One of the world’s most popular social media apps is loved by U.S. retailers and consumers, but viewed more skeptically by public officials.
Retailers including Walmart, Saks and Instacart (to name only a few) have partnered with TikTok, and Bazaarvoice data indicates TikTok shopping levels grew 567% in 2021.
However, not everyone in the U.S. is fond of TikTok. The current and previous presidential administrations, as well as Congress, have serious concerns about the security of user data on the Chinese-owned app.
In this week’s column, let’s take a look at who does – and doesn’t – love TikTok.
Numerous recent studies indicate U.S. consumers, especially valuable Gen Z and millennial customers, use TikTok as a shopping tool. Consider these data points:
- According to the Q1 2023 Consumer Trends Report from e-commerce platform Jungle Scout, 43% of surveyed Gen Z consumers start their online product searches on TikTok, a higher number than those who start on Google.
- Close to half (47%) of consumers surveyed by Sprout Social, and 65% of respondents age 25-40, say they plan to use shopping features within a social platform, such as TikTok Shopping.
- Sixty percent of 2022 holiday shopping activity among shoppers under 25 surveyed by SimplicityDX was covered by two platforms, Instagram and TikTok.
The list of U.S. retailers entering various social commerce partnerships with TikTok keeps on growing, even as the platform receives heightened scrutiny. Recent examples include a Sephora initiative that will connect TikTok creators to select beauty brands, with the goal of helping them learn social content strategies through a series of educational training modules; as well as Chipotle promoting a new perk in its loyalty program with a TikTok competition.
However, it has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and if that is true than TikTok should feel very complimented. Retailers are looking to its videocentric user experience for ideas on how to present their own online user experience.
Walmart, which may take part in creating a new TikTok operation that would be separate from its current Chinese majority owner ByteDance, just launched a product-focused home page that features a new “social-inspired scroll” with rich imagery and live video. The design enables online customers to browse Walmart’s product selection on its site and app the same way they would scroll a social media app.
[Read more: Walmart revamps website and app to resemble social media]
Meanwhile, chief Walmart rival Amazon recently began rolling out a TikTok-like, product- and video-focused digital shopping experience called Inspire. When customers see an item in Inspire, they can shop for it in real time on Amazon. In a few clicks, customers can tap on a video or photo to see product details including average star rating and reviews, color and style options, and price, and then add it to their cart.
Other examples include the new launch of New York City-based video shopping platform Sune, which is backed by QVC and HSN parent Qurate Retail Group.
The U.S. federal government, as well as 30 U.S. states, have already banned TikTok from any governmental devices or systems, due to concerns sensitive user data could be furnished to the Chinese government. The Biden administration has been consistently continuing to express serious regulatory concerns which began under the Trump administration.
Citing possible ByteDance connections to the Chinese Communist Party, the Trump administration had been actively attempting to ban TikTok from operating in the U.S. unless it established a separate business with at least partial U.S. ownership. In December 2022, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced bipartisan legislation to ban TikTok from operating in the United States.
Both TikTok and the Chinese government have publicly denied any security risks for U.S. users.