TikTok wants to turn every post into a potential purchase by testing a new feature that automatically detects objects in videos and directs viewers to similar products on TikTok Shop. This is part of the social media giant’s strategy to build a huge US e-commerce business, Bloomberg reported, based on screenshots and posts seen on the app. Before, only selected influencers and brands could tag products on their posts.
A TikTok spokesperson confirmed the feature is an early test.
TikTok Shop, the US version of the Chinese social-media company’s e-commerce platform, was launched last year to blend the convenience of shopping on Amazon.com Inc. with the social-media influence of Instagram. The new venture is a key focus for TikTok, which aims to sell $17.5 billion worth of goods in the US this year, according to sources earlier this month.
The Shop’s debut has been met with mixed reactions. Some merchants praised the app to Bloomberg in December, after seeing their small businesses thrive during the first holiday season with TikTok’s support of discounts and free shipping for buyers. In November, which featured Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the company claimed over 5 million new customers made a purchase.
TikTok’s marketplace has faced criticism from users encountering fake and low-quality products. Some also complain that the app is flooded with ad-like posts from influencers that ruin the fun.
TikTok pays content creators a commission for every product purchase made from their posts, which motivates them to promote the products. The new feature under test connects products to regular users’ posts without the hard sell, which could make the experience more enjoyable for visitors who just want to be amused.
However, the test feature is not very accurate in finding similar products. For instance, a video from a woman who polishes stones showed a gold ring and two sets of metallic press-on fingernails with the label “similar to an item in the video.”