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TikTok Wants to Be a Social Media E-Commerce Sensation

By Keith Noonan - Feb 8, 2021 at 5:00PM

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The social media platform is pursuing a big new growth opportunity. But it's not alone.

TikTok is gearing up to make a major play in e-commerce, according to a report published by the Financial Times (FT) on Monday. The hugely popular short-video social media platform owned by China-based ByteDance is aiming to integrate online retail sales and marketing, a development that sees it moving into increased competition with Facebook (META -0.76%)

Posters on TikTok will reportedly be able to include product links with their content, paving the way to receive commissions on purchases made through referrals. However, new monetization opportunities for users will reportedly be just one facet of a much bigger e-commerce push.

A person holding a tablet displaying a glowing shopping-cart icon.

Image source: Getty Images.

TikTok is said to be planning a livestreamed shopping network of sorts, which will give users the opportunity to purchase products that are livedemoed by stars on the platform. The FT report's sources also say that the social media platform will soon allow special placement for brands to show off their product catalogs. With signs that regulatory pressures for TikTok could be easing under the Biden administration, the business appears to be accelerating advertising and e-commerce monetization initiatives. 

High levels of user engagement have helped social media companies build huge digital-advertising businesses, but the potential for e-commerce integration still remains largely untapped. Facebook has been making some inroads on that front, but even the U.S. social media giant remains at the early stages of leveraging its massive user network to drive online retail engagement. 

The social e-commerce space will likely see big growth in coming decades and has room for multiple winners, but Facebook and ByteDance's TikTok are shaping up to be key rivals in the space. TikTok's popularity has helped take young users away from Facebook's platforms, and it looks like it could also complicate its rival's growth ambitions in e-commerce. 

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