TikTok’s rumours of “abandoned e-commerce expansion” after staff shortages in UK

TikTok has faced bad press since it's been rumoured they have failed their e-commerce expansion into the US and Europe.

TikTok has clarified that it is not "abandoning" expansion plans of its e-commerce venture across Europe and the US amid reports that emerged yesterday.

The Chinese-owned company’s venture called “TikTok Shop” was launched in the UK last year after its introduction to Asia. 

The news from the Financial Times (FT) follows an FT investigation that revealed an exodus from the London offices after an “aggressive work culture enforced by Chinese-leadership”, as well as UK influencers dropping out of the e-commerce venture.

“The market just isn’t there yet,” a TikTok employee told the FT. “General consumer awareness and adoption are still low and nascent.”

However, it is understood that TikTok has not “abandoned” the rollout of TikTok Shop into Europe including Italy, France, Germany and Spain, but that it’s continuing its focus in the UK, working currently with brands on the venture.

It seems that international expansion may have been loosely discussed long-term but with no concrete plans to launch into European markets in H1 of this year. It is expected that TikTok Shop will follow the market demand before venturing into the US, and continue in South-East Asia including Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Vietnam after being available in Indonesia since last year. 

“Redefining shopping culture”

A TikTok spokesperson commented: "The TikTok community is redefining shopping culture, and we've seen the positive impact on small businesses which have grown revenues, larger brands which have reached new audiences and individuals who have launched careers. We are committed to learning, growing and improving as we build commerce solutions like TikTok Shop that bring value to merchants, creators and our community across the UK." 

The shopping marketplace enables brands and influencers to broadcast live and sell through a clickable basket on their TikTok accounts. This form of live commerce or ‘shoppertainment’ is increasingly popular in Asian markets, with the market value estimated to be $730bn in China by 2023.

92% of TikTok users said they take action after watching a TikTok and one in four TikTok users globally said they either research a product, or make a purchase after watching TikTok according to research conducted by Kantar.