14th October 2022

POV: TikTok’s E-commerce Plans


Reports suggest TikTok is taking the next step in growing its e-commerce business and maybe even taking on Amazon, with expansion into order fulfilment in the US through the creation of an e-commerce supply chain.

Details and Implications:

In the past few weeks, TikTok has been posting job listings to hire for global fulfilment center positions in the US with listings giving a glimpse into the platform’s ambitions, stating: "By providing warehousing, delivery, and customer service returns, our mission is to help sellers improve their operational capability and efficiency, provide buyers a satisfying shopping experience and ensure fast and sustainable growth of TikTok Shop."

The listings appear to demonstrate that TikTok is looking to build an international e-commerce fulfilment system that as well as international warehousing, would also encompass customs clearing, supply chain systems that support domestic e-commerce efforts in the US and cross-border e-commerce efforts. The systems could eventually perform parcel consolidation, along with transporting goods from one stage to the next and managing free returns. For now, it doesn’t seem that a TikTok transport unit is on the cards imminently, so it would work with vendors for shipping, parcel consolidation and transportation aspects.

In another job listing the company also wrote: “with millions of loyal users globally, we believe TikTok is an ideal platform to deliver a brand new and better e-commerce experience to our users”. So, this latest move signals that TikTok is clearly committed to e-commerce and follows other shopping pushes the company has made recently.

Last year TikTok expanded its Shopify partnership to pilot a shopping feature in the US, Canada and UK that would allow merchants to have Shopify connected storefronts on TikTok.

TikTok has also been looking to drive live shopping which is very popular in Asia but has been less successful elsewhere so far. In the UK, the first market outside Asia where live shopping has been tested by TikTok, those live streams didn’t draw the big audiences or sales it had hoped, leading to the company reportedly scaling back or rethinking its live shopping plans in other parts of Europe and the US.

Earlier this month rumours surfaced that TikTok was looking to outsource operations for the launch of its live shopping offering in the US and was in initial talks with TalkShopLive to provide infrastructure for live shopping features. This latest move is an indication that it may be re-igniting its plans for live shopping in the US and looking for ways to make live shopping a more seamless experience for the US shopper, like that experienced and enjoyed by consumers in Asia.


The opening of an Amazon-like warehouse full of TikTok products and the handling of customer service shows TikTok still views e-commerce as another important revenue stream, despite the slower start to live shopping outside of Asia. Managing its own e-commerce supply chain could give TikTok more control and boost revenues in the US and around the world. It does have a huge audience and customer base which could drive enough demand, as long as the app retains its popularity. It will have learned an enormous amount from its experiences in China and the rest of Asia, the challenge is whether it can translate this into success elsewhere in the world.

Further Reading:

Axios | The Verge | The Guardian |TechCrunch

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