TikTok Looks to Southeast Asia to Drive eCommerce Growth


TikTok will invest billions in Southeast Asia as it undergoes scrutiny elsewhere in the world.

The announcement from the company’s chief executive Thursday (June 15) appeared to confirm reports from last week that the social media giant was looking to Asia to help it expand its eCommerce sales from $4.4 billion in gross merchandise value to $20 billion.

“We’re going to invest billions of dollars in Indonesia and Southeast Asia over the next few years,” TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew said at a forum the company convened in Jakarta on its app, as reported by Reuters.

According to the report, TikTok did not detail how it would break down its spending, but said it would invest in training, advertising and supporting small merchants that wanted to sign on to its eCommerce platform TikTok Shop.

Chew told the conference TikTok’s content had grown more diverse as new users joined and the platform moved into eCommerce, allowing consumers to buy goods through links on the app while viewing live streams.

He added that the company has 8,000 employees in Southeast Asia, and 2 million small vendors selling their wares on its platform in Indonesia, the largest economy in the region.

The company is investing in Asia as it faces pushback in the U.S. from lawmakers who want to ban the platform. Chew spent hours testifying before Congress in March, taking questions about data privacy, online safety and his company’s potential ties to China’s Communist Party.

Those possible threats aside, PYMNTS has noted that banning the platform would hurt brands, retailers and influencers who count on it to generate sales. In addition, a number of companies have invested heavily in generating TikTok content to entice younger consumers.

Meanwhile, PYMNTS also reported this week that TikTok parent ByteDance was on a mission to become the next “everything app” in China.

With the bulk of its $80 billion annual revenue coming from social media ad revenue, the company has been testing its Douyin app, which features streaming videos and messaging, while also expanding its offerings to include food and grocery delivery in major cities like Beijing and Shanghai.

As that report noted, it’s all part of “a bid to capture a larger share of the Chinese market and challenge WeChat’s dominance as the go-to app for everything from messaging to shopping.”