27th February 2023
ByteDance, the Chinese internet company and owner of TikTok has quietly launched another lifestyle-sharing app called Lemon8 in the UK and US, following its initial launch in Japan.
Details and Implications:
Lemon8 is a highly visual picture-based app and describes itself as a “lifestyle community” focused on connecting people with similar interests and a place to “discover beautiful, authentic, and diverse content.”
Like TikTok, the main feed is divided into ‘Following’ and ‘For You” and users can choose categories they are interested in to follow, including fashion, beauty, food, fitness and travel. The big difference between Lemon8 and TikTok is that there is no video, Lemon8 is solely focused on still images, and particularly ones that look like influencer ads.
The ByteDance owned app initially launched in Japan in 2020 (originally called Sharee) and after acquiring more than 1 million downloads in Japan, then expanded to Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. It is now being soft launched into the UK and US. It seems that Lemon8 was created to take on hugely successful Chinese shopping and lifestyle recommendations platform Xiaohongshu (known as Little Red Book or RED in English) which has claimed an estimated 15% of China’s online e-commerce market.
Xiaohongshu is often likened to Instagram and is designed to incentivize “planting grass” or getting people to buy products based on reviews from influencers. Many fashion and luxury brands often use Xiaohongshu’s
influencers to reach affluent users in China. Lemon8 users can post a carousel of photos showing their recommendations, but must include a very detailed caption, which is much like Xiaohongshu. The app encourages users to share where they bought items, and they can tag each product in a photo with a brand and price. There are also ‘caption templates’ for categories like fashion, shopping finds, food, and travel and these offer users another way to share where they bought the things featured in the images and how much they cost.
Reports suggest that an initial seeding campaign for the app in the UK and US saw influencers being paid to post on Lemon8 to drive engagement. These users reportedly had very specific guidelines to follow to receive payment, including using a minimum of three to seven, high definition, vertically shot photos and a 100-to-300-word caption.
ByteDance is making an interesting move by expanding Lemon8 into Western markets at a time when Meta is scaling back shopping features on Instagram and removing live shopping features and showing more ads instead, due to the seeming reticence for Western users to shop directly through social media apps. There is stark contrast between the cultures and tech habits of Asian and Western users so it will be interesting to see whether or not Lemon8 can breach these boundaries and create success in the US and UK.