobile device in-store to register for loyalty programs have been on the rise as well. The foundational elements are in place for a broader mobile shift, which could still see social and messaging apps play a bigger part in the transactional process, in all forms. We just haven’t been able to cross over to the next stage as yet.

Could TikTok be the app to make the shift? Could Elon Musk be the one to take it forward as part of his ‘Twitter 2.0’ push?

Meta seems to have reverted its attention to the next stage of connection, and the opportunities of selling digital goods in the metaverse instead.

But maybe, there is still a chance that we could see a major shift in consumer activity, in relation to social apps, if one of the big platforms can get it right.

The Information further notes that ByteDance has discussed plans to step up its eCommerce efforts in more countries this year, including the US, Brazil, Spain and Australia.

At the same time, TikTok is under increasing scrutiny in the US over its potential connection to the Chinese Government, which has not been helped by recent revelations that China-based investigators have used TikTok data to effectively spy on US journalists.

On balance, it’s difficult to see how this shift takes place. But the numbers in China underline the potential – and you can bet that those figures will continue to inspire new efforts in western social apps.

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