TikTok partners with Shopify in latest step to expand its e-commerce efforts

TikTok, the hit short video app owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, is expanding its online retail efforts through a partnership with Canadian e-commerce giant Shopify that will allow US and UK users to buy directly through the app.

Shopify merchants with a TikTok For Business account will soon be able to sell directly from their Shopify storefront, according to a joint release from both companies.

The pilot programme is currently available to Shopify merchants only in the US and UK, while a select group of merchants in Canada will also be able to participate in the coming weeks. Shopify said it expects the feature to be rolled out to additional regions later this year.

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ByteDance on a collision course with China’s top e-commerce players

Following Facebook and Instagram, ByteDance, the world’s most valuable start-up, is ramping up its effort to expand its e-commerce business in overseas markets.

TikTok began testing online retail features in Indonesia and the UK earlier this year.

At stake is a US$4.2 trillion global e-commerce industry, according to a 2021 forecast from the Adobe Digital Economy Index.

In the UK, e-commerce growth outpaced the US, growing at 66 per cent year on year in the first three months of 2021, reaching US$39 billion in spending, the Adobe report said.

However, as the pandemic has accelerated the development of the e-commerce industry in the US, the Adobe Digital Economy Index projects e-commerce in the country will reach US$1 trillion in 2022.

TikTok first partnered with Shopify last October, introducing tools that allowed Shopify merchants to build TikTok marketing campaigns directly from their Shopify dashboard.

Merchants select which product they would like to feature, and video ads are automatically generated that drive traffic to their store, Shopify said in a blog post last year.

The expansion does come with risks, though.

Last year, TikTok’s rapid growth attracted the attention of then-US president Donald Trump, who issued several executive orders that could ban the app.

The geopolitical drama went on for a few months until Joe Biden took over at the White House and walked back Trump’s more extreme threats.

President Biden, however, still has the option to increase pressure on TikTok and other Chinese apps with US users once a Commerce Department investigation into potential threats is concluded.

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