- TikTok is running beta tests that let influencers embed social commerce links in videos on the app, Adweek reported. The feature was first revealed by a TikTok engineer on a Chinese web forum. Later, Fabian Bern, founder of a Chinese influencer agency called Uplab, tweeted out a video detailing how the process works.
- Bern's Twitter video highlights a post by an account called Huxley the Panda Puppy that shows a dog running around in a panda costume. When a link in the post is clicked, the user is taken to Huxley the Panda Puppy's dedicated Amazon page to buy the costume shown in the video or browse other outfits made by the creator.
- TikTok confirmed to Adweek via a spokesperson that it is testing the social commerce functionality, but did not share details on when or if the feature would be broadly available to U.S. users. As noted by the publication, TikTok already allows brands to run shoppable ads on the platform, but this would mark the ByteDance-owned app's first foray into social commerce where users shop for products directly from influencers.
Though it's unclear whether TikTok will scale the new social commerce capability for U.S. users, the app enabling some influencers to make their content more shoppable marks another swipe at Instagram. Commerce has become a competitive battleground for these apps as they seek ways to drive revenue beyond traditional advertising and keep users off of rival services.
Instagram demonstrated it's putting mobile commerce top of the agenda with the launch of in-app checkout for brands earlier this year. Since then, the image-sharing app has continued to roll out features that make it easier to shop within its ecosystem, including through a @shop account that showcases the top merchants from categories spanning fashion, beauty and more.
TikTok wading into similar territory with a spotlight on influencers comes as its popularity surges with the types of elusive young consumers advertisers covet. The app has 26.5 million monthly active users in the U.S., roughly 60% of whom are between 16 and 24 years old, per Reuters.
TikTok also has the advantage of being newer and not yet inundated with sponsored posts, which appear to have started to fatigue Instagram users. A July study by analytics firm InfluencerDB found that Instagram influencers saw engagement levels reach near-record lows due to overcrowding.
A surge in brand campaigns on TikTok this year has been followed by the company opening up its app to outside partners. Earlier this month, TikTok introduced the first software tools in its program for third-party developers, allowing them to integrate an "export to TikTok" feature to their apps.
Since TikTok is largely a destination for discovering viral short-form and meme-heavy video content like hashtag challenges — a model more closely aligned with the shuttered app Vine than Facebook or Instagram — building out influencers' social commerce toolkit makes sense.
Recent moves reinforce that TikTik is looking to leverage its popularity as an influencer hub to connect with brands. In August, the company teamed with the agency WeQ Influencers to provide brands access to native ad campaigns featuring content creators on the platform.
Interestingly, Bern's video indicates that TikTok's social commerce links could send users to sites like Amazon to purchase products. Amazon has separately displayed an interest in pushing further into the social commerce space.
In September, the e-commerce giant began piloting online storefronts that provide influencers with a vanity URL linking to a curated page for followers to shop. The feature is available to accounts with a YouTube, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram presence that reaches certain Amazon thresholds around audience size, relevance and frequency of posting.