TikTok Shifts Focus Away from Ecommerce Expansion in Europe and the US

Avatar for Irina Popa
TikTok Shifts Focus Away from Ecommerce Expansion

In recent news, TikTok, the popular short-video app, has made the decision to abandon its plans for expanding its live ecommerce initiative in Europe and the United States. This move comes after facing internal challenges and a lack of consumer traction in its UK-based venture, “TikTok Shop.” While livestream commerce is gaining momentum on social media platforms, TikTok’s expansion plans have been put on hold due to underwhelming performance and low market readiness. This article will delve into the reasons behind this strategic shift and explore the implications for TikTok’s ecommerce ambitions.

Challenges Faced in the UK

TikTok Shop was initially launched in the UK, marking the company’s first foray into ecommerce outside of Asia. The concept involved brands and influencers live-streaming and selling products through a clickable basket on the app. However, the UK project failed to meet targets, with influencers dropping out and poor sales performance despite the company’s efforts to incentivize participation. The Financial Times also reported a mass exodus of employees from TikTok’s ecommerce team in London, citing an aggressive working culture enforced by the Chinese leadership.

Market Readiness and Awareness

TikTok’s decision to halt expansion can be attributed to the low consumer awareness and adoption of livestream commerce in Europe and the US. A TikTok employee stated, “The market just isn’t there yet.” The model, which has seen success in TikTok’s Chinese sister app Douyin, where sales have tripled year on year, has not resonated with Western consumers to the same extent. This lack of readiness and awareness has hindered TikTok’s efforts to establish itself as a significant player in the ecommerce space.

Leadership Changes and Future Plans

Following the revelations of an aggressive working culture within TikTok’s ecommerce team in London, Joshua Ma, a senior ByteDance executive responsible for TikTok Shop in Europe, was replaced. The company stated that it currently has no plans to roll out shopping features in Europe, instead focusing on consolidating its presence in the UK. TikTok Shop has recently been launched in Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam, with availability in Indonesia since last year.

Absence of TikTok Shop in Continental Europe

At the Emerce E-Commerce Live conference in Amsterdam, Koen Vanderhoydonck, TikTok’s Product Marketing Manager, disclosed that there are no concrete plans for the launch of TikTok Shop in continental Europe. Vanderhoydonck emphasized that TikTok’s Dutch sales team is primarily focused on advertising sales and did not provide any details regarding future expansion plans.

Livestream Shopping and Advertising Opportunities

TikTok Shop, in collaboration with the marketplace integration service ChannelEngine, allows companies to sell products directly on the app, providing a full checkout experience. Despite the setback in Europe and the US, TikTok has not completely abandoned its ecommerce ambitions. The company continues to explore new commerce opportunities and enhance the community’s experience. Vanderhoydonck also highlighted various advertising methods available on TikTok, positioning it as an entertainment platform that competes not only with social media giants like Facebook and Instagram but also with entertainment platforms like Netflix.


While TikTok’s expansion plans for its ecommerce initiative have been put on hold in Europe and the US due to internal challenges and limited market readiness, the company remains committed to enhancing its community’s experience and exploring new commerce opportunities. The low consumer awareness and adoption of livestream commerce in Western markets have contributed to TikTok’s decision. As TikTok navigates the evolving landscape of social commerce, it will be interesting to see how the company adapts and capitalizes on its unique position as an entertainment platform with a vast global user base.

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