Can TikTok’s New Store Triumph over American Shoppers?

TikTok seems to be aggressively pushing a hairbrush on its users through its new shopping feature. Influencers and smaller creators are participating in paid advertising campaigns and affiliate marketing programs to promote this hairbrush called the “viral TikTok brush.” However, what’s perplexing is that this brush is being sold at vastly different prices, ranging from $9.99 to $37.98.

Upon exploring the TikTok Shop, I couldn’t help but notice that the products being shown had no relevance to my likes or interests, despite the enormous amount of time I’ve spent on the app. It’s bizarre that an app that knows so much about me fails to showcase products that I would actually be interested in. Not only do I not need a hairbrush, but I also have short, tangle-free hair.

The other items being pushed on TikTok Shop are equally strange and unrelated, such as a tongue scraper from China, Scrub Daddy sponges, a Stanley water bottle knockoff, and even “futuristic narrow cyclops glasses.” It seems that TikTok, with its vast user base of over 1 billion, is attempting to become a major e-commerce player. However, this initial launch of TikTok Shop has been quite perplexing and bizarre.

TikTok has been positioning itself as a platform where users can find great products, as evidenced by its “TikTok Made Me Buy It” campaigns. With shoppable ads, an affiliate marketing program, and shoppable videos, TikTok aims to make buying and selling seamless within its app. The concept of live-streamed videos offering shopping options, popular in China, is yet to take off in the US. To further entice users, TikTok is even planning Black Friday deals.

While TikTok’s aspirations for e-commerce success are ambitious, its first week of the marketplace has been far from flawless. Market analysts have described it as a departure from TikTok’s entertaining and personalized experience. The offerings in TikTok Shop lack curation and appeal, with very low prices that raise concerns about the quality. This raises the question of whether social media is the right platform for shopping.

In the US, social media shopping is still a relatively new concept compared to China. American shoppers prefer using social media to discover new products but complete purchases directly with retailers. Social commerce experiences often come with problems like inaccurate inventory feeds and unclear return policies. However, TikTok’s user-friendly interface could potentially close the gap between discovery and purchase if the commerce experience improves.

TikTok does have some advantages over its competitors. Its experience in the Chinese market and its appeal to Gen Z, a demographic with developing shopping habits, could work in its favor. Gen Z is more comfortable with social media and less concerned about privacy.

Despite the widespread promotion of the hairbrush on TikTok, I came across a surprisingly cheap knockoff listed at $0.04. However, after factoring in shipping costs of $14.99 plus fees of $1.12, the total price was $16.15. Although I tried to reach out to the seller for an explanation, they have yet to respond. Therefore, I haven’t made the purchase, and my hair remains unbrushed for now.


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