China’s TikTok Creates Stand-Alone Shopping App to Take on Alibaba, Pinduoduo and JD.com

TikTok owner ByteDance has created a stand-alone shopping app in China, similar to its Fanno platform in Europe, betting on the new trend of Gen Z consumers buying on tips from online influencers.

The new app, called Douyin Box, is described as “an e-commerce platform for trends and fashion”, and operates under Douyin, the Chinese version of short video hit TikTok which has over 600 million daily active users.

The move is set to intensify competition in China’s e-commerce market where Alibaba Group Holding, owner of the South China Morning Post, JD.com and Pinduoduo are jostling for the attention of China’s online shoppers.

Users can log in with their Douyin account or by using their mobile phone number. After opening the app, a relevant short video pops up and users can like, comment or share it, then go on to browse other content by swiping up or down.

The interface is the same as Douyin or TikTok, but users can also switch to other tabs to manage their shopping cart and orders.

The short videos on the new app are pulled from Douyin, but are focused on fashion and style, covering topics like applying make-up, or how to dress up for Christmas.

The items for sale are mostly apparel, cosmetics and handbags popular with young people, who follow influencers like 35-year-old Viya – real name Huang Wei – who was the top seller on Taobao in 2020, selling 38.6 billion yuan (US$6 billion) worth of goods, according to data compiled by Guoji, an agency tracking e-commerce data.

Douyin has explored the combination of short videos with e-commerce since at least 2019. It started with live-streamed commerce, the mobile phone version of television shopping, and then added tags on items featured in videos so users could purchase within the platform. Then in June 2020, Douyin formed a business operation dedicated to online shopping operations.

The stand-alone Douyin Box app signals that ByteDance, the world’s most valuable start-up, is betting big on e-commerce in China after several failed attempts in social networking. Retail sales for overall consumer goods fell 3.9 per cent in 2020, but online shopping sales grew 10.9 per cent year on year, partially due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

So far, Douyin Box is rapidly gaining traction. It ranked No 6 among all iOS shopping apps in China on Friday, whereas a day earlier it did not appear in the top 100, according to App Annie. (Source: scmp.com)