To try to ensure that the products in the store are of decent quality, TikTok uses technical and human moderation to find lists that violate its policies, Favazza said. The company also tracks negative reviews and seller complaint rates, and may take action against them.
Some of the products in the store are Temu-level cheap. Three pairs of socks, a gold necklace, and a hair trimmer were each advertised for about $1; T-shirts and hair brushes and beauty products for under $5. TikTok does not stand by the quality of its listings: In its buyer policy, TikTok states that the company “makes no representation, warranty, or guarantee, either express or implied, that any content on the TikTok Shop is accurate, complete , or until date.”
The TikTok Shop has been tested in the US for almost a year, and it will be available in many other places, including the UK and Indonesia, from 2021. It will not only make it easier to buy the Beachweaver curling iron or Halara skirt that have become the main products on TikTok for months—it gives people who sell anything a direct route to idle scrolling eyeballs.
And that’s because the TikTok Shop isn’t really a centralized store; people can search for products in the app’s search tool, but the algorithm will also force videos into your TikTok feed. This can come from users who include affiliate links and earn a commission. There’s live shopping, too, though it’s not as prevalent in the US as it is in other countries. In a way, the store is like Amazon cramming every function of TikTok.
Big brands, like clothing retailer Pacsun, have TikTok Shop pages, but others are small businesses looking for new audiences for their products. And many litter the app’s shopping section with the kind of junk found in niche searches on Etsy or the deep pages of unwanted Amazon offerings, like Trump 2024 merch, generic home decor, and herbal detox pills.
Part of the appeal for shoppers is that shoppers are often offered coupons, flash sales, and other discounts on products, a trend that will come back around for Black Friday deals this fall as the app hopes to compete with giant retailers. And with TikTok managing the storage and shipping of products, it eases the processes for third-party sellers.
With shopping, TikTok is venturing where other social apps have lost and failed. Facebook ended live shopping last fall, and Instagram did the same this spring. But the popularity of #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt, and the app’s amazing algorithm, will make shopping a hit on TikTok where it has failed elsewhere. That’s when people can sift through the junk to find what they’re really looking for.