October 6, 2021
China’s ByteDance is preparing to launch a global shopping platform to compete with Amazon and Alibaba’s AliExpress, according to Business Insider, which gleaned the plan through the company’s job postings. Unclear is whether the retail app would be rolled out as a separate service or integrated into ByteDance’s popular TikTok, which in August added integration with Shopify. It is speculated the new service will specialize in selling products made in China to international buyers. The move follows Amazon’s removal of thousands of third-party Chinese sellers it alleged were using fake reviews and violating its rules.
ByteDance has been investing in e-commerce strategies in China, launching its own mobile-payment service earlier this year. This would represent its first major expansion into online-shopping outside of China. “Some smaller e-commerce sites and factories in China are already using TikTok to reach shoppers in North America and Europe, even though the app is technically not available in China’s app stores,” Business Insider reports.
“They’re definitely dying to be in e-commerce. Most Chinese entrepreneurs think Western e-commerce is backwards compared to China,” tech analyst Rui Ma, founder of the “Tech Buzz China” podcast, told Insider. “They think it can be disrupted and that basically no one aside from Amazon and Shopify have made a dent really, so I do think they see this as a relatively open opportunity,” she added.
ByteDance’s experience with TikTok would help differentiate its service from competitors like Amazon, AliExpress and Wish, suggested Juozas Kaziukėnas, founder of e-commerce analytics firm Marketplace Pulse. “I think there is a lot of opportunity in how shoppers interact with that wide selection,” he said. “Wish rebuilt with the experience from TikTok sounds interesting.”
The Chinese government has thrown its support behind the online-shopping industry, designating more “cross-border e-commerce zones” where government taxes and fees are minimized. This summer the Commerce Bureau of Shenzhen Municipality said it will award about $310,000 to Chinese merchants that launch independent online stores.
Insider reports that U.S. Customs and Border Protection data finds Americans “increasingly comfortable buying goods from overseas companies directly, instead of relying on traditional domestic retailers.” The agency documents total volume of small packages imported into the U.S. up by 28 percent last year, despite the overall number of international mail shipments decreasing by 19 percent.