TikTok’s US E-Commerce Push is Round the Corner

(Photo by Nik via Unsplash)

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As if Shein didn’t have enough on its plate.

TikTok plans to launch a US e-commerce business selling made-in-China products this August, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. This comes as Shein and relative newcomer Temu tear at each other’s throats over who can sell the most unnervingly cheap and random items in America, and as TikTok tries to convince the US government it’s really not all that linked to China.

Losing Its Shein

It’s been a rough few months for Shein. First, the US government started to hone in on Chinese e-commerce apps as its new geopolitical skirmish site, then last week Temu filed a lawsuit accusing Shein of trying to illegally squeeze it out of the marketplace. The dogpile grew on Monday when fashion retail giant H&M sued Shein in Hong Kong, accusing it of copying clothing designs.

Now, TikTok is adding to Shein’s worries. TikTok’s e-commerce ambitions have been longstanding and more about trying to replicate its success in Asian markets than needling Shein, but some details from the WSJ’s report add a little insult to injury:

  • Sources told the WSJ TikTok has poached talent off Temu and Shein to build out its e-commerce operation.
  • In guidance for third-party merchants seen by the WSJ, TikTok’s instructions were to refer to Shein’s standards system for things like sizing. TikTok declined to comment when contacted by The Daily Upside about these details.

Taking Notes: While TikTok’s e-commerce dreams may predate Shein and Temu’s international success, its business model for manufacturing clothes in China and selling them at knock-down prices abroad has clearly made an impression. “The e-commerce landscape this year is simply that all platforms are adopting this new model,” a merchant manager working for TikTok reportedly told prospective manufacturers invited to an online roadshow, per the WSJ. Seems like a pretty familiar model, to be honest.