Report: TikTok Winds Back US Shopping Launch

TikTok, Creator Fund, registration

TikTok has reportedly paused launching its U.S. shopping platform over fears of a ban.

ByteDance, the social media company’s Chinese owner, has delayed opening the store, dubbed TikTok Shop, to sellers until June at the earliest, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported Wednesday (May 10), citing unnamed sources.

The launch could be postponed even further because of worries by merchants about a U.S. ban on TikTok, as well as a muted response to livestream eCommerce in America, according to the report.

Reached for comment by PYMNTS, a spokesperson for ByteDance disputed the notion that the company has delayed the rollout, which it began testing in November in an invite-only pilot.

“Due to increased interest from merchants to join Shop, we moved our test from alpha to beta in April 2023 in order to allow for more merchants to join in our continued test of TikTok Shop in the U.S.,” the spokesperson said. “So many people rely on TikTok for product discovery and recommendations, and we want to make sure we get the experience right before we fully launch.”

Wednesday’s news follows a report from last month that TikTok was having difficulties enticing U.S. merchants onto the shopping platform, again over concerns over a ban in the U.S.

This isn’t to say that U.S. merchants haven’t shunned TikTok completely, however. Many small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have turned to it and other social media platforms to target potential shoppers.

“In fact, more than half of small businesses that have utilized TikTok report a significant improvement in their overall marketing performance, with 78% reporting a favorable return on investment (ROI) from their TikTok advertisements,” PYMNTS wrote in March.

And ad spending has reportedly continued to grow on the platform, despite threats of the ban. TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew spent hours testifying before Congress in March, answering questions about data privacy, online safety and the company’s potential ties to China’s Communist Party.

A ban on the site would impact brands, retailers and influencers who have come to depend on TikTok to drive sales. And many companies have invested deeply in generating TikTok content to appeal to younger consumers.

Meanwhile, ByteDance’s Lemon8, a companion app to TikTok, has enjoyed continued growth despite the threats of a ban on its sister platform. However, despite the app’s growth in popularity, “ongoing scrutiny by Congress of TikTok and ByteDance may deter some creators from embracing Lemon8 as a viable alternative to TikTok,” PYMNTS reported last month.

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