TikTok is testing a feature that could make all posts shoppable, the social media company’s latest move to create a multibillion-dollar US e-commerce business.
The new feature uses technology to identify objects in a video automatically. Then it encourages viewers to “find similar items on TikTok Shop” by clicking into a page of products, according to screenshots and posts viewed on the app by Bloomberg. Previously, only approved influencers and brands could tag products when they posted content to the app.
A TikTok spokesperson confirmed the feature is an early test.
The Chinese social-media company last year launched the US version of TikTok Shop — an effort to combine the ease of shopping on Amazon.com Inc. with the product discovery afforded by social-media sites like Instagram. The new business is a top priority for TikTok, which aims to sell $17.5 billion worth of goods in the US this year, people familiar with the matter said earlier this month.
The launch of Shop so far has received mixed reviews. Merchants interviewed by Bloomberg in December applauded the app, having seen record sales for their small businesses through the first holiday season as TikTok bankrolled discounts and free shipping for shoppers. In November, which included Black Friday and Cyber Monday, more than 5 million new customers bought something, the company has said.
But users have complained about counterfeit and knockoff products sold on TikTok’s marketplace. Some also say the preponderance of ad-like posts from influencers is wrecking the experience.
TikTok offers content creators commissions on product purchases made from their posts, giving them an incentive to push the merchandise. The new feature being tested links to products on regular users’ posts without the hard sell, potentially making the experience more palatable for visitors just looking to be entertained.
So far, the items being surfaced by in the test aren’t always a perfect match. For example, a video reviewed by Bloomberg from a woman who polishes stones served up a gold ring and two sets of metallic press-on fingernails tagged with “similar to item in video.”